The Penn Mile

With one week to go before the Belmont Stakes, we take a diversion to the 3YO turf division with the GII Penn Mile from Penn National Race Course. It’s restricted to 3YO and carries a purse of half a million dollars. As the name suggests, it’s 8 furlongs — a mile on the turf. Only in it’s 5th running, the Penn Mile has become a key turf race for 3YO, especially in the eastern half of the country. That doesn’t mean that western horses aren’t shipping in, as we will see. It will be run at 7:45 eastern time, as part of a special mid-afternoon card at Penn National, which normally runs exclusively at night. Firm turf is expected.

Maraud is a likely deserving favorite with a morning line of 5/2. He won the GIII Palm Beach at Gulfstream on firm turf in an early test in March. He ran near the pace that day. He followed it up two starts later with on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs in the GII American turf, where he came off the pace on the yielding turf. Both of those race brought excellent Beyer Speed Figures. He’s trained by 3YO specialist (along with many other things) Todd Pletcher. He’s only run at mile once (early in his career) — typically running 8.5 furlongs — and finished a disappointing 3rd as the favorite.

Therapist has been off since late March when he won the Cutler Bay in track record time. He earned a tied for field-best 92 Beyer for that performance. He’s won 4 of 5 starts, with his only loss coming at the hands of Maraud in the Palm Beach. He’s 2 for 2 at the mile, with his other wins coming at the 6f distance. He prefers to come from slightly Freshened by Christophe Clement, who made his reputation on the turf (he’s since become a very good dirt trainer), he should be a major contender for the top prize today.

He’s Bankable is a bit slower than the top two, but has won two stakes in a row — both at 8.5 furlongs. He won them both in front-running fashion. It took him a while to break his maiden and couldn’t pass the N1X condition, but seems to have turned into a new horse in his last 2 starts. Trained by Mark Casse, he’ll be hoping for an easy trip on the front end — something that happens out east more often than not.

Hawkish is relatively inexperienced but ran a tied for field-best Beyer in a first-level allowance at Aqueduct in April. He was the heavy favorite that day with an easy field, something that can ultimately create an unrepeatable Beyer (although the second-place finisher went on to win next out). Despite the fast speed, a win would be a surprise in his stakes debut. It is an ambitious placing, but one that makes sense. He is trained by James Toner.

Encumbered ships in from the west coast and makes his seasonal debut. He was last seen getting smoked by Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, losing by 16 1/2 lengths. You always need to fear a horse that was good at 2 — he won the Del Mar Juvenile Turf — making his 3YO seasonal debut. That said, it still should be a little much for him to find the winner’s circle for trainer Simon Callaghan. ColtandMississippi is another Todd Pletcher trainee. Unlike Maraud, he’s significantly slower and without a win on the turf. He did have a nice third in the 6f Bridgetown at Aqueduct but would have to improve quite a bit to factor today. Way Early, for George Weaver, is inexperienced, with only a maiden win on the turf and a second in an NY-restricted allowance. A win would be a major surprise. Smart Remark returns to the turf after a poor performance in the Pat Day Mile. He broke his maiden on turf for his only win on the surface. Trained by Victoria Oliver, a win is not out of the question — he’s shown some speed on the turf — but he’d still need to improve and rebound from the last performance.

Analysis: The race comes down to how Maraud handles the shorter distance. If it affects him (he wants to go longer), then this is Therapist’s race to lose. I’ll side with Therapist who is proven at the distance.

Good luck at the races!

The Californian

Let’s take a look at the Grade II Californian, a 9-furlong affair from Santa Anita. It’s the final leg of the early P5 — making it extra-important to multi-race bettors. Although 3YO’s could enter, it’s a field full of veterans — all horses are 5YO and above. I’m going to go through the field in post position order and, as usual, add some betting analysis at the end.

  1. Soi Phet:  He is a 10-year old that has been on the California scene for a long time. He’s made 56 starts in his career, gathering 13 wins during that time. His last win came at Los Al last September in a minor stake for state-breds where he went off at 7/2. He’s 1 for 5 at the 9-furlong distance. In his last race on March 23, he finished a good second to Prince of Arabia, who is in here today. It’s hard to bet against a hard-trier like Soi Phet, especially when he fits on speed. One to watch, but likely outclassed at the Grade II open compan level.
  2. Full of Luck: Hollendorfer brought this horse from Chile, where he was 8 for 14. He tried the turf, where despite being the favorite in the GIII San Francisco, he finished a disappointing 11th. He’ll now make his dirt debut, despite all that Chilean turf success. On paper, he seems overmatched, and unless he’s been hiding dirt form, he will be outclassed here today.
  3. Curlin Road: He had a nice pair of good odds wins last year — 5 to 1 in a N2X and 10-1 in the Cougar II — as he improved to a new level. He still is only 4 for 26 in his career. He ran well in the Grade I Pacific Classic, with a career-best speed figure, but then went on the shelf until the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. In that race, he was overmatched and gave way (also the track was wet.) He returns to the Grade II level and, if you believe he’s healthy, could offer some value because of that last bad speed figure.
  4. Dr. DorrThis horse has been running very well in preparation for this race. He sprinted lights out — beating Ten Blessings — and then led start to finish in the Santana Mile. He’s 4 for 6 at Santa Anita but faces two tests today. First, he’s never gone 9 furlongs (8 is the most last time out). Second, it’s only his second start at the graded level — the first was a 4th (out of 7) in the 2nd start of his career. He’s attractive, but those are two huge factors, especially if you’re taking 8/5 or less.
  5. The Lieutenant: Seems slightly overmatched at this class level and he’s only 1 for 6 at Santa Anita. His last win was an N2X at Los Al; since then, he’s been in three straight stakes. 2 of those were poor performances in Graded affairs. He lost to Dr. Dorr by 4 last time out and I’m not sure the additional ground is going to be a benefit. Seems to want a bit easier than the Grade II competition he’ll find today.
  6. Prince of ArabiaHe’s only 3 for 20 in his career. He won last time out at 35-1 in a N2X. He was making his first start on dirt since September 2016 and responded very well. He ran fast enough to win today. He’s run well in some turf graded stakes, but who knows if that form can carry over to dirt now. It’s generally tough to bet on a longshot winner moving up in class.

Analysis: This is a fairly wide-open race. Dr. Dorr is the best on paper, but he has to pass the class and distance tests. I’d have trouble singling him in the Pick 5. I’d back him up with Curlin Road, moving back to a decent class level — he could run up the track, but he very well could be there at the end. I’d also add Soi Phet to deeper tickets.

Twilight Derby

We’ll roll into California with a 3YO turf stakes race in the Twilight Derby (GII). It is 9 furlongs and on the firm turf. With 2 scratches today, 9 horses are scheduled to enter the starting gate at 3:49 Pacific Time. Here’s a rundown:

  • Cowboy Culture is a horse that likes to win — he’s 5 of 7 in his career (all on the turf).  He’s won at 4 different midwest tracks.Trained by Brad Cox, who can ship well. He’s never run at 9 furlongs. His best performances have been on wet ground. Certainly a contender, he’ll need to improve to find the winner’s circle.
  • Big Score ran lights out last time, finishing a close second in the Del Mar Derby at this 9 furlong distance. He’s been on the stakes circuit his entire career, winning a G3 and finishing second in a G2. Fast enough with some classy performances. Strong Contender
  • Bowies Hero was the winner of the Oceanside — an important opening day stake race at Del Mar. And he also won the Singletary. Both of these races had an extremely fast pace, so that’s his best hope. I don’t foresee a super fast pace — 2 speed horses scratched out. But you never know — he may be worth an inclusion on deeper P4’s, just in case the jockeys go crazy.
  • Winner of a G3 at Laurel Park, Just Howard is riding a 4 race winning streak. Once breaking his maiden, he won two restricted and a G3. Has an excellent trainer in Graham Motion, he faces a major bump up in class. Not impossible to see him winning, but does not seem terribly likely. The Laurel-to-Santa-Anita ship is hard.
  • Sharp Samurai, ridden by Gary Stevens, won the Del Mar Derby. He’s answered the challenges, with one blip losing to Bowies Hero in the Singeltary. He’s 4 of 5 since trying the turf. Super Strong contender, and quite possibly the one to beat.
  • Troublewithatee is over his head in this race. He’s here off maiden and allowance wins, but he’d need to improve his speed significantly since September. He would be a huge surprise.
  • Channel Maker ships in from Belmont. He previously had won a restricted stake in Canada after a strong showing in the Queen’s Plate. Numbers-wise, he’s the best and his decent showing in a G1 suggests form. He’ll also be cutting back, having run twice at 12 furlongs. He doesn’t have the wins of the others, only 2 for 11 lifetime. I’m looking elsewhere, primarily because of the lack of wins.
  • Profiteer is another shipper. A solid horse, he’ll need a form cycle up (3rd race off the layoff), into the best performance of his career. He has two allowance wins, but a GII may be too much at this point. A contender, but only one to put on deeper P4 tickets.
  • I always have mixed feelings about Ann Arbor Eddie because I have two degrees from the University of Michigan. It’s his first turf try after two recent graded stakes sprint tries. I’m banking he’s here to gain some condition, so I wouldn’t put him on a ticket (at least to win).

My pick is Big Score, but I’d include Sharp Samurai and Just Howard on P4 tickets.

Good luck at the races!

Kentucky Derby FAQ

A guide to the Kentucky Derby. Covers age and field size, best “2 minutes,” purse, surface, and distance.

Can a horse of any age race in the Kentucky Derby? 

No. The Kentucky Derby is restricted to 3YO horses. High-class horses generally race from about 2YO to around 5YO or 6YO. There are exceptions to this rule, especially if a horse is a gelding. Most horses running in the Derby made their debut at 2YO; in fact, it’s almost a requirement. Since Apollo won the Derby in 1882, no horse has won without a race at 2. You don’t need to win at 2 – just get the experience and (likely) growth.

Because the race is restricted to 3YO, a horse only gets one chance at Derby glory. It’s far from the end of racing – many opportunities exist for horses that may either peak later or missed the Derby due to injury. But it’s a one-shot deal. While horses can’t repeat, trainers can and do. You’ll often see the same trainers around – Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher come quickly to mind.

Is there a limit to the number of horses that can run in the Derby? 

Yes. In 1975, after 23 horses ran in the centennial Kentucky Derby in 1974, Churchill Downs limited the Derby field to 20 starters, using earnings as a qualifier. In 1985, Churchill Downs switched to Graded Earnings, which are earnings that are won in the highest classes of races. However, purses aren’t a perfect proxy for quality – for example, the Delta Jackpot, is a GIII race with a Grade 1 level purse ($1 million). As a result, in 2012, Churchill Downs switched to a qualifying points system.

Even still, 20 is a very large number. It’s not that rare for a race to have the maximum — the typical limit for a U.S. horse race is 14 starters. In practice, fans often see fields that are much smaller, about 8 horses per field. In the Derby, there is more potential for chaos and trouble. It’s crazy at the start and creates a whole slew of bad trips – horses that had winning chances but were blocked in traffic. The large field also adds another level of complexity to understanding the races. It’s no coincidence that it’s the race that I (and most handicappers) spend the most time on each and every year. And, it’s wonderfully exciting to watch, filled with storylines and a good chance for drama each year.

Isn’t it just two minutes? That’s so fast.

Yes. It is one race, lasting just about 2 minutes. That’s it. The Derby might just be the quickest major sporting event in the world, far shorter than, for example, the Super Bowl or World Series or Daytona 500. Yes, there are other races on the day, including the top horses from the other divisions (i.e. turf, older, fillies & mares), but the Kentucky Derby itself happens very quickly. A badly timed bathroom break could force you to miss the entire race.

However, this is a bit misleading. Every thoroughbred born in the United States has Derby dreams, and for those with the talent to match, the process of reaching the Derby begins early and takes years. Qualification forms a regular season of sorts, ranging from September of the previous year until mid-April. I prefer to think of the Derby not as a quick one-shot race, but instead as the culmination of years of preparation and the final stage of a long-term process.

None of this should dampen just how exciting those two minutes actually are. It is the most exciting two minutes in sport.

Is the purse large for the Kentucky Derby?

Yes. It is $2 million and is the largest purse for a race restricted to 3YO.

  • Kentucky Derby: $2 Million
  • Preakness $1.5 Million
  • Belmont Stakes $1.5 Million
  • Travers Stakes $1.25 Million
  • Arkansas Derby: $1 Million
  • Bluegrass Stakes: $1 Million
  • Florida Derby: $1 Million
  • Santa Anita Derby: $1 Million
  • Wood Memorial: $ 1 Million
  • Haskell Invitational: $1 Million
  • Pennsylvania Derby: $1 Million

(Races for $1M or more restricted to 3YO. All are Grade 1, except for the Pennsylvania Derby. Purse data from 2014)

What surface is the Kentucky Derby run on?  The Kentucky Derby is contested over dirt, as opposed to grass, or turf, or a synthetic surface. According to the Churchill Downs website, this is comprised of:

3” Sandy Loam Cushion
5” Sandy Loam Cushion Compacted
12” Clay Base
25” Sandy Loam/Natural Soil

(Sandy Loam is made up of sand, silt, and clay and is apparently great for gardening.)

I stuck my hand in the track when I visited Churchill Downs to see if I could gain understanding. Unfortunately, it just felt like dirt.

Some horses who qualified for the Derby may have done it by gaining points on synthetic surfaces. Three races offer points towards the Derby with a race over an artificial surface – The Grey at Woodbine, The El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields, and the Spiral at Turfway park. This raises the possibility – as was the case with Animal Kingdom’s win in 2011 – that a horse may not have run on dirt coming into the Derby.

Screenshot 2015-03-21 13.00.34

There are no turf races that offer points for the Derby; however, it’s not uncommon to see a 3YO horse try dirt in the winter after showing talent on the turf earlier. Stamina (sometimes) moves well between surfaces. But you have to show it on the dirt – fake or real – before Derby Day to qualify.

Why is 10 furlongs important?

A furlong – the standard distance measure in American horse racing is 1/8 of a mile. So, a furlong is about halfway around the track at the local high school. 10 furlongs, or 1 ¼ miles, on dirt, is a bit of a legendary distance nowadays in horse racing. The ability for a horse to maintain speed over the distance of 10 furlongs is a testament to its breeding and training. It is a champion’s distance. It is very rarely run anymore, and 3YO colts get two chances – in the Kentucky Derby and in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August. It is also the distance of several races for older horses, and importantly, the distance of the $5M Breeders’ Cup Classic, which often pits the best of the 3YO crop against older horses.

How many horses have run 10 furlongs on dirt prior the Derby?

None. No horse has had the opportunity to run this distance before – the longest race was likely the final prep at 9f. The ability to “get” this distance is part of what makes this race so exciting. So, there’s always uncertainty, even for the most well-bred of animals. The extra distance may not sound like much, but after running over a mile at high speed, every horse is tired and seeking the finish line. It is often these final yards that decide a horse race and the Kentucky Derby is no exception.

The stretchout to 10f for 3YO takes time. Debuting 2YO in April at Keeneland run only 4.5f. The Hopeful, a G1 event for 2YO’s in August, is contested at 7f and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 8.5f. The early preps are at this same distance, with the final preps at 9f. No horse will have tried 10f before the Derby.

The El Camino Real Derby (GIII)

The Derby trail winds through Northern California this weekend with the Grade III El Camino Real Derby (3:50 Pacific Time). It’s an early 9f test with 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner (10-4-2-1). This is an interesting race with a good amount of uncertainty and well worth watching.

At the outset, Golden Gate Fields has a synthetic surface (Tapeta) — which, at least in theory, is better for several of the turf horses in the field. So, while I’d normally wait and see on any turf horse trying “dirt” on the Derby trail, I’m a bit more sympathetic to their chances today on the artificial. I’d still prefer a race over the surface and would be hesitant to accept a short price on any horse who hadn’t run yet over an artificial surface. As a general rule, I require a decent price on a horse trying to do something that he has never done before as I’d rather benefit, than be hurt, by uncertainty.

There are reasons to favor the pedigrees of the first-time artificial runners. Every horse is different, but going to sire stats can be a useful estimate of the likelihood that a runner will like a surface. The two that standout are Team Valor’s Dale Roman’s-trained Indianaughty, who is shipping in from Gulfstream after a nice 1st-level allowance win, and Metaboss, who comes off a maiden win after running second to Bolo in late November. Both Street Boss, the sire of Metaboss, and Indian Charlie, the sire of Indianaughty, are excellent artificial surface sires. 

The race lacks a participant with even a 80 Beyer over the surface. In fact, the highest any surface Beyer belongs to Mischief Clem, the Cal Cup Derby winner, with only an 85, who should challenge Indianaughty for top honors here. He owns the best win of all the participants (the aforementioned Cal Cup Derby) and, unlike Indianaughty and Metaboss, has already shown that he can run well over an artificial surface, with a good performance at Del Mar over the summer. Importantly, he has also improved as he has stretched-out. Returning to the artificial surface today could very well yield a career-best performance. He’s my pick for the top.

Conquest Typhoon is interesting, but hasn’t shown the speed that I like to see at this point in his career. A win is possible, but there’s usually a good deal of hype with horses owned by Conquest Stable, and usually find them best to avoid at low prices. The final horse to mention is local horse Cross the Line, who brings the highest track-specific Beyer to the race. That said, barring improvement, I expect him to be a bit too slow to find the top spot.

Good luck, and don’t forget about the Southwest Stakes from Oaklawn on Monday (President’s Day). Preview of that race coming soon!

Image: Josh Jackson, Copyright 2009.




Belmont & Maidens for Friday Afternoon

Some overlap as I have a several maiden plays at Belmont today. Two plays that I gave out on Twitter earlier:

Belmont 4: I liked Mineral Water (6-1) to sit a good trip and grind on home with the extra 1/2 furlong. Improved since layoff, it’s not the toughest field, and the price should be good enough to take a shot. Result: 2nd to favorite.

Belmont 5: I took a gut shot with Dangerous Lad (12-1). He’s a fast enough turf horse who likes the distance in a field with lots of questions. Result: Led into the homestretch, but passed by closers in final 100 yards. Upset winner at 13-1 in Which Market.

Here’s the plays coming up:

Belmont 7: In the Footsteps drops down in the second start off the layoff for Linda Rice. Willing to forgive last as too short and at a different track. Price might be nice with a 6-1 morning line, but some key scratches could effect the price. Playable down to 4-1, but not below.

Belmont 9: I like Neilinger (6-1) for the Contessa barn. Running lines suggest that she should appreciate the stretchout.  I’ll be at 4-1 or better. Momma’s Favorite is also worth a longshot look at 12-1. Paco Lopez rides for this other Monmouth invader. Another who could benefit from the stretchout. Will take shot at 8-1 or better.

Update: Neilinger is scratched. Will still take flyer on Momma’s Favorite. I’m also going to add Trensita (10-1) for Michael Matz who usually has them ready for their second time on turf.

Laurel 9: Nest of Pirates (and not because it’s National Talk Like a Pirate Day) at 6-1. The two likely favorites, both NY-invaders, have closed into some fairly sharp paces. Nest of Pirates, however, has done in with some softer paces. One decent turf effort already in past, and goes for a trainer that excels off the layoff. Playable at 3-1.




Wise Dan: Let it Ride

I’ve tried to constantly beat Wise Dan on the turf, but instead, he always beats me. Not only have I lost money, but also the opportunity to wager on one of the most reliable horses in all of racing. So, out of curiosity, I decided I wanted to figure what he would have paid if I had fully embraced him from the beginning.

Let’s say a bettor put a minimum $2 on him back in August 2012 when he made the (now) permanent move to the turf. This bettor would have won only $5.00 that day, but let’s say he saw a turf monster in the making. So, wanting to make more, he decides to “Let it Ride” and re-invests his entire winnings each time Wise Dan runs on the turf, or he retires. For argument’s sake, he doesn’t bet Wise Dan when the Shadwell is moved to the polytrack last year knowing that there’s more risk with the surface change (a fair assumption, I think).

Sounds silly, and a bet that surely would have to catch up to you eventually. And, besides, what could it possibly pay? I mean, he’s been odds-on in every start since the Breeders’ Cup, so you can’t possibly make any money doing this. But, I was curious, so I opened up excel, typed in some odds, and let it do its magic.

If our hypothetical bettor had put $2 on Wise Dan and just let it ride through the streak, he would have made over $1,100 going into tomorrow. 

The result, of course, is very dependent on “letting it ride.” Pocketing just 20% of your winnings demolishes the return and leaves you with $75 pocketed and only a very Douglas-Adams-like $42.42 headed to tomorrow.

It would, of course, be much tougher to make these bets with $100 units (and rationally, I can’t imagine not taking profits) but, just for fun, here’s how it would have turned out:

Here’s the 20% pocketed at $100 units.

Can he do it again on Saturday? Well, he’s certainly done it before, and I’m officially done trying to beat him.  I’m not recommending this type of bet (one wipe out is catastrophic), but at least with Wise Dan, it would have paid very handsomely.

El Capitan in LXVIII Derby Mexicano — Parx on Saturday

Pennsylvania-bred El Capitan won the Derby Mexicano before debuting for the John Servis barn in a second-level statebred allowance. He tired on the PARX dirt to finish last of seven. On Saturday, he’ll try turf in the Alphabet Soup Handicap, a turf route for older PA-breds, which kicks off the late all-stakes Pick 4.

Great quality HD video — better than most US tracks — with a fun announcer (even though I don’t speak Spanish.)

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.

Revisiting the Travers

Earlier this week, I wrote about fair odds for the Travers. Looking at the odds, I thought that V-E Day would be the best value and a fair line at 6-1, and he was my selection at 19-1:


Screenshot 2014-08-26 16.52.28

I’ve written about this division all summer on All Day Racing, so I relied mainly on my own impressions of the horses, particularly which ones that I thought were likely to improve (based on the patterns of the data found in the PP’s.) Jerkins/Castellano rewarded the confidence.

Let’s take another look at the 5 most important questions  and how the race answered them:

Q: Does anyone challenge Bayern for the lead and how aggressively is he pressed?

A:  There were, to say the least, aggressive pace challenges from Tonalist and Wicked Strong. You always hope that connections won’t let a front-runner get easy fractions, but usually they aren’t willing to press that hard. This move absolutely changed the race.

Q: Will V.E. Day continue his hot form and keep improving?

A: He did, and he made the most of the opportunity that presented itself. Condition is tough to predict, but as seen can pay well, if it matches the right circumstances!

Q: Does Tonalist move forward off the Jim Dandy?

A:  I’ve always been nagged by the chance that he’s a Belmont horse, but I’m not willing to go that far yet. But that could present upside opportunities in a later start, perhaps JCGC. That said, regardless of the pace pressure, he wasn’t at his best, and it opened chances for others.

Q:  Which style will we see from Wicked Strong? Will it be the  “new” Wicked Strong (the one with blinkers) to press Bayern? Or might they try to take him back?

A:  In the Travers, Wicked Strong was a presser, and certainly very game to the end, losing just at the wire. He ran a great race, and a tough one to lose. He’s a versatile, good horse — I don’t think he’s a Classic winner, unless he moves forward again, though. .

Q: Will Mr. Speaker like the dirt? 

A: He actually ran relatively familiar — at least in style — to this race at Gulfstream. He’s a good horse, and didn’t seem to hate the surface. I think he’ll be a very excellent sire in time, and certainly shows continued promise for the future with a return to turf.

Chart: SAR082314USA12

Chart: Copyright 2014. Equibase.

Image: Vinning Herring, Copyright 2013.