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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, FL, February 24, 2022 — Don’t let the headline fool you; we’re not equivocating here. Of course the threat of world wide conflict, playing itself out now in Ukraine, commands center stage, just as it has recently in the United States: Democracy or Autocracy, pick one.

Don’t want to talk about a murderous former KGB agent who believes a third World War will be good for his legacy. Then I don’t want to talk about Medina Spirit’s demotion in the 2021 Kentucky Derby out of respect for the deceased Thoroughbred. Don’t want to talk about his trainer, either.

I’d like to get into the Oaklawn Park program for Saturday featuring the Rebel Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep lynchpin, then there’s a 60% chance of rain. Hate significant races that come with built excuses. We know what’s at stake but have heard it all before. Racing needs some new material.

There’s a $20 million big race in the desert that we’re ignoring and will be personally boycotting, out of respect for a deceased journalist who was murdered by another of the world’s autocratic thugs. We wish American horsemen would not have supported the race.

Then the winner’s share is $10 million and, as we know, humans have killed each other for far, far less. I live in the real world b ut don’t have to like it. I will watch the performances to see how unfolding events affect future spectacles but will not write a word about it.

As for the Bob Baffert suspension and fines, we shall see how his lawyers will spin the events. All we know how is that apparently illegal substances is an ointment does not and should not carry the weight of injectables. This is nonsense but that’s the justice system for you, if you’re rich enough to afford it.

It took five years after the Kentucky stewards ruled that Dancer’s Image tested positive for phenylbutazone after the 1968 Derby before that judgment was affirmed. Who knows how long it will take before this case to be closed? The only certainty is that it’s not over.

But what is over is that it will be two years hence that Bob Baffert will be allowed to saddle a horse in the Derby, unless the decision is reversed on appeal. And he has as many prospects this year as ever but thus far nobody has backed up the pickup to move these three-year-olds into other barns.

But all of it is giving me a headache and since their are a few birthday hours left in this day, we’ll imbibe one more glass of wine and pick this up tomorrow with our usual weekend analysis. Like everyone in a world gone mad, survival is what matters most.

Stars on the Rise in Hot Springs

How good is Newgrange? Undefeated after three starts, including the G3 Southwest in his Oaklawn Park debut, his second start around two turns. Bob Baffert trainee can’t earn any Derby points with a victory today, so he would need to settle for 10% of the $600,000 that goes to the winner of the G2 Rebel.

Of course, he could wind up in another barn and in the Churchill Downs gate on the first Saturday in May, but with no points accrued, he’d need to win a 100 pointer–or perhaps even a placing might get him to Louisville–for another trainer. However, who doesn’t like to see good horses run.

The most impressive element of his Southwest win is that while he enjoyed a perfect stalking trip three wide behind embattled leaders, he dropped back while wide on the final turn as if he had enough but Johnny Velazquez, riding with confident disdain, found another gear to draw out in the final sixteenth.

Four who finished behind him are back to try again, along with a half dozen new shooters. Wednesday’s 60% chance of rain predicted on Wednesday was cut in half Friday to 30%. He’s bred to handle the wet but must prove it on the day, which is why races on run.

But the star of the day and the most compelling story is a filly that, with a victory in the G3 Honeybee, could return for the Arkansas Derby. Judging by her victory in the Martha Washington, the sky is limitless at the moment.

There was no time during the first three-quarters of a mile that Luis Contreras wasn’t taking the filly back, at once teaching and learning about his filly. All the rider did was move his hands slightly on the final turn and she swallowed the leaders by headstretch to win going away.

The fact that her sire is Arrogate makes her even more intriguing and, of course, her legendary coach knows how to beat the boys on the big derby day in May. But first things first. She has but five rivals but three of three can run a little.

We’ll be back Saturday morning with betting grids for these two races, another race for three-year-old colts at Oaklawn Park, plus a pair from North and South Florida.


G2 Rebel Stakes

Win bet a game-time decision; on paper can’t look away from the form. Exotically, prudent to key New Grange first and second with the second, third and fifth finishers from the Southwest Barber Road (9-2), Ben Diesel (6-1) and Dash Attack (8-1), adding LAY-2 newcomer Stellar Tap (10-1) to the mix.

G3 Honeybee Stakes

Secret Oath is unavoidable, but unbettable straight. Keying her first only above talented returnee Uugiri (5-2), Martha Washington runnerup Optionality 7-2) and price shot Free Like A Girl (6-1) in the exotics mix.

First Level Allowances Race 7

Guess who? Baffert again, with McLaren Value (9-5) finding out what he has after two fast sprint runs out west. Note that sire Gun Runner [small sample] has a 41% strike rate on wet tracks and Bullet Boba profitable 45% with first-Lasix starters. Can’t commit to straight bet until seeing ante post odds.

Returnee Great Escape (4-1), Costa Terra (6-1) reuniting with winning partner Arrieta , and Sky and Sand (3-1), who showed huge improvement in mud after getting first-Lasix, all deserve consideration. Beyond the favorite, the 1-1/16 miles is a very tricky read.


G3 Royal Delta

As stated in the HRI video section Friday, we’ll key Letruska (2-5) on top in trifectas with Crazy Beautiful (4-1) and Into Vanishing (12-1), but will key-box exactas Letruska with her rivals above.

Starter Allowances Race 7

Looks like a three-pack in here: Exacta boxing sharp Unprecedented (3-1), ageless Reconfigure (9-2), and Smokin Richie (7-2) who has come into his own as a gelded five-year-old. In addition, taking Smokin Richie to win at 5-2 or greater.


Maiden Allowances Race 6

As stated, taking Take a Stand (5-1) to win at 2-1 or greater and an exacta box with United (2-1). In addition, using both first and second and first and third with fast working Midnight Stroll (3-1) and possible price shot Aulenti (6-1), pole sitting and exiting a live race.

this is a live column, selections will be updated throughout the morning

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21 Responses

  1. Saudi Arabia and its nearby black gold nations always remind me of how The P.A.L.M was built and by how many thousands of poor mercenaries from several poor countries living in tight quarters,bars reminiscing of the old peach,grape,orange crops here in the US,from the deep south to California. Respectfully,I agree with you,besides the fact that those Saudi races,and the people behind their crave for attention,bought respectability,at any price,make horse racing another staged,robotic ,synthetic event just like those Palm skyscrapers built on the ocean…Zulueta-Navarro-Servis is not a law firm but trainers who have illegally won races and now,,Need more Good Lawyers,not just Mixologists ! There’s no shame,no red faces,just that *We got caught*.They Will try it again with different people,names,fronts. Skipping races,even the big a with its horrific fields,times( 1:16,80 at 6 F ?).I’m doing fine,but too many cheap,small races . It Is Boring.Today there was $ 4.20 Exacta ! GFPark does not convince me.Don-t have the interest to even check the entries anymore.*Would rather be Feared or Loved ,Respected?…*With Fear, they Have to Do What I Want.! I Love myself !* WARS Only decide who dies…✌️✌️🕊️

    1. As usual, lots to unpack, JG. (The Loved-Feared line from Bronx Tale, yes)?

      You bring up “mercenary workers.” Who do you think built all those skyscrapers in Dubai, also?

      And did you see where the Saudis are backing Putin’s war crime vs. Ukraine? And did you see where Zulueta was sentenced to 33 months in prison?

      And did you notice that Navarro and Zulueta are in prison, non-whites, whereas Jason Servis had his trial delayed yet again to the spring of 2023–because of courthouse Covid restrictions? Really? It’s all so disheartening, disgusting really.

      1. Yes, that Bronx Tale, good little flick with personal hidden memories from Bensonhurst. Yes, read many articles about those poor souls working, surviving like concubines but with hardened, suffering hands ,laboring long hours for a mere monthly pittance. No union members there!

  2. Thanks for the props, Rick. Hated feeling compelled to write what I wrote but the world right now is just overwhelming. Is can’t be put on the back burner, it’s too important.

    Nothing more complicated than Democracy v Autocracy. Does anyone want to live in a world where tyrannical despots rule? Learn from history or, well, you know the rest. Let’s have some fun today, maybe make a few dollars.,,

  3. The Queen has been in the news lately due to her symptomatic infection with Covid-19. I propose a ban on the Queen’s horses running in US races as a punitive sanction for the devious opaque skullduggerous mechanisms she and the entire royal family use to conceal and protect their massive ill-gotten wealth.

    That’s my contribution to the racing/politics category for today.

    1. We’re here for everyone, Dan. Don’t have enough information to offer an opinion on your commentary but hey, they were an empire once,, right? Just like America, right?

      1. For anyone interested, a good start is “Queen lobbied for change in law to hide her private wealth”, The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2021.

        What a deal for a horse owner who has won over 1,600 races.

  4. I’m pretty pumped for that Honeybee at OP. 3:10 pm est. Hope Secret Oath can show the Martha Washington effort is really what she is, and we get an exciting season out of her. All in all, this Rebel card doesn’t look extremely exciting outside of the 2 big races, but I also really didn’t dig in so my assessment is on a pretty quick pass over the card.

    1. You’re right about the OP card overall. The filly was spectacular, again, more in Sunday column… Thanks for bringing the filly to my attention weeks ago, good call.

  5. Very impressive seasonal debut for Reinvestment Risk in the 4th at GP today. Wonder where Chad is going to point this one going forward. He ran against some of the 3yo big boys last year

    1. He looks like he might be able to live up to the promise he showed at 3. It will be interesting to see how/if he keeps developing.

  6. Good Afternoon Loughlin, Is it milestone ’77 or ’78….thinking you lead me by four or five lengths, but on a percentage of change basis on the insurance tables, I am gaining on you every passing year. Just thinking about it, I actually in my youth placed a wager on my death. Anyhoot, I am in total sync with your political views. Just saddened how history always repeats. We the people get it, but not so the genius leaders. To think that we in America recently had a leader of similar depraved genius mindset. “Look at all he got for $2 worth of sactions.” expressed Frump. No regard or compassion for human life at all. Always about power, money, and building walls to keep the people in their ass wipe countries where they belong. Borders on madness. Sanction his assets as well.

    Glad to read that Poland was withdrawing from the World Cup this year as they drew Russia in the opening round and have declined to play against Russia. Wishing the rest of the world would turn their backs as well. On to racing.

    As for the horses, I would like to wager on the big race today, but also declining to support anything Saudi. Will not even watch.

    As for the Rebel, we’ll I am taking a stand against you today big guy. My number one and two on my Derby watch are Epicenter and Simplification. I am thinking both are capable of running 12’s in all of the classics. Their half brother Chasing Time maybe a tad less blessed on his distance stamina, but I suspect that today in the Rebel, that he will set a moderate pace and never relinquish it. I wagered a ten cent super key box for you using Chasing Time over your calls on 2,6,7 and 9. I set the birthday card limit at $10, so I left Dash Attack in the barn. Anyhoot, my reasoning, is why send Louglin a bottle of red, when maybe with a little luck, we can pick up a Total Wine card for a case. Riders Up John Boy and a belated Happy Birthday. -McD

  7. P.S. Messier is my overall number one but he will need to exit team Baffert real soon if he is to attain starting gate points. I would like for the horse to have a shot, but not Baffert.

    1. Thanks for the birthday greeting and an actuarial tables update!

      As for the Derby of May, I’m very confused…

  8. Don’t think that Rebel result is going to scare the Coach away from lining up the filly in the Arkansas Derby. Only thing that could throw a monkey wrench in it is how huge his horse ran in the Rebel. That one was wide all the way and had to move early on the turn – this one should move up a ton off this, and maybe that fact leads Lukas to just leave Secret Oath in vs fillies. Of course, he could always split them up and send Ethereal Road to the Blue Grass or Wood. Nice problem to have.

    1. Nice problem to have, indeed Doc. Will sleep on it and, as stated, more in Sunday column, plus several more viewing of the Rebel and Honeybee…

  9. Congrats on your Royal Delta exacta but the reason why I’m leaving a note it is about Jimmy Breslin,famous NY ( from Queens ?) Journalist who kept on writing mob columns about a mysterious real character whose nick name was * Un Occhio*, one eye, just like the winner of the big race today,at big odds. I believe that even this New Yawker wrote for the once venerable Newsday. As he crossed the line, Breslin s voice ,his style ,came to mind…A NY thing,I guess…🤔

    1. Loved Breslin JG, a hardscrabble guy from Queens. Came up to visit the Aqueduct press box a few times when he worked for Newsday. Great columnist, or should I say great New York columnist. He is still missed.

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