Chicago Race of the Day: Saturday, May 18

Ready to talk Illinois-bred maidens? In the latest episode of Chicago Race of the Day, I delve into the Arlington 7th on Saturday, May 17: an Illinois-bred maiden special weight. I point out a few pedigree facts…and may grumble, just a tiny bit, about a beat that happened five years ago, because we all have those old beats we just can’t get over.

Listen to Chicago Race of the Day right here, or subscribe on StitcherGoogle Play, or through the RSS feed!

Chicago Race of the Day: Saturday, May 18

a new series on Patreon

This is the first in a series I call “One-Pagers” —  short, frequent reflections on topics in horse racing.  They can be about anything: breeding, people, races, events, places, anything under the broad umbrella of horse racing.  The only requirement is that they fit on one page of my notebook.

I got the idea yesterday, when I was reading a blog that had a section specifically devoted to 100-word pieces.  I wondered what I could do with pieces with some kind of length-related constraint.  Over the last couple months I’ve fallen in love (fallen back in love?) with writing just about everything except for handicapping previews in a pen-and-paper notebook, and so one-pagers seemed like a natural fit.

This first one is public…but the rest of them will be Patrons-Only.  Patrons of all levels will be able to read them, so even just $1 per month will get you access to all of them going forward.

Visit my Patreon blog to read my first One-Pager, some thoughts about a favourite sire who is still looking for his Big Horse.

And, if you’d like to read more, support me on Patreon for as little as $1 per month!

Picks and Ponderings: Voting for 2016’s Illinois Champions

This week, I had the honour to cast my ballot in the ITBOF’s poll, to determine 2016’s champion Illinois-bred racehorses.

You can see my ballot on Twitter.  And, over at Picks and Ponderings, I explain in detail why I voted the way I did.

Some divisions were easy.  Others, less so.  But, no matter what, I gave the horses the deliberation they deserved and enjoyed reliving the best performances by Illinois-bred racehorses through last year.

foals to watch out for! – 2016 edition

Last week, I hit upon the doom and gloom from this year’s Illinois foal report, but I promised some better news to come.  Here is that better news: foals!

Alas, 2016 brought no new Illinois-bred Curlin babies.  However, my two other favourite sires appeared on the list.

Fort Prado, previously a heavy presence on the Illinois foal list, only had two babies foaled in the state this year.  One, a colt out of Rally Catcher, is a full brother to both stakes winner Bold Rally and recent Fair Grounds maiden winner Fort Rally.  The other Fort Prado is a colt out of honest racemare Lookn Even Finer.  So far she has only produced one foal to race, two-year-old Midnight Oak (Giant Oak).  Midnight Oak has started once, a fifth-place finish in a $30K maiden claimer at Churchill.

Illinois stallion Three Hour Nap stayed constant: four foals in 2015, and four foals this year.  Can’t Buy a Thrill had a Three Hour Nap colt, her first recorded foal.  Can’t Buy a Thrill was a three-start maiden, but she is a half-sister to stakes -winning and graded-placed sprinter Chantilly Nayla (Five Star Day).  Cherry Tart, a two-start maiden, has only produced one runner to date, fifteen-start maiden Molager (Nobiz Like Shobiz).  She had a Leelanau filly last year.  Roaringoodmartini had a Three Hour Nap foal for the second straight year: a filly last year, a colt this year.  These are her only foals to date.  Roaringoodmartini’s dam, Double Martini, is an unraced half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning dirt router Dry Martini.  Runningatem, a durable runner who won ten times in 23 starts through age six, had a Three Hour Nap filly.  She has two other foals on the ground: an unnamed Cashel Castle juvenile colt and a yearling Fort Prado filly.

And, going beyond specific sires?  Here are my five Foals to Watch Out For, in alphabetical order by sire.  Some were chosen for class, some for personal associations.  Some have a little of both.  All of them, I’m looking forward to seeing on the track in a few years.

  • Declaration of War x Snow Diamond, filly: It can be difficult not to heavily weight a list of Illinois-bred foals to watch toward Team Block, because they have so many classy mares and bloodlines.  As it stands, this is the first of two, though a list of five exciting Block horses would not have been out of place.  It would be no surprise to see this filly grow into a nice turf horse, probably middle-distance.  After all, Declaration of War is a War Front son who won both the Queen Anne and the Juddmonte International.  His foals have not hit the track yet; his first crop turns 2 in 2017.  This filly’s dam, Snow Diamond, is an unraced full sister to Fort Prado.  Just one of her babies has yet raced, Snow Mesa (Sky Mesa).  Snow Mesa broke her maiden this year dashing on grass, and has hit the board going as long as a mile.  Snow Diamond also has a three-year-old filly by War Front (a three-quarter sister to this filly), who has not yet raced but is currently on the worktab.
  • Road Ruler x Beertent Baby, colt:  This is her first foal.  My interest in this foal is purely subjective, given her modest race record of three claiming-level wins in thirty starts.  But, seeing this colt on the list hit me harder than any other in the sense of…I have been following horse racing so long that horses I remember well from the racetrack are having babies.  One of Beertent Baby’s three victories capped off an entertaining libations-themed Pick 3 on June 14, 2014, following triumphs by Gimmeadrink and Gimme a Double.  Looking up Beertent Baby’s breeding also introduced me to her dam, Paul’s Dream.  Paul’s Dream predated my presence on the Chicago racing circuit, but what a durable racemare she was!  She ran 106 times from ages two through ten, with nine wins (including one her ten-year-old season!) and another 35 money finishes.  Paul’s Dream is still in the breeding shed, too; she had a Fool for You colt this year.
  • Temple City x Ioya Two, colt: This cold, another bred by Team Block, screams “exciting turf horse”!  In fact, this was the horse who gave me the most viceral reaction of I cannot wait to see him run.  Temple City has already sired some classy turf horses: Miss Temple City, Annals of Time, Bolo.  Ioya Two has been one of Illinois’s classiest broodmares.  She has produced four stakes winners already: Ioya Bigtime, Amazing Results, I O Ireland, and Mavericking.  Three of those four (all but Mavericking) won stakes races on grass.  The best of those, Ioya Bigtime, was sired by Dynaformer.  Who else is a Dynaformer baby?  Temple City.  Another foal on this list gets an honourable mention, as another example of breeding a Dynaformer son to a mare from Ioya Two’s female family: I O Ireland had a Point of Entry colt this year.
  • Uncle Mo x Swither, colt:  This is the only Illinois-bred Uncle Mo foal of the year.  Swither has produced three winners to date, including Indian Icicle, a foal by Indian Charlie.  Indian Icicle won second time out, at age three.  Swither herself was precocious: her sole lifetime win came third time out, in a stakes race at Delaware Park, at age two.  These suggest this Uncle Mo colt may figure things out quickly.
  • Well Positioned x Scarlet Power, filly:  Scarlet Power was last seen finishing second in the 2014 Isaac Murphy Handicap at Arlington.  She was a solid allowance-level and state-bred stakes-level runner between 2012 and 2014, ages two to four…though I was always a bigger fan of her little brother Try Arguing Harder, she was the classier racehorse.  Scarlet Power was running so well during the spring and early summer of her four-year-old year, and I kept waiting for her to come back.  She turned back up on the worktab in early 2015, but never raced again.  The fact that she was bred to Well Positioned was no surprise.  Owner William Stiritz claimed Scarlet Power for a gaudy $50,000 early in her career, and Well Positioned is one of his two house stallions.  All his mares with recorded Illinois-breds went to either Well Positioned or Ghaaleb.

foals to watch out for: revisited

Enough with the foal report-related doom and gloom, at least for the moment.  The foal report abounds with hope, as well, in the form of specific foals who I can’t wait to see on the track in two or three years.

I’m still narrowing down the list of 2016’s neatest Illinois-bred foals to just five.  But — what about the foals I tabbed from 2014’s list?  They’re now of racing age, and beginning to hit the track.

Read More »

foal crops, stallion rosters, and stability in Illinois

One of my favourite moments of the year happens when the Illinois Department of Agriculture posts the latest year’s foal registration reports.  Last night, I noticed that 2016’s had gone up — a bit earlier than last year’s, even!  I had to finish handicapping and writing up the Jim Edgar, but once I did, the foal report took up the rest of my evening.

Reading the report felt like a roller coaster.  In a future piece, I will touch on the good news, the reason why Foal Report Day feels most like a visit from Santa Claus to me: the actual foals, and the matings that excited me the most.  But, to get the sad part out of the way first, the report provided a startling dose of Illinois horse racing reality.

It shows why we need some stability in Illinois horse racing, and soon.

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2016 Illinois Mares Bred

This week, the Jockey Club released its Report of Mares Bred.

Illinois is still a fairly small segment of the breeding market.  After all, according to the report, there were more mares bred to Uncle Mo (253) than there were to all Illinois stallions combined (220).  But, this report does give a look at who is gaining attention among Illinois stallions, whose foals we will see come 2019 or 2020.

Ghaaleb (Unbridled’s Song – Queen’s Lady, by Storm Cat) led the list with 30. He has no progeny on the track yet.  Ghaaleb himself only raced four times, winning both a maiden special weight sprint and a one-other-than mile at Aqueduct.

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Illinois-breds at Keeneland September: book 6

Six Illinois-breds were originally catalogued in book 6 of the Keeneland September sale.  Four of them have so far been declared out, but this piece still takes a look at all six.  Since it is not uncommon for these horses to turn up in another sale, it makes sense to have this material there for reference just in case they do come back through the ring.

Two Illinois-breds are still expected to go through the ring for Book 6: hip 4290 and hip 4314.  Both are scheduled to be auctioned on Sunday.

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Illinois-breds at Keeneland September: books 2-3

It’s that time again: the biggest yearling sale of the year, Keeneland September.

This year’s catalogue features fifteen Illinois-breds.  Blinkers Off will look at all of them, in a three-part series.  Here, we look at the yearlings in Book 2 and Book 3, five in total.  (There are no Illinois-breds in Book 1).  A future piece will look at the four yearlings form the land of Lincoln across Book 4 and Book 5, and the final installment will shine a light on the six Illinois-breds in Book 6.

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Chicago Railbird: Hero’s and Crooks

I had a blast writing my latest Chicago Railbird column.

There’s little I like more than learning about Illinois breeding, and I noticed that Hero’s and Crooks has his first starter ever in Friday’s Arlington opener.  I wondered how he ended up a sire, even in Illinois, given his modest race record.  So, in addition to handicapping that race, I took a dive into his pedigree to uncover why he ended up standing stud in the first place.  And, I found some interesting things.

Head over to ShapperDaCapper, read the latest Chicago Railbird, and learn about new Illinois sire Hero’s and Crooks before his first runner hits the track!

the golden bloodline of N. C. Goldust

N. C. Goldust (Gold Stage – Arraign, by Judger) was aptly named.  Her name did not fit her in the same sense that current Chicago-circuit mainstay Dustem Carolina’s does:  after all, she was bred in Ontario and not North Carolina.  However, the latter part of her name fits, as her bloodline has been golden.

Somali Byrd may be cute and plaintive when begging for mints -- but, her 64-11-14-10 record proves that this granddaughter of N. C. Goldust is all business on the track.
Somali Byrd may be a softie if she thinks you have mints, but her 64-11-14-10 record proves this granddaughter of N. C. Goldust is all business on the track.

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for the first time in ten years, a seven-figure Illinois-bred

When writing (or tweeting) about Illinois-breds in the auction ring, it jumps out enough when an Illinois-bred horse commands five figures.  Six figures, for a horse bred here, is eye-popping.  It happens — recent examples include My Option and Magnetic Miss — but not often.

Seven?

Until yesterday, that had not happened since Sassy Pants commanded $4,500,000 at Keeneland November in 2006.

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