America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Holy Bull S. and Robert B. Lewis S.

It’s time for the second week of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing!  The panel is full of sharp horse racing minds: Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo.

This week, we take a look at a pair of Kentucky Derby preps, one on each coast.  Head over to ABR, and see who we like for the Holy Bull and the Lewis!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Holy Bull S. and Forward Gal S. Preview

Last weekend, the three-year-old prep season took a one-week break.  Focus instead shifted to the older horses, as Gun Runner showed in the Pegasus World Cup why allowing a sound horse to stay in training through age five can be downright magical.  We’re back to reality this week: Gun Runner has taken up residence at stud, and it’s time to turn our eyes back to the ones dreaming of roses and lilies come may.

This weekend, the sophomore trail continues full steam ahead, and Picks and Ponderings takes you to all the points races.  This piece will focus on Gulfstream’s pair, the Forward Gal (G4) for fillies and the Holy Bull (G2) for open company.

Read up on the histories of the Forward Gal and the Holy Bull, and dive into my picks and analysis, over at Picks and Ponderings!

Big Race Showdown: Pegasus World Cup

I’m excited to be on the panel for this year’s Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing!  The panel is full of sharp horse racing minds: Emily Gullikson, Candice Hare, Dan Tordjman, Brian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo.

We’ll be sharing our top picks in the biggest races all year long — and fittingly, we start by looking at the race with the biggest purse of all, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup.  Head over to ABR, and see who we like for the Pegasus!

Picks and Ponderings: Pegasus World Cup Preview

This weekend, Gulfstream reprises the richest horse race in history: the Pegasus World Cup.  Though Picks and Ponderings focuses mainly on three-year-old preps until the Chicago racing season resumes, this $16 million race for older horses has the attention of the racing world, and it has ours.  Our preview features horse-by-horse commentary, as well as our customary selections and longshot.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Pegasus World Cup, 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.

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Princess Rooney Stakes and Smile Sprint Stakes Preview

This Saturday features a pair of Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races: both at Gulfstream Park, and both for sprinters aged three and up.  Picks and Ponderings previews both races in detail.

The Smile Sprint Stakes (G3), a six-furlong sprint on the dirt, welcomes open company and offers its winner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).  The fillies’ and mares’ complement, the Princess Rooney Stakes (G2), covers seven furlongs on the dirt.  That race’s winner punches her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races at Gulfstream, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park Oaks Preview

This weekend, Gulfstream’s Championship Meet reaches its culmination: Florida Derby Day.  The card features a pair of 100-point three-year-old preps: the Florida Derby (G1) and the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

The Florida Derby features Gunnevera, who by sheer consistency has emerged among the top of his class.  Always Dreaming has been getting most of the chatter, among the rest of the field…can he break out here?

The Gulfstream Park Oaks features Tequilita, winner of the Forward Gal — plus several intriguing newer runners ready to try stakes company and make their marks.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Florida Derby, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Fountain of Youth and Davona Dale Preview

The roads to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks continue this weekend.  Over at Picks and Ponderings, I take a look at a pair of Grade 2 sophomore preps in Florida, the Fountain of Youth and the Davona Dale.

The Fountain of Youth features Irish War Cry, a promising son of Curlin (and currently at the top of my Derby Top Ten), against ten foes.  As often happens in Florida this time of year, the road won’t be easy.  His foes include Practical Joke, Gunnevera, and Made You Look (going first-time dirt).

In the Davona Dale, a full field of fourteen will compete for Kentucky Oaks points.  That field includes proven graded stakes winners including Pretty City Dancer and Miss Sky Warrior, as well as many others who are trying to carve out a place on the Oaks trail.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Fountain of Youth and the Davona Dale, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

which Irish War Cry?

Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had two wins in two starts going into today’s Holy Bull (G2).

Even though he had done everything asked of him, the question loomed: which Irish War Cry would show up to face more proven horses like champion Classic Empire and multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera in his graded stakes debut?

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Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Holy Bull and Forward Gal Stakes Preview

After older horses took the spotlight last weekend, the Derby Trail and Oaks Trail resume this Saturday.  I turn my eyes to Gulfstream Park for a pair of competitive three-year-old points races: the Holy Bull (G2) and the Forward Gal (G2).

In the Holy Bull, Classic Empire attempts to keep his championship form, while eight foes try to knock him off the top of the heap.  In the Forward Gal, nine fillies attempt to take another step toward the Oaks.  Pretty City Dancer may be the class…but she has been off the screen since Saratoga, and there’s an interesting mid-Atlantic invader.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Holy Bull and Forward Gal, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Pegasus World Cup Point/Counterpoint

This weekend features the richest race in horse racing history: the Pegasus World Cup (G1).  Keen Ice, California Chrome, Arrogate, and nine other horses will go a mile and an eighth for a purse of $12,000,000.

And, as we so often do for the biggest races of the year, Picks and Ponderings takes it on, point/counterpoint.  Paul Mazur and I go horse-by-horse to separate the contenders, the exotic plays, and the pretenders.  We pull no punches, and we let the snark flow.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of the Pegasus World Cup, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

2016 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes Preview — December edition!

Don’t adjust your monitors.  There was already a 2016 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes preview this year.

Then again, H. Allen Jerkens was always able to do the impossible.  Onion beat Secretariat, All the Way beat Juba…and this year, he gets two editions of the stakes named in his honour.  The 2015 and (first) 2016 editions came in January, but this time around it returns in late December instead.

The conditions are the same: two miles over the grass at Gulfstream.  The third edition of the race has been better subscribed than any yet.  The inaugural running attracted eleven.  After two scratches, only seven saw the starter in the second.

Saturday, fourteen will face the two-mile test.

Though its distance stands out, this race has kept one thing in common with many held at Gulfstream this time of year: it has been trainer Todd Pletcher’s playground.  Unitarian won the 2015 edition with authority.  The next year he sent Charming Kitten — already a two-mile winner in the 2014 Belmont Gold Cup — to victory.

Will Pletcher strike again?

Saturday, December 31: Gulfstream Park

Race 10: H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, three-year-olds and up, two miles on the turf, post time 4:34pm EST

Selections: Snag (14), Montclair (11), Generous Kitten (10)

Longshot: English Illusion (12)

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Picks and Ponderings: Gulfstream Park Saturday Stakes Preview

It has been a while since I’ve done a massive stakes preview over at Picks and Ponderings…but Saturday’s card at Gulfstream Park features five stakes races.  The three graded events are the only three graded stakes of the day, and the two ungraded turf stakes are both solid betting races.  So, I previewed all five in detail.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s stakes smorgasbord at Gulfstream, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Claiming Crown Preview

Gulfstream opens Saturday, and we all know what that means: Claiming Crown Day!

I love the Claiming Crown — love, love, love the Claiming Crown.  As someone who spends so much of my time handicapping, following, and adoring claiming horses, I love that racing takes a day to put them on centre stage.

And, if you are coming into it from more of a wagering perspective?  The Claiming Crown features huge, well-matched fields.  There’s something in it for everyone.

In my latest piece for Picks and Ponderings, I preview the pair of turf routes, the Emerald and the Tiara.  In addition, I will have picks for all nine of Saturday’s stakes races at Gulfstream.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and get ready for one of the best race days of the year: the Claiming Crown!

another excellent week for Curlin babies!

Connect (Bullville Belle, by Holy Bull) carried the banner for Curlin Babies Saturday, winning a loaded edition of the Pennsylvania Derby (GII).  Already a stakes winner after winning the Curlin at Saratoga, he rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Travers Stakes (GI).  He tracked inside and midpack through much of the race, was finally asked approaching the turn for home, and stoutly held Gun Runner at bay.  It was Connect’s fourth win in six starts, and his first graded victory.

Still, since Thursday, Connect is not the only Curlin baby who has made his mark.  He is one of eight winners by Curlin over that time, in addition to three more stakes placings.

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