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: 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.

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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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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.


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

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support CANTER Chicago!

As many of you know from things I have posted here or on Twitter, I have been volunteering for CANTER since October.  It has been amazing.

I have met so many horsepeople, volunteers, and horses in the last five months.  And, I have been able to find a way to get personally involved in racehorse retirement despite being an apartment-dwelling, car-less city person with neither space nor money for my own horse.  I have been out at Hawthorne just about every Saturday morning over the last few months with other local CANTER volunteers to talk to trainers and help take listings.  I have also put my online chatter tendencies to good use; over the last few months, I have had the reins for our chapter’s Twitter account.

Illinois-bred racehorse (and certified snugglebug) Getwutupreyfor: four days before his final racing start, and seven days before beginning his life as an OTTB!
Illinois-bred gelding (and certified snugglebug) Getwutupreyfor: four days before his final racing start, and seven days before beginning his next life as an OTTB!

When I started, we were still CANTER Illinois; the Chicago-area group and the group at Fairmount operated under the same leadership as an affiliate of CANTER USA.  Recently, CANTER Chicago has become its own affiliate.  Everything is official now: we have our own page on the national CANTER site, our own registration as an Illinois nonprofit, our own bank account.

And, this is where CANTER Chicago needs your support.  We are a 100% volunteer-run nonprofit, 501(c)(3).  Even though we’re not paid, there are still start-up and operating costs such as liability insurance (a requirement for having backstretch access at Arlington this summer).

You can help CANTER Chicago continue and expand our services to local racehorse retirement by getting a t-shirt!  We will be selling shirts through the month of March.  The design is based on the Chicago flag, so it shows love for both retiring racehorses as well as the city of Chicago.  I’ve bought one  — I would not be posting this were I not on board, too — and hope you will consider shirts for yourself and your friends.

With your help, we can become an even stronger part of Chicago’s aftercare infrastructure.

Three Hour Nap, revisited

Thoroughbred racing in Illinois gets back underway in less than two weeks.  With that on the horizon, and two-year-old races at Arlington only a few months away, it seemed a good time to revisit one of my pieces from last year, about Three Hour Nap.

Since my maiden-focused look at Three Hour Nap was published in September of last year, three more Three Hour Nap babies have joined the ranks of winners.  For three more of his babies to have won between September and January is nothing to sneeze at: he has only 25 registered foals of racing age1, including four who are two-year-olds of 2016.

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Picks and Ponderings: Illinois Champions

I am proud to have cast a ballot in the Illinois Champions vote for the second year in a row.

The Pizza Man took many of the headlines, and for good reason.  Not only was he the best Illinois-bred horse in 2015, but he was one of the best turf horses in the country.

However, Illinois racing did not begin and end with The Pizza Man last year.  We had solid Illinois-bred horses in many divisions last year, and this was a time to reflect upon and celebrate that.

Over at Picks and Ponderings, both Paul Mazur and I dissected our ballots: who we voted for, and why.  For anyone curious to see the ballot — which includes a full list of Illinois-breds who either won stakes races or placed in stakes worth $50,000 or more — the ballot I cast is below.  Feel free to ask me any questions about why I sent a certain way either in the comments here, the comments at P&P, or on Twitter!

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Picks and Ponderings: Locally Connected Triple Crown Nominees

The list of Triple Crown nominees came out today.  Sure, everyone is talking about obvious types like Mohaymen and Nyquist and Greenpointcrusader — but what about the ones connected to Illinois?

Over at Picks and Ponderings, I took a look at the horses with local connections who have been nominated to the Triple Crown.  The focus rests on horses who raced here or were bred here, as well as a pair of locally connected owners who figure quite prominently on the list.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, and find out how the road to the Triple Crown just might head through the state of Illinois!

Ode to Eight Gauge

Entering the Past the Grandstand blog contest two years ago was one of the major catalysts that led to me starting Blinkers Off two years ago.  I wrote a piece comprising a few vignettes from the fall 2013 meet at Hawthorne, and had so much fun writing it that it galvanized the idea that I needed to write about racing more often.  That piece took fifth place in the contest, too.

Mary Cage did another blog contest this year at Past the Grandstand, and I entered.  This year, my entry focused on an Illinois-bred who I have grown to love over the last few years: Eight Gauge.

I found out today that it won runner-up!

Thank you, Mary, for both hosting the contest and publishing my piece.  It was so much fun to write about such a hard trier, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

And, to all of you, I hope you enjoy getting to know Eight Gauge a bit, as well.

Illinois sires: Greytap

Every so often, someone googles Blinkers Off with interesting enough search terms that a post ensues.  Within the last week, someone found this corner of the Internet with the search terms Greytap horse pedigree.

I have mentioned Greytap a few times here at Blinkers Off, but only in the context of handicapping a race in which he was actually running.  I have never discussed his record or his  pedigree here in any detail.  Still, it is a good time to do so — after all, breeding season is around the corner.

Nine-year-old Greytap (Tapit – Trickily, by Trempolino) is the only son of Tapit standing stud in Illinois.  He stands stud at Jake Bryant’s J B Stables in Burnt Prairie.  Close followers of Illinois Thoroughbred breeding may notice a pattern here.  After all, he is not the only relatively obscure son of a big-money sire to stand at Bryant’s farm.

Road Ruler (Unbridled’s Song – Stephanie’s Road, by Strawberry Road) stands there, too.  Injuries kept Road Ruler from being a star on the racetrack, but he has become a fixture on the Illinois sire list.  Road Ruler commands a $2,000 stud fee — big money, among stallions in the state.  In 2013 and 2014, Road Ruler sat second in earnings among all sires standing (or who last stood) in Illinois, behind the late Cherokee Rap.  In 2015, led by solid sprinter Armando’s Star, Road Ruler took over the top spot.

Greytap stands aside Road Ruler for the same $2,000 stud fee — a high-end price for Illinois.  Can lightning strike again with Greytap?

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Illinois-bred Curlin babies update

If there are two things that hit Blinkers Off square in the wheelhouse, they are Curlin babies and Illinois-breds.  Rarely do those two niches overlap, but recently there have been a few points where they have.  This makes it a good time for updates on all of his Illinois-bred progeny.

This past Saturday, Chicken Noodle (Perfectly Campbell, by Pleasantly Perfect) debuted at Hawthorne in a one mile and seventy yard maiden special weight over the dirt.  She is beautifully bred, particularly for an Illinois-bred: by Curlin, out of a winning half-sister to Nates Mineshaft.  She is also a good-looking filly:

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