Shame on the New York Times: In Defense of the Horseplayer

I was very disappointed when I opened an e-mail from a close friend this morning, who always forwards me articles related to horse racing. Last night, he sent me a link to a photo essay from the New York Times that appeared in this past Sunday’s edition. The article was written by John Leland and featured photographs from Theo Zierock, who spent last winter shooting at Aqueduct Race Track. The article can be found here.

The theme of the photographs is best told by this caption:

Screenshot 2015-01-05 15.27.15

Here are a few selections of the text of the article — click on text to enlarge.

Screenshot 2015-01-05 14.54.47

Screenshot 2015-01-05 14.55.01

Screenshot 2015-01-05 14.55.43


Screenshot 2015-01-05 14.55.11

As a horseplayer, this piece is very disappointing, especially given the standards of journalism at the New York Times. There is no effort to tell the stories of the people who play the races, but only to mock them.

The photographs portray a pervasive culture of desperation, sadness, and anger. Yes, some horseplayers do have these traits, as do compulsive gamblers in other areas. For some, it has become an unfortunate part of the territory of playing the races. But mocking those with illnesses is not something the “paper of record” should be engaged in. It lacks empathy towards the plights of those with gambling problems, who actually (believe it or not) have good stories to tell, if you take the time to listen. It’s simply inaccurate (and unfair) to use these tales to convey a judgment on these people or to prejudicially apply it to the community as a whole.

The authors assume that all players — at least at Aqueduct — are degenerate gamblers. That’s an unfair and untrue assumption. There are many in the community — myself included — who love the hobby and, yes, enjoy the thrill, pursuit, and challenge of beating the odds. We love understanding races before the race and trying to predict what is going to happen. We love watching horse races and seeing how the anticipated drama unfolds in each and every race. We especially enjoy the challenge of competing at an amazing game — and, for lack of a better phrase, “putting our money where our mouth is,” all the time.  For those interested in competing in understanding of probability and data analysis and are not afraid to back it up, handicapping and playing the races provides the perfect game.

I’m sorry that the authors did not take the time to find this out for themselves.

Bob Schless on the Pedigree of Sunset Glow, Winner of Del Mar Debutante

2 year old Sunset Glow won the Grade 1 $300,000 Del Mar Debutante in a gutsy performance on Saturday, August 30th . The Wesley Ward trained filly squeezed through an opening in the stretch run and repelled a late bid by Her Emmynency to win by a neck going 7 furlongs. She showed great versatility by sitting back and rating behind horses for most of the race where in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes she led gate to wire. She also galloped out well past the wire which was nice to see as well. Here is a video of her winning performance:

Sunset Glow is a $140,000 purchase and has 3 wins and 2 places from five starts. She broke her maiden on turf against males by two lengths in June at Belmont Park, then shipped to England for the Royal Ascot meet where she finished second of twenty one fillies in the Group III Albany Stakes on June 20 after leading for much of the race. Given some rest while transferred to Del Mar, she regrouped to take the Sorrento by 3 1/4 lengths in a small field. By looking at her success both on turf and synthetics it appeared the logical choice would be to point her to The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf going a mile in November. But Ward had other plans for her, bringing her with him to Kentucky to train her to run in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keenland in early October.  It would be the filly’s first attempt on a conventional dirt surface. “I don’t think it will be a problem,” Ward told the Daily Racing Form. “I’m excited about getting her back here (Keeneland). I think she’ll take to the dirt here.” Obviously Ward’s intentions are to run her in The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race if she shows well at Keenland. She would probably be going up against some strong competition there. Luminance, Enchanting Lady, Tara’s Tango from out west and Condo Commando, Fashion Alert, and Cavorting from the east coast should present Sunset Glow with a competitive race to say the least. Does she have the talent to beat these foes? Can she run well on dirt? Will she like the added distance? Let’s examine her pedigree and other factors and find out.

Sire: Exchange Rate

Three Chimneys Farm says Exchange Rate is, “One of Danzig’s best sons at stud”. He is a beautiful horse that adds strong physical attributes and good looks to his babies.  So far in his career he’s accounted for 53 stakes winners. He has a reputation as a sire of sharp two year olds, shown by the fact that 45% of his stakes winners earned black type at 2. Exchange rate has sired winners on dirt, synthetic, and turf. His typical runners have fared well going one turn and he does add more of a speed influence to his offspring rather than stamina. Exchange rate is also noted for producing more talented fillies than colts. His best accomplishments on the track were winning the Risen Star Stakes at 3 and the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at 4.

Sunset Glow’s 2nd sire is one of the all-time great North American sires Danzig. He was undefeated on the track with 3 wins when knee issues ended his career prematurely.  Danzig is represented by 188 stakes winners (107 Graded), tops among North American stallions, and ranks among the leaders by number of Breeders’ Cup winners. His offspring earned $101 million dollars on the track. He is also a superb sire of sires, giving us greats like Danehill (309 stakes winners/all-time record), Belong to Me, Langfuhr, and Polish Navy. Danzig was a legendary turf sire but he would also produce dirt greats, as evidenced by Chief’s Crown, Dance Smartly, War Chant and Pine Bluff.

Her 3rd sire is Northern Dancer who  The National Thoroughbred Racing Association called him “one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history”. So by looking at Sunset Glow’s sire line you see superstar stallions who sired winners on all surfaces which shows that she does have the ability to succeed on dirt. Now let’s turn to her distaff family which will tell us more about the surface she prefers, her class, and her ability to run longer distances.

Dam: Perfectforthepart

Perfectforthepart was a winner at 2 and 3 and placed in the Sarah Lane’s Oates Stakes at Fairgrounds (1 mile, turf). Sunset Glow is her first foal.

Her granddam, Capote Ann, was a winner at 2 and produced three winners.

Sunset Glow’s 3rd dam is Andestine. She earned $288,275 on the race track with a G1 win in the Milady Handicap (1 1/16 miles, dirt) and 2 other stakes wins. She also had 1 winner from one foal.

Sunset Glow has 3 Reines De Course mares in the 4th generation of her female family. Bramelea (dam of the great sire Roberto), On the Trail (Dam of Andover Way who was the dam of Dynaformer) and Too Bald (Broodmare of the Year in 1986). She is from family number 14 that produced Foolish Pleasure (Hall of Fame 2 year old American champion and Kentucky Derby winner). So as you can see there is a touch of class with the females Sunset Glow has on her distaff line. Now let’s look at her dam sires.

Dam Sire: Dynaformer

Sunset Glow is by the dam sire Dynaformer who was a 17 hands colt and a G2 winner on the race track. It was in the breeding shed where he shined, giving his progeny a great deal of stamina, stoutness, and superb turf performance. In 2012 at age 27, Dynaformer led all Kentucky and North American sires by turf progeny earnings (his sixth time as a leader in 11 years) and over 77% of his stakes winners scored on turf. But like Danzig, he was able to get horses who performed remarkably on dirt, such as Barbaro, Perfect Drift, Dynever and Critical Eye.

Her 2nd dam sire is the European raced turf superstar Roberto. On the track he was a champion 2 and 3 year old in Ireland and a champion 3 year old in England as well. He too added a ton of stamina to his offspring and was an excellent turf influence, giving us 1988 Eclipse award winning turfer Sunshine Forever, Australia Melbourne Cup winner At Talaq and British classic winner Touching Wood.

Sunset Glow’s 3rd dam sire is Hail to Reason. He was a champion 2 year old colt and the Leading Sire of North America in 1970. He sired 42 stakes winners and six champions. Hail to Reason was also a very successful broodmare sire whose daughters have produced more than one hundred stakes winners.

When looking at Sunset Glow’s dam sires you see offspring with a definite tilt towards turf greatness and horses who can travel long distances.

Sunset Glow’s Outlook:

I wrote a blog before the Travers Stakes asking how Mr. Speaker, a nice turf horse, would be able to handle the dirt. He finished a respectable fourth but his pedigree was filled with more dirt influences than Sunset Glow. Danzig was the sire of Hard Spun and grand sire of Big Brown, one performing well on polytrack before having dirt success while the other won twice on turf while almost winning the Triple Crown. Dynaformer’s Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro won his first three races on turf. But Barbaro and Hard Spun had more dirt influences throughout there pedigree than Sunset Glow (she has great turf influences top to bottom in the first 2 generations of her pedigree). Almost every horse owner and trainer wants their horse on the Kentucky Derby or Oaks trail. I understand why Ward and her connections want to run her on dirt-she has shown to be a great filly so far on turf and synthetics. She shouldn’t have any problems running a mile and a sixteenth. If she can prove herself on dirt it puts her in the direction of a Kentucky Oaks run at three. She definitely deserves a shot-though I’m not thoroughly confident after looking at her pedigree that she has the bloodlines to succeed. If she is truly special than all bets are off. And if she doesn’t fare well at Keeneland, I hope they put her back on the lawn because her pedigree smacks of her being a real superstar there.

Image: Chris, Dynaformer. Copyright 2007.

Bob Schless on Super Saver

[A few weeks back, Bob Schless penned a very timely article on the hottest freshman sire, Super Saver. WIll he become the first Kentucky Derby winner since Unbridled to sire a Kentucky Derby Winner? Great, detailed analysis as usual. SA]

To win a Kentucky Derby, you have to be a well-rounded individual–a horse with the speed, stamina, stoutness, and physical courage not only to withstand the rigors of training for that race, but also to win it. Super Saver embodied this. He also has some great attributes to offer as a sire as well: a talented career on the track; a superb female family with bloodlines full of class and stamina; a sire that gave off horses possessing good size and scope, quality and strength, and a balanced look that contributes to their athleticism. Super Saver is off to a hot start at stud, ranking among the nation’s best Freshman Sires of 2014. He already has 3 impressive winners out of 13 starters this summer, and by looking at the top notch mares Win Star Farms has bred him to there is a lot to like about their ability to get better as the distance gets longer. Also, owners paid an average of $100,803 for his yearlings in 2013 so they must look pretty nice in the sales ring. Trainer Mark Cassie said in April, 2014,”Everyone is looking at these Super Saver’s-We’re always looking for Derby-type horses.”  I know it’s extremely early but Super Saver has every right to give out another Kentucky Derby Champion somewhere down the line. Let’s examine it.

Racing Career:

Super Saver’s racing career was filled with highs and lows. He began his career breaking his maiden in his second attempt in a mile MSW race at Belmont by an impressive 7 lengths. In his first two-turn race he broke a stakes record at Churchill Downs in The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for 2 year olds, clocking a mile and sixteenth in a time of 1:42.83 and winning from gate to wire  by 5 lengths. The previous mark was held by Captain Steve in 1999. The pinnacle of his career came at 3 in The Kentucky Derby. Going off with odds of 9-1, he came from 6th place to skim the rail on a muddy track and win by 2 1/2 lengths. This was his Jockey’s Calvin Borel’s 3rd Kentucky Derby winner in the previous four years. It was also his trainer’s first Kentucky Derby win in 24 tries. Pletcher said after the race, “I’m always asked: Have you won the Kentucky Derby? Now I look forward to answering it. ” He also said this about the race, “Something that was overlooked in the Derby is that everyone made it out to be that this horse didn’t get a great trip and that horse didn’t get a good trip.  Super Saver was able to get a great trip because he was able to put himself in all the right spots and every time Calvin needed him to do something, he did it.” In the Preakness, Super Saver lugged home a disappointing eighth. It was the worst Preakness finish by a Kentucky Derby Winner in 4 decades. He followed that up with a 4th place finish in the Haskell and a 10th place finish in The Travers. After the race Super Saver underwent a full veterinary exam, which showed that the colt had bruising and inflammation in all four of his cannon bones. Win Star decided to retire him with Elliot Walden saying,“The final decision to retire Super Saver was a difficult one that may not be popular with fans but should be very popular with our breeders. The bone bruising, discovered by Dr. Larry Bramlage DVM, which limited his performance during the latter half of this year should subside with time. However, it created a slight risk that he would not return to the form he showed as a two year old and through the Kentucky Derby. He has nothing more to prove.”  He ended his career with 10 starts: 3 wins, 2 place, 1 show with earnings of $1,889,766. Now let’s look at Super Saver’s pedigree, which in my eyes is a royal one.


When your half-brother goes for $1.7 Million at the 2013 Keenland September Sale, you know you possess a superb pedigree. Super Saver’s female family is a direct descendant of *La Troienne, the most influential mare of the twentieth century. His dam, Supercharger, hails from the classy Phipps Family and is a full sister to Grade 1 winner and young sire Girolamo, as well as She’s a Winner, dam of Grade 1 winner and sire Bluegrass Cat. She is also a full sister to Grade 2 winner Lord of the Game, stakes winner Sonoma Cat, Grade 2-placed Cal Nation, Grade 2 winner Daydreaming (Dam of Imagining) and Grade 3 winner Accelerator. Finally, she is the dam of Grade 3 winner Brethren. His granddam, Get Lucky, won the Grade 3 Affectionately Handicap and is a full sister to Travers winner Rhythm. Dance Number, the third dam, won the Grade 1 Beldame and is a half-sister to the Multiple Grade 1 route winner Private Account (sire of undefeated Personal Ensign). Fourth dam Numbered Account was a Champion Juvenile Filly of 1971 and equaled a Keenland track record for 9 furlongs on dirt. So as you can see Super Saver hails from mares of class and stamina. His dam sire is the hall of famer A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic and sired Rags to Riches, The 2007 Belmont Winner. His 2nd dam sire is Seattle Slew, the great Triple Crown Winner. His 3rd dam sire Bold Reasoning’s breeding career was short lived but he did sire Seattle Slew. Looking at this group of dam sires you can understand how Super Saver was able to get the classic distance of the Derby. Finally, his sire was the great Marias Mon. Her racing career was short lived (she was the Champion Juvenile of 1995) but she was very successful as a sire, knowing to put a lot of stamina in to her horses. Besides Super Saver, Marias Mon also sired 2001 Kentucky Derby Winner Monarchos, who ran the 2nd fastest winning time in the history of the race. This is a rarity in this sport (to sire 2 Kentucky Derby winners). So by taking in Super Saver’s pedigree, one can see that he is giving off a lot of stamina from top to bottom and the mares on his distaff side feed him with class.


Super Saver bred superb books his first three seasons, encompassing 369 total mares. He ranks among the top sales sires of 2014, with his juveniles averaging 7 1/2 times the fee and yearlings averaging 5 1/2 times the fee, including $750,000, $675,000, $600,000, $525,000, $400,000, $360,000, $325,000, $320,000, $250,000, $240,000, $230,000. It is quite obvious that the classy outfit Win Star Farms is breeding him with a handful of fine mares who have distance-oriented pedigrees. Let’s take a look at 2 Super Saver sophomores that won in their first starts and look at their prospects for running longer distances down the road.

I Spent It (Super Saver-Rateeba by Sky Mesa)

I Spent It broke his maiden at first asking on July 2 in a 5F MSW at Belmont Park, getting up late and winning by 3/4 lengths. He is trained by Anthony Dutrow and was ridden by Javier Castellano. His time was 58:11. His win was the first one for Super Saver as a sire. He is also Super Saver’s 3rd most expensive 2-year-old sold at auction this year, at the price of $600,000. Video:

I Spent it comes from a pretty classy group of mares on his dam side and his dam sires give him a good amount of stamina as well. In my estimation not only does I Spent It have the right to go long and eventually achieve success at classic distances but he is inbred to A.P. Indy on a 3SX4D cross as well as Mr. Prospector on a 4SX4DX5D cross. Impressive stuff.

Competitive Edge (Super Saver-Magdalena’s Chase by Cape Town)

Competitive Edge broke his maiden as well at first asking in a dominating performance going 6 furlongs in a MSW on July 26 at Saratoga, winning by 10 1/4 lengths. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez. Pletcher said after the race, “He has never disappointed us in anything that he has done, literally, from the first time we breezed him. He continually showed us he’s a very talented colt, and every time we did something with him it was impressive. So we had high hopes coming into today. You never know when you run one for the first time. We were impressed, but not surprised”. They are pointing the $750,000 2-year-old purchase to the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful on September 1.


Here is another Super Saver that has stakes winning mares and ones that are connected with great company. Also, by looking at this dam sire line you can make a nice argument that running longer distances shouldn’t be a problem for Competitive Edge. He too has many crosses in his bloodlines: 4S x 4D Seattle Slew, 4S x 4D Mr. Prospector, 5S x 5D Buckpasser, 5S x 5D Secretariat, 5S x 5D Northern Dancer. Now there’s a major boost of distance.

Conclusion: When looking at Super Saver as a sire, what not only impresses me is his pedigree and his professionalism but the type of yearlings he is shooting out that are being bought up at big numbers at auction. They must be very attractive to the bloodstock agents, pinhookers, trainers and owners to be selling the way they are. I am not surprised given the qualities that Super Saver possesses and the classy mares Win Star Farms have collected for him to breed to. Although Super Saver seems to have been bred with stamina on both sides of his family, Todd Pletcher was quoted as saying that Super Saver, “was the fastest 2 year old I ever trained”. The brilliance is evident. Once again it is early, but I’m under the belief that the potential for Super Saver to sire a Kentucky Derby Winner is there. And I think it can happen sooner rather then later because he is being bred to the best of the best right out of the starting gate.

Image: Bill Brine, “Kentucky Derby 2014.” Creative Commons 2.0. Copyright 2014.


Guest Article: Regal Bloodlines — Baffert’s Luminance

[Please welcome Bob Schless and his excellent, detailed pedigree analysis to All Day Racing!  You can also find Bob’s work at  Enjoy! SA]

Horse: Luminance: (Tale of the Cat-Siren Serenade, by Unbridled’s Song), sold for $320,000 at KEESEP sale and is trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc.

Recent Performance:

Luminance’s first career start was a special one. Ridden by Martin Garcia, she made a bold 6 wide move to meet the other horses at the top of the stretch and then asserted her dominance by rolling to a 2 1/2 length victory while smashing the 5 furlong track record (57:39) at Del Mar. What is more impressive is that according to Trakus she ran 30 feet further than the 2nd place finisher, Conquest Archangel. She also showed an ability to rate which is always nice to see. Here is the video of that performance:

Bob Baffert is pointing Luminance to the G1 Del Mar Debutante on August 30th. This filly is bred with a sprinter’s prowess from her sire line but with a good amount of stamina and great class influences from her distaff side. Let’s take a closer her at Luminance and see what makes her bloodlines so special.

Dam line and other mares: Siren Serenade

Luminance is out of the stakes placed mare Siren Serenade. She is full of class as she is a full sister to one winner and a half sister to 4 other winners, including the Grade II winner Saarland ($595,250) and The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver ($700,282). Her second dam, Versailles Treaty, was overly impressive on the race track earning close to 1.3 million dollars while never being out of the money in 20 starts (20- 9-9-2), 15 being Stakes races. At 3 she won the Grade I Alabama, Gazelle and Test and finished 2nd in The Breeders’ Cup Distaff at 3 and 4. She is the granddaughter of Northern Dancer on her sire side and Buckpasser on her female side. Luminance’s 3rd dam, Ten Cents a Dance, was multiple stakes placed who gave off 3 stakes winners. Just as important is that she is a a half sister to General Assembly who has held the Travers Stakes record time of 2:00:00 for 34 years. Her 4th Dam Exclusive Dancer was a multiple stakes winner and her 5th Dam Exclusive was a Reine de Course mare who gave off 5 stakes winners including Exclusive Native (Sire of Affirmed). Other Reine de Course mares on her distaff side include the great Busanda ( Son of War Admiral,Dam of Buckpasser and hails from the great La Troienne Family, Pettitioner (Grand dam of undefeated Danzig) and Natalma (Blue Hen Dam of Northern Dancer). Luminance comes from Family Number 10, the same family where the Hall of Fame filly Beldame came from as well as Belmont winners Sarava (2002) and Drosselmeyer (2010). By looking at the mares on her female tail line I would sum it up with one word, “Royal”.

Dam Sire: Unbridled’s Song

Unbridled’s Song, a Grade 1 winner and one of the top commercial sires of his generation and is a sire of sires, died this past August at age 20. He is a horse who exudes class and quality. Unbridled’s Song won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, The Florida Derby and The Wood Memorial. His racing career was cut short in 1997 when he suffered a broken cannon bone while training up to The Donn Handicap. His overall earnings on the track were $1,311,800. He was a big strapping colt-over 17 hands-like his dad Unbridled. His size, scope and mass contributes to his awesome profile. He is most noticeably a dirt sire; he really doesn’t sire impactful turf runners. This is noted by an absence of Group winners in Europe. I also believe that he gives off more speed than stamina to his offspring, yet Will Take Charge won at a classic distance. From 15 crops of racing age, Unbridled’s Song has sired:

  • 106 stakes winners
  • 47 Graded Stakes winners
  • 17 Grade 1 Stakes winners-at least one a year for 12 consecutive years
  • Broodmare Sire of 64 Stakes winners
  • 27 seven-figure earners out of 15 crops
  • Sired Will Take Charge, Graydar, Cross Traffic, Midshipman, Embur’s Song, Unrivaled Belle, Unbridled Elaine, Octave, Splendid Bended, Thorn Song, Zensational and Eight Belles.
  • The first stallion since Nasrullah to have 2 different sons reign as Champion Freshman Sire and Champion Juvenile Sire in the same year (2013)

Luminance’s 2nd Dam Sire, Unbridled, earned close to 4.5 million dollars racing while winning the Kentucky Derby and Breeder’s Cup Classic in 1990 in the process. As a sire, 10 of his offspring were Grade 1 winners, 4 were classic winners and 3 received Eclipse awards. He is also the last Kentucky Derby winner to have sired another winner (Grindstone 1996). He is also the last stallion to have sired one winner in each of America’s Triple Crown races (Grindstone, Red Bullet, Empire Maker). Unbridled is one of the few places where you can find Le Fabuleux and that is a powerful staying influence. He is also the broodmare sire of Tapit as well. Her 3rd Dam Sire, Fappiano, was sired by Mr. Prospector and besides Unbridled was the sire of Cryptoclerance  who earned close to 3.5 million dollars on the track. He gives off classic distance to his offspring also. Overall, by looking at Luminance’s Dam Sires, one can see an affinity for dirt and that there is enough stamina there for her to run longer distances as she grows and develops.

Some of you may be reading this and asking yourself, “I’ve read a lot so far about Luminance’s pedigree and haven’t seen anything mentioned yet about her sire. Why is this?” It’s because I feel that the mare is the most important parent of the two, playing a huge part in how far the horse can run and the class of the horse. It is the mare’s physical attributes which influence the developing foal in the womb and the foal also learns habits from its dam when young. Also, foals may also learn the “language of intimidation and submission” from their dam, and this imprinting may affect the foal’s status and rank within the herd. Many times, a mature horse will achieve status in a herd similar to that of its dam; the offspring of dominant mares become dominant themselves.

Sire: Tale of a Cat

Tale of a Cat earned $360,000 on the race track, winning 5 times in 9 starts from 7 to 8.5 furlongs. He broke the Monmouth 8F track record in his maiden score (like Luminance) and won the 1997 King’s Bishop Stakes (7F) by 5 1/2 lengths. He has had a tremendous career as a sire, with top performers including include Gr.1 winners Stopchargingmaria (2014), She’s A Tiger (2013), Lion Heart, Gio Ponti, Cat Moves, My Trusty Cat and Tale of Ekati. In 2013, Tale of the Cat was the leading North American Juvenile Sire by progeny earnings ($1,822,245). Tale of the Cat’s offspring seem to do a bit of everything. They win at 2, 3, and as older runners, they win on dirt, turf, and synthetics, they win short and long, and they win in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres! He also breeds speed and breeds babies that win quick.

Tale of the Cat is one of his dads (Storm Cat) finest producers. Storm Cat didn’t do much on the race track, but in the breeding shed it was a different story. Storm Cat was the leading sire in North America in 1999 and 2000 and the leading Juvenile Sire a record seven times. He is also known as a sire of sires. He is the sire of 180 stakes winners world wide, including 8 champions, and his offspring have earned over 128 million dollars. He too was known to produce precocious and fast horses like Tale of the Cat. Luminance’s 3rd sire, Storm Bird, sired 63 stakes winners including greats like Summer Squall and Bluebird who also went on to be great sires themselves. Luminance shares a 3X5 cross with Mr. Prospector, a 4X4 cross with Northern Dancer, and a 5X5 cross with Native Dancer.

Tale of a Cat’s dam, Yarn, is of interest. She is a full sister to Preach, the dam of Pulpit. She is also dam of Minardi (Group 1 winner) and Granddam of champion Johannesurg and Fed Biz. Her family traces back to the Reine De Course mare Monarchy who is a full sister to Round Table.


After looking at Luminance’s pedigree and her track breaking performance, she can really turn out to be any sort. Tale of the Cat’s offspring have shown to flourish on any surface (this may be the reason she was able to run so big on the Del Mar polytrack). I do feel though that she can and will take well to dirt looking at most of the other colts in her pedigree. In terms of distance her sire has given off Gio Ponti who won at a mile and a quarter as did Unbridled’s Song’s Will Take Charge as well. I can see her being best from a mile to a mile and an eighth. As I studied her pedigree I took note that Tale of the Cat when paired up with Northern Dancer in the female tail line has had good success, as also the case when he is paired with Unbridled’s Song as a broodmare. In Luminance I feel that her bloodlines reek of champions and class and that she has every right to become a superb talent in the coming years.

Image: Dormant Braincell Research Project, “Bob Baffert.” Copyright 2006. Creative Commons 2.0.

Featured Post: Arapahoe Park

[Editor’s Note:  I asked Rich Halvey, who blogs at and is also quite active on twitter @rich_halvey, to provide some background on Arapahoe Park. Due to ADW restrictions, I can’t play the track from home in Colorado, and most of my action is simulcast. Small tracks can also provide some good betting opportunities and entertainment.  The photo is from “somewhere near Arapahoe Park.” Rich will be in the paddock at Arapahoe Park on Sunday, July 20. SA]

I grew up a stone’s throw from Saratoga. It was the first real racetrack I ever went to, and for me it is still the best venue in racing. Saratoga is wonderful – interesting people, the best horses in the world, fabulous grounds, lots of history. The Vatican of racetracks.

A few years after breaking my betting maiden, I decided to move to Colorado. In those days when simulcasting was barely an idea, if I wanted to bet horses it was going to be at Centennial Race Track, an austere but functional facility located in the southwest part of the Denver metro area. It may not have had all the pageantry and names of Saratoga, but I really learned to love betting at a “small” track. And to be honest, I never had more successful years than I did at Centennial. Then in 1983 they announced Centennial had been sold to land developers and the old racetrack would be no more. Horseplayers were given hope in the form of Arapahoe Park. The price of land being what it was in Denver, it was decided to build Arapahoe Park about ten miles east of the last vestiges of civilization, and on my first drive out there I was taking it on faith that eventually I would run into a racetrack, since there seemed to be little else to indicate that Zebulon Pike or some other explorer had discovered that part of Colorado.

So in 1984 Arapahoe Park opened. There were porta-potties instead of real bathrooms (there was a problem with the water quality) but it was real live racing. 1984 was as good a year as all those years at Centennial. But that was the last year of racing at Arapahoe Park for eight long years. It reopened in 1992 and has operated every year since, lately with a 39 day meeting with racing Friday through Sunday for 13 weeks from around Memorial Day to the middle of August. Arapahoe Park runs a mixed meeting, mostly thoroughbreds but a healthy mix of quarter horses and Arabians. Along with Delaware Park, Retama, and Pleasanton, Arapahoe is one of the top Arabian tracks in the county. There are 38 stakes races worth $1.6 million, topped by three $100,000+ races, the Arapahoe Park Classic (Aug 16), the Mile High Futurity (Aug 17) and the long-running Gold Rush Futurity  Aug 17).

Arapahoe Park really gives the local Colorado horsemen a place to shine. Long time Colorado trainers such as quarterhorse specialist John Hammes, Holly, Colorado native Temple Rushton, Monk Hall, Bill Brashears, Shawn Davis (son of Colorado legendary trainer Dean Davis), Kenneth Gleason (and the other Gleasons, Tyrone and Justin), and Owen Bringhurst give many of the stakes races a familiar Colorado flavor. At this point in the season the top thoroughbred trainers list has a familiar ring. Kenneth Gleason is leading in money won, followed by Dwain Eaton, Sharlot Martinez (the leading trainer in wins), Temple Rushton, Cole Jackson, Jonathan Nance, and Kim Oliver. The aforementioned Tyrone Gleason, Owen Bringhurst and Monk Hall round out the top 10.

Arapahoe is a standard one-mile oval. Most thoroughbred races are run on the dirt at the sprint distances. Only 10-15% of the races are at a mile or longer. There is no turf course at Arapahoe. Arapahoe has one of the most unique 7-furlong courses in America, starting from a chute just beyond the end of the homestretch and running on an angle to the end of the clubhouse turn where they straighten out for the backstretch run. As with the 6½ turf course at Santa Anita, experience in running the 7-furlong distance is an important handicapping factor.

As with every track, the riders who understand which trips win at the various distances inevitably top the jockey standings. Travis Wales is currently comfortably on top of the jockey standings, in terms of wins, money won and in-the-money percentage. Gate specialist Dennis Collins is second. If he is riding an early speed horse, he inevitably seems to break on top, move to a good part of the track, and hold the horse’s speed together. Russell Vicchrilli seems equally at home on top of quarter horses or thoroughbreds. Karlo Lopez has lately been riding well and threatening to move up the jockey standings. Mike Ziegler, Brian Theriot, Luis Rodriguez and Kelsi Bridges have also been riding creditably.

Trust me. Betting at a track like Arapahoe is not exactly like betting an “A” track, but if you work at it, there is plenty of money to be made. All races with more than four betting interests have WPS, exactas, and quinellas. Races with more than six betting interests have trifectas and superfectas, and the minimum on those bets is $1. There are daily doubles on the first two and last two races, but no pick 3/4/5/6 or other exotic bets. My experience is that a lot of the sprint race winners are presser/midpack sorts that circle wide around the turn and finish mid-track. Speed horses hugging the rail seem to struggle in the stretch. Occasionally a rail bias develops, but most often look for a wider horse within a few lengths of the lead coming out of the turn to have the advantage. Trip handicapping is critical at Arapahoe. Horses who have had a start over the track are definitely at a competitive advantage once the meet gets going. My other piece of handicapping advice – don’t get lured by the 0 for 20 horses that have competitive figures in maiden races. They are a historically bad investment.

No, Arapahoe Park is not Saratoga or Del Mar, but if you live in Colorado you should make it a point to occasionally support local racing. There is free parking, cheap admission, plenty of free grandstand seating and it is always a fun day.  

Image: David Herrera, “Mount Evans and Denver skyline.” Copyright 2009. 

Top 5 Desert Island Races: #1 Smarty Jones

Yes, it’s technically Birdstone’s Belmont Stakes in 2004, but this day —  in defeat — belongs to the people’s champion.  Smarty Jones — hailing from what was then Philly-park — was undefeated, had rather easily won the first two legs on the Triple Crown, and captured the public imagination in a way not seen in decades.

When he turned for home under Stewart Elliot’s premature move, he appeared to be pulling away and the question — for at least a second — was “how much?”  But, then announcer Tom Durkin noted that  Birdstone was commencing a rally, and it became a race against the tiring stretch of the mile and a half and, of course, history.


Top 5 Desert Island Races: #2 Secretariat

So many wonderful places to go with Secretariat.  I love his Canadian International win — he was, impossibly, an even better turf horse.  But, when it comes down to one, it has to be the Belmont Stakes.  Think about it — he runs two 6f sprints without tiring — with a style that should demand a collapse in the stretch.  I don’t know if there is a more amazing performance in sport.

#5: A.P. Indy in the Belmont Stakes, 1992

#4:  Frankel in  the Juddmonte Stakes, 2012

#3:  Cesario in the American Oaks, 2005

#2: Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes, 1973

#1:  Released July 8, 2014 (hint:  It’s from 2004)

Top 5 Desert Island Race: #3, Cesario!

Read #5 — A.P. Indy’s 1992 Belmont Stakes.

Read #4 — Frankel in 2012 Juddmonte Stakes.

#3:  Cesario’s triumph in the 2005 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.

It’s a very impressive race from the Japanese filly, but the call by Vic Stauffer is simply classic.  Starting with a bad post, you don’t see many turf races with this sort of dazzling middle-move.  The video quality is reminiscent of the early days of ADW video, but the call is crisp. Enjoy!

Top 5 Desert Island Races: #4 Frankel

Over the holiday weekend, I’m counting down my top 5 desert island races.  You can view #5 here.

#4 takes us across the Atlantic to watch the amazing Frankel in the 2012  Juddmonte Stakes.  His owners had waited for a promising foal to give  the name of the late, great Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, but no one could of known that he would be this amazing.  Some questions whether he could get the distance going into this race.  He answered them emphatically.  Known for extremely high class, an always-immediate response, variable style, and, as we see in this race, stamina up to 10 furlongs.  Timeform rated him a 147, their highest rating ever.


Top 5 Desert Island Races: #5 A.P. Indy

If I was trapped on a desert island, I wouldn’t want a book or movie with me.  Instead, I’d want a collection of my favorite YouTube races.  I’m going to count them down over the holiday weekend, starting today.

#5:  A.P. Indy’s Triumph in the 1992 Belmont Stakes. This race is a testament to his pure stamina, which he showed both here and in winning the Classic.  A sire of sires, he passed his routing prowess on to his sons and daughters, including the 2007 winner of this race, Rags to Riches.