America’s Best Racing: Big-Race Showdown – A Kentucky Oaks-Derby Double

This is week twelve of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

Heading into the Kentucky Derby, I’ve got a slim lead in bankroll, though Emily is right on my tail.  We tackle the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby this week — so head over to ABR and see who we all like!

Railbird Style: How old is the Curse of Apollo?

Today, Jessica Chapel and I launched Railbird Style, a guide to style and usage in turf writing.  Jessica wrote an introduction to our project.  And, since the term has been ubiquitous in Kentucky Derby discourse, I took a deep dive into the history of the Curse of Apollo in the world of horse racing.

To keep following Railbird Style, make sure to follow @railbirdstyle on Twitter — we plan to have content to interest both turf writers as well as any reader curious about the language in turf writing.

2018 Kentucky Derby Preview and Saturday Stakes Selections

We’ve been following the trail all the way, but now, the Kentucky Derby is finally here.  The field is drawn, with twenty main entries plus one also-eligible.  The field is competitive, with a little something for everybody: fountains of raw talent yet to be forged in the fire, hard-trying and plucky sorts who have yet to prove best against the big boys, and everything in between.  (Well, except for a filly, anyway…Rayya had 40 points on the strength of a second-place finish in the UAE Derby, but she’s off to Friday’s Kentucky Oaks instead.)

Below, we dive into the Kentucky Derby field, horse by horse, and let you know our top picks and longshot.  Below our Derby analysis, there is a chart with selections and longshots for all seven stakes races at Churchill on Saturday.

Read on in my latest at Picks and Ponderings, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Kentucky Oaks Preview

Kentucky Derby week is here.  As always, Picks and Ponderings is on top of it.

This piece focuses on Friday’s action.  We’ll have a horse-by-horse look at the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, which drew a full field of fourteen.  The weather calls for some rain on Friday, so we’ll take that into account, and make notes on off-track acumen.  And, below, we’ll have our selections in all six stakes races on Friday’s card.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Dandy Gal, Goneghost, Recount Win Closing Day Stakes at Hawthorne

Hawthorne’s fifteen-day spring meet drew to a close today with three stakes races for Illinois-registered horses.

It was a red-and-green-letter day for the triumvirate of owner William Stiritz, trainer Scott Becker, and jockey Chris Emigh.  The three combined for two stakes wins today: Dandy Gal in the Third Chance Handicap, and Goneghost in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.  Both stakes winners were homebreds for Stiritz, from the final crop of his longtime stallion Cherokee Rap.  They all three accepted meet titles, as well.  With ten wins, Stiritz claimed leading owner honours for the meet.  Those same ten wins brought Scott Becker the training title.  Emigh, with his pair of stakes wins on the final day of the meet, ended the spring at Hawthorne with a meet-leading fourteen victories.

Read on at Picks and Ponderings, and catch up with the end of the Hawthorne Thoroughbred season before moving across town to Arlington on Friday!

Picks and Ponderings: Older Illinois Horses (and Colour Guard) Take the Spotlight Saturday at Hawthorne

Saturday is closing day of the all-too-brief Hawthorne spring meet.  After Saturday, the Thoroughbreds migrate north to Arlington, the main track surface at Hawthorne gets swapped out again, and standardbreds take centre stage at 35th and Cicero.

However, closing day features a slate of stakes races for older Illinois-registered horses.

The card includes a pair of six-furlong sprints, the Robert S. Molaro for ages four-and-up, and the fillies’ complement, the Third Chance Handicap.  The mile and a sixteenth Milwaukee Avenue Handicap is open to Illinois-breds aged three and up; the lower age limit makes sense, as there was no two-turn stakes for three-year-olds at Hawthorne.  There was a fillies’ complement in the condition book, The Peach of It Handicap, but it did not draw enough nominations to go.  The Peach of It’s loss is the Milwaukee Avenue’s gain: a pair of top-quality Illinois-bred mares, Prado’s Sweet Ride and Babybluesbdancing, will challenge the boys.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s closing day stakes at Hawthorne, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Get Your Piece of Wednesday’s Superfecta Carryover at Hawthorne

…more surprising was that no one who played the superfecta even had Silver Saver, Starship Brooklyn, Waddle, and Midnite In Miami in that order.  So, there’s a $9,693 carryover in the superfecta pool.  It goes right into the superfecta pool for Wednesday’s opener, and any and all players with a winning ticket can reap the benefits.

Wednesday’s opener is a turf dash for open $10,000 claimers.  This analysis is focused on the turf, since the weather is slated to be clear until late in the week, perfect for this Wednesday race to stay on the grass.

Read on at Picks and Ponderings, get to know the players in Wednesday’s opener, and get ready to hit the superfecta!

Picks and Ponderings: Jean Elizabeth Overcomes Bad Break, Remains Perfect in Pretty Jenny

For a race in which she so easily towered on paper once her stablemate scratched, the start of the 2018 Pretty Jenny Stakes could hardly have been more difficult for Jean Elizabeth.

Unraced since a tour de force victory in an allowance optional claiming race at Hawthorne last October, she was fractious in her long-awaited return to a starting gate on race day.  “The gate guy was trying to get her head pointed straight ahead,” recalled jockey Julio Felix, “but when he got her straight she lunged and hit her head, hard, on the gate.”

From there, things went far better for the Larry Rivelli trainee.

Read on at Picks and Ponderings.

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Pretty Jenny Stakes Preview

The stakes portion of the Hawthorne meet begins this weekend — and, for the first time since 2015, Hawthorne has scheduled three-year-old stakes races for Illinois-breds.  Though the Land of Lincoln was not carded for lack of nominations, the Pretty Jenny Stakes did draw enough runners and will be contested on Saturday.

Previously known as the Lady Hallie Stakes, the race has been restricted to Illinois-bred sophomore fillies since its 2004 running, and has taken Pretty Jenny’s name since its 2009 running.  Pretty Jenny, herself the Lady Hallie winner in 2005, was a 12-time winner in 32 starts between ages three and six.  She dominated the local filly and mare sprint circuit and also won stakes races at Churchill Downs and Prairie Meadows as an older horse.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the 2018 Pretty Jenny Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!