Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Diana Stakes and Sanford Stakes Preview

Summer has officially found its stride.  After all, racing action returns to Saratoga this weekend.

Picks and Ponderings turns it attention this week to the pair of graded stakes on Saturday at the Spa.  In the Grade 1 Diana Stakes, a select field of six — including proven star Lady Eli and rising stars Antonoe and Dickinson — will tussle for the honour of becoming the first top-level winner of the Saratoga meet.  One race before that, eight juveniles will clash in the Sanford Stakes.  All entrants have a win to their name — Direct Dial and Admiral Jimmy have stakes experience, but whoever wins the Sanford will tally the first added-money victory of their career.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of graded stakes races at Saratoga, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Equestricon Blog: Win a Trip to the Hong Kong International Races!

Have you ever dreamed of going to the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR)?  If so — you’re going to want to pack your bags for Saratoga and attend Equestricon from August 13-15.  In my latest blog for Equestricon, I talk about the HKIR Lucky Draw: a drawing, sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, that will award one lucky Equestricon attendee an expenses-paid trip with one friend to this year’s Hong Kong International Races!

(Seriously, writing that blog post has already made me so envious of whoever wins this drawing, and so ready to follow their Twitter obsessively during HKIR week.)

If you’re on the fence about going to Equestricon…read my blog post, get excited about HKIR, and if there’s any way you can get up to Saratoga next month, book your tickets!

Picks and Ponderings: Introducing the Chicago Racing Review!

For the last few years, we have reported live race results on our Twitter account, @picksponderings.  Recently that has become untenable due to my chart calling responsibilities for Equibase at Arlington, and we will no longer be able to post race results as they happen.

Of course, that’s not the end of our presence on Twitter.  The Twitter account will remain active for discussion of races, posting links to our newest blog posts, and sharing news about Chicago racing and Illinois horses.

Picks and Ponderings remains as engaged in Chicago-area racing as ever, but we need a different avenue to keep you, the readers, informed about what goes on beyond the stakes races.  Hence?  Chicago Racing Review.  In this new weekly column, we’ll highlight what you need to know, and who you want to follow.

At Picks and Ponderings I discuss the most interesting performances of the week at Arlington Park, and a sire angle that you may not know…but probably should.  Read the first issue of Chicago Racing Review, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

ThoroFan: Delaware Handicap Preview

If you insist upon playing the Delaware Handicap, you will want to play exotics.  Songbird will pay five cents on the dollar in the win pool…and yet, that almost makes sense, as a humdrum effort by Songbird (to the extend that she is capable of humdrum) would still be good enough to eclipse a strong effort by any of her five foes.  If she hadn’t tried a mile and a quarter, perhaps there would be a question.  But, she won the Alabama (G1) last year at the same distance, and should be able to tackle it again.

So, who’s the best of the rest?

Head over to the ThoroFan Handicappers’ Corner, read my preview of today’s Delaware Handicap (G1), and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks Preview

This Saturday is Indiana Grand’s biggest day of Thoroughbred racing.  The day’s card features a pair of competitive Grade 3 stakes for the three-year-old set.  Eleven horses have entered to vie for a $500,000 Indiana Derby; eight fillies will contend for a $200,000 purse in the Indiana Oaks.  The fields feature the combinations that make the midseason Derbies so interesting: those familiar Classic contenders from the spring clash with later bloomers who hope to make their mark as their sophomore year progresses.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

another for the Keen Ice highlight reel

Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) hasn’t been the most consistent horse in his four seasons on the racetrack, but the son of Curlin has built a track record of blowing my mind once a year.

In 2014, when he was two, that came in the form of an impossible-looking maiden victory.  The next year, his star performance came at Saratoga, where he ran past Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers.  Though he did not win at age four, he amazed me by hitting the board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, off just an allowance prep.

At five, that “wow” moment from Keen Ice came earlier in the year than ever before: in Saturday’s Suburban Stakes (G2).

Continue reading “another for the Keen Ice highlight reel”

support my writing at Patreon!

If you’re my patron, I hope you’ve seen my recent posts about horses to watch over the last couple of weeks at Arlington.

If you’re not a patron yet? Now is a great time to start supporting my Patreon campaign!

I recently made the exciting yet scary leap from a full-time job in the tech world to a job as a chart caller at Arlington Park. I absolutely love it — it still seems a bit surreal that I’m employed to watch and document horse races. Tech had burned me out. Now I’m remembering what it was like to look forward to going to work…and to leave work with enough energy to write. Read. Live.

That job also means that I’m only working on the days that Arlington runs: four days a week through July and August, then three days a week through September. So, it means I have more time and energy for writing…but also means that it’s more important that my writing becomes financially sustainable.

That’s where your patronage comes in. If you enjoy reading what I write, please take a moment and consider supporting my work. Even $1 a month gives you access to more of my writing…of course, higher levels allow you more access and rewards.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send me a message — and I’m looking forward to your support and your community for the months and years to come!

Picks and Ponderings: Ghost Hunter, Dona Bruja, Keystoneforvictory, and Sonic Boom Lead the Ride to the Million

Saturday’s card at Arlington International Racecourse featured four graded stakes races, each of which intended as local preps for the Arlington International Festival of Racing.  In addition to the purse money for each race, the top three finishers in each of today’s graded stakes races also earned the right to have their fees waived if they enter the corresponding Festival race next month.

Jockey Julien Leparoux shined during the stakes portions of the card, winning the American Derby with SONIC BOOM and then the Stars and Stripes with KEYSTONEFORVICTORY.  Both Florent Geroux and Santo Sanjur placed in two different stakes today, as well.  Though Geroux knows graded success at Arlington well, Santo Sanjur had never before hit the board in a graded race.  He did so with a pair of longshots today for local trainers.  Sanjur crossed the wire third in the American Derby with MY BARILEY for conditioner Anthony Granitz, and later second in the Arlington Handicap with Brian Williamson’s charge OAK BROOK.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my look back at Saturday’s Ride to the Million, and let me know in the comments about who you’re most looking forward to seeing on Million Day!

Picks and Ponderings: Previewing the 2017 Ride to the Million

The name may have changed, but it’s still one of the best local racing days all year.

Arlington may be calling it the Ride to the Million presented by Miller Lite (instead of Million Preview Day), but Saturday’s features are the same four local preps for the Arlington International Festival of Racing that you know and love: the Arlington Handicap (G3), the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3), the Modesty Handicap (G3), and the American Derby (G3).  These four graded turf stakes give locals the chance to test their mettle, and give shippers the chance to compete over the local oval, tighten the screws, and make sure they will be ready to handle the course come Arlington Million (G1) Day on August 12.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of all four graded stakes races at Arlington this Saturday, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

a Breeders’ Cup chance — at one turn — with Curlin’s Approval

Curlin babies have made eleven Breeders’ Cup starts so far.  All eleven of those starts have come in two-turn races: the Classic, Distaff, Turf, Juvenile, and Juvenile Fillies.

But, Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Curlin’s Approval (Withmom’sapproval, by With Approval) secured her ticket to the end-of-year championships — specifically, the Filly and Mare Sprint — with a resounding score in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes.

Though squeezed tightly in a line of horses soon after the break, rider Luis Saez got Curlin’s Approval into gear, and quickly settled her in the second flight — behind leader Kinsley Kisses, and just to the outside of Dearest.  She chased comfortably down the backstretch.

Approaching the half-mile pole, Curlin’s Approval began inching up on the leader’s outside.  Through the far turn the lead became three quarters of a length, half a length, a neck…until they were head-and-head.  Kinsley Kisses tried for several strides, but she had run against a better horse.  At the quarter pole, Curlin’s Approval led by a head.  Dearest and Distinta rallied to her outside, looming a threat.  Turning for home, Saez told Curlin’s Approval it was time for business — and she responded by clearing off.  Distinta kept chasing…but Curlin’s Approval was gone.  She crossed the wire four and a half lengths clear of that foe, leaving no doubt about who was punching their ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Of course…a bid is one thing.  Making it to Del Mar this November will require her to stay healthy and fit over the next four months.  Doing well, much less winning, will require a combination of shrewd management and good racing luck

It will also require Curlin’s Approval to answer the biggest question that remains about her form: can she replicate her best form outside of Hallandale Beach?  So far she has run eleven times…all six of her wins have come at Gulfstream, and she finished off the board in tries at Keeneland and Churchill.

But, if she can take her form outside of Florida?  She has repeatedly proven her love for the extended one-turn trip, so the specialist distance of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (seven furlongs) should suit Curlin’s Approval better than most.  It will be interesting to see how she prepares…though if she stays healthy, she has her chance to become Curlin’s first one-turn Breeders’ Cup starter.

And, if she takes to Del Mar?  She could become Curlin’s first ever Breeders’ Cup winner, in an unexpected division for such a stamina merchant of a sire.