The 1891 Kentucky Derby, AKA the Funeral Procession

There have been 141 editions of the Kentucky Derby with 142 just around the corner. People always talk about which are the best revivals, they always talk about Secretariat’s, or Barbaro’s, or the “Fighting Finish”, or Affirmed and Alydar, Alysheba’s, whatever. Its the same old chatter every year but lets talk about something no one brings up.

What is the worst Derby ever?

Without question it is Kingman’s from 1891. With only 16 previous races the Derby had seen a lot of drama already. Good horses were coming in to race, including the Dwyer brother’s great horse Hindoo. But there were a lot of problems too, mostly with gambling.

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The original clubhouse at The Louisville Jockey Club, the name “Churchill Downs” wouldn’t become official until 1937.

In 1886 when Ben Ali won, this guy C. M. White bought pool rights for $30,600 and demanded bookies pay a $100 to operate high dollar wagers on the track which they refused, and as a result no one could bet big money. Ben Ali’s owner, James “Ben Ali” Hagan (quite the ego, eh?), was so enraged that he couldn’t bet on his horse and one thing led to another and he vowed to never race another horse in the Kentucky Derby, which he never did. Between that incident and when Matt Winn took over in 1902 Churchill Downs was in a lot of trouble and nearly closed. Paired with the track’s failure and the stock market crash in 1893, founder Meriwether Lewis Clark killed himself in 1899. It was a bad time.

Kingman and his horrible Derby sure didn’t help.

1891 Kentucky Derby winner, Kingman.
Kingman’s only portrait is as terrible as his Kentucky Derby

May 13, 1891 was a pretty gross day and the track was listed as “slow” which is a massive understatement. In those days the Derby was 1 1/2 miles, but Kingman running against three other horses managed to crawl home in a time of 2:52 1/4. Seriously. One newspaper called it a “funeral procession.”

All four horses raced side by side, each with orders to stay off the lead. This created an insanely slow pace, running a mile in 2:01 and a mile and a quarter in 2:26 3/4. Spirit of the Times wrote of the opening half mile “It was simply a canter, not even a respectable gallop, each jockey apparently having orders to stay in the rear and let the others cut out the work.” Anytime a horse inched forward his rider would hold him back. Eventually Kingman’s jockey Murphy let him run and he went on to win by half a length. A Lexington paper called it a “bum Derby” and the New York Times even called it a “farcical.”

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While Churchill was built in 1875, the spires didn’t pop up until the grandstand was rebuilt in 1895. This is what the original grandstand looked like.

There was some notable happenings in that race no matter how bad it was. It was Isaac Murphy’s last Derby victory, and Dud Allen was the last of seven African-American trainers to take it home while being the first to own a winner. While the owner is listed as Jacobsin Stable, Kingman was owned by Allen and Preston Kinzea Stone, who later went on to be mayor of Georgetown, KY.

Kingman himself wasn’t that bad of a horse. He won the Latonia Derby as well as the Phoenix Stakes. In 28 starts he won 10 races after retiring after his three year old season. He was sold for $5,000 the same year he won the Derby in a Jacobsin Stable dispersal sale and died two years later at the age of five, with the cause of death impossible to find.

While the jockey, trainer, owner and even horse were all very good in their own right, they managed to team up and win the worst Kentucky Derby of all time.

 

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March Derby Thoughts

33 days! We are only 33 days away from the Kentucky Derby! The Derby picture is getting a bit more in focus, we got five prep races left to go and 695 points up for grabs

Okay, I cheated. I should have put this out on Friday but with the Florida Derby and the Spiral the next day I had to put it off. I’m sorry, I really couldn’t resit.

If the Derby was run tomorrow, here is the field and how many points they have

  1. Gun Runner, 151
  2. Nyquist, 130
  3. Lani, 100
  4. Mohaymen, 80
  5. Destin, 50
  6. Cupid, 50
  7. Oscar Nominated, 50
  8. Danzing Candy, 50
  9. Shagaf, 50
  10. Mor Spirit, 44
  11. Tom’s Ready, 44
  12. Majesto, 40
  13. Mo Tom, 32
  14. Fellowship, 32
  15. Exaggerator, 26
  16. Whitmore, 24
  17. Laoban, 22
  18. Azar, 20
  19. Forevamo, 20
  20. Dazzling Gem, 20
    1. AE Zulu, 20
    2. AE Outwork, 20

If there is one thing I love in racing it is undefeated horses, and we still have two with bae Nyquist and Shagaf.

Still maintain that Greenpointcrusader will never win another race.

That Florida Derby was so great, mostly because I am a huge fan of Nyquist. Admittedly I wasn’t that much on the boat last year, but he is great. Him drifting in the final stages is a bit worrisome, but he also wasn’t asked for run until the final furlong. While Mohaymen was being hard ridden at the quarter pole Mario and Nyquist were sitting pretty. It looked bad on Mohaymen and looked awesome on Nyquist. He doubled his earnings in just one race, had 4G1s to his name and now has $3.3mil in the bank. He’s already been sold to stud to Darley so it is really smooth sailing from here with him. Lots of people are questioning the 10f with Nyquist because he is by Uncle Mo which is a solid concern, but since we have an absolutely tiny sample size of Mo babies its something to recognize but not give a hard knock too. Tapit went a few years before he had a 10f winning colt, and now one of his kiddos won the Belmont. Pedigree is overrated.

Speaking of overrated pedigree, Mohaymen had a rough go at it huh? People are blaming the track and going wide but he was soundly beaten and went totally belly up while Nyquist and company were accelerating. Kiaran must be having some pretty hardcore Cairo Prince flashbacks, right?
One horse I absolutely love is Cupid. He is cautiously my Derby pick right now ahead of Nyquist because the way he turned away Whitmore in the Rebel was awesome. He absolutely found another gear. I don’t want Nyquist to leap-frog Cupid just yet since Cupid hasn’t gotten his final prep, but man it is awfully close.
If Lani wins I think that would just be awesome. He has no real shot, but neither did stupid Mine That Bird, but him winning would just be cool. Wouldn’t even be mad.
Ken Ramsey’s Derby obsession is taking form with Oscar Nominated who wasn’t even nominated to the Triple Crown until Ramsey found someone to put up the $200k to stick him in. As per usual from Spiral horses (yes I know Animal Kingdom, but give me just one other relevant Derby horse from that race in the last 10 years, the only other is Hard Spun this is including all the also rans), not really expecting much from ol’ Oscar. On that note, Azar is really silly for Derby consideration too.
This next week is the Wood Memorial and looks like Shadwell’s remaining undefeated Derby hope Shagaf will be headlining with his main opposition being Outwork and Flexibility. Kinda like the Spiral I don’t take the Wood Memorial into much consideration, but with Outwork’s solid run in Tampa a win here would really be interesting with him.
The Blue Grass field also kinda sucks. Got the wonderful allowance winner Zulu making an appearance, as well as the delightful maiden Laoban perhaps and even Brody’s Cause after his super awkward Tampa Bay Derby. I was pretty high on him and then he really just sucked down there. I’d love to see him bounce back, he is pretty good at Keeneland after all, but who knows.
The Santa Anita Derby is actually a pretty tight field. It’ll be great if  Danzing Candy is able to roll along again, but being a bit longer than the San Felipe in theory should help out Mor Spirit who is now awkwardly Baffert’s other Derby horse after Cupid stole the show. My man Smokey Image really sucked in the San Felipe for absolutely no reason, maybe he really just isn’t that good. Assuming it was a fluke I do expect him to show up and do at least a little bit better than second to last.
Still a big fan of Exaggerator. He did great chasing Nyquist in the San Vicente and I think held his own in the San Felipe. I am very excited for his post-Triple Crown career as he is a great runner and has a lot of promise just might be a slight cut below the top three year olds at this point. But he dude tries hard and gives awesome performances.
Mo Tom also may be the unluckiest horse of all time poor dude. I don’t know what to make of Gun Runner, those dazzling Louisiana horses are pretty hard to trust going forward holla at ya International Star and Vicar’s in Trouble. Difference being is he has a totally different team, but he is really great down there you can’t just ignore him.

 

Last 10 Derby winners at this point (April 1) of the year.

American Pharoah: Dazzled winning in the slop in the Rebel Stakes.

California Chrome: Dominantly won the California Derby on January 25 and did very well stepping up in the San Felipe winning by more than seven lengths.

Orb: Won his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth and made it four in a row by winning the Florida Derby comfortably over Itsmyluckyday.

I’ll Have Another: Stakes-placed at two, but stepped into the Derby picture after winning the Robert B Lewis. Did not race in march.

Animal Kingdom: Four races and two wins under his belt including the Spiral Stakes.

Super Saver: Won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs at two and finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Mine That Bird: Had a fantastic juvenile season at Woodbine, but absolutely sucked in the Breeders’ Cup. Came in second in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park and then was fourth in the Sunland Derby.

Big Brown: Only raced once at two, raced once in an allowance in 2008 before winning the Florida Derby easily. Three races under his belt before the KY Derby

Street Sense: Had a sensational win in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. Opened 2007 with a gritty win in the Tampa Bay Derby

Barbaro: Won the Tropical Park Derby on the turf on New Year’s Day and took home a win in the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby.

With five weeks between the FL Derby and Kentucky people were wondering if that as too long of a break for Barbaro, meanwhile they are now wondering if it is not enough for Nyquist. Funny how quickly that mindset changes, eh?

Photo Blog: Eagle Rock Downs

A few months ago one of my buds Doug told me that down in Virginia, North and South Carolina there are a bunch of these small, bush league match races at random racetracks. I’ve heard of these match races before but knew nothing about when or where they are let alone how organized they are.untitled-1490

Doug found the facebook page of the guys who handle the photo finishes as well as the winners circle at these events. A race day was set up on March 13 at Eagle Rock Downs just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina which was perfect. After weeks of waiting, we jumped on it.

The experience was nothing like I’ve seen before, going off the facebook page we assumed that it was put on by the Hispanic community but 95% of the crowd was African-American, with Doug, me and about three other white people in attendance. It was awesome, they were all the most welcoming people I’ve ever seen at a racetrack. Always asking how we’re doing, whats going on, telling us who the horses are and who was in the next race and all that. If we had a question a few people jumped in to answer.

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It was a really cool scene there, the track was only about 350 or 400 yards with a tiny hook at the end that goes off into an open field for the gallop out.

There were only about 5 or 6 guys total that actually raced. A bunch of people would get on the horses and ponies, often without a helmet and with tennis shoes, but the race riders were all the same guys.

untitled-1520Obviously, some of the dudes are totally too big to be jockeys but considering later in the day one of the horses raced under a western saddle I don’t think they were all that concerned about how much weight a horse is carrying.

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Blue Pants got the win in the first race aboard RM Quick Dash, who has raced at Hialeah as well as Delta Downs with little success. The horse is 0-5, and from talking around he’s ran in and won some other of these bush league match races but since it is nothing official he is still a maiden.untitled-1550Very proud of RM’s efforts

untitled-1554There were some storm clouds forming all morning, before the first race went off there as some thunder and lightning but no one seemed to care too much, until it started dumping and everyone ran for the hills. The storm lasted about 15 minutes, but if you look at the track before it needed some water on it.

untitled-1563The race we were most excited for was one of the marquee events, Ketchup vs. Bear.

untitled-1581One thing that was a little odd was that the starting gate never moves but the finish line will be in a different spot depending on how long the race is be is 250, 275 or 300 yards.

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Ketchup came out with the win and his team was pretty thrilled!

Someone after the win yelled “they should call him BBQ Sauce cause he smoked him!”untitled-1608untitled-1615untitled-1619The paint is a horse that was scheduled to run against RM Quick Dash but got moved to a different race. The horse’s name is L. The letter. Check out the pony boy, no saddle or helmet!

untitled-1627There were three horses in this race but one lost the rider, and the chestnut’s saddle slipped so L got away with an easy win.

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Not to mention that L is a very skilled rodeo pony catching the loose horse out in the gallop out field.

It was pretty cool to see some color to the races rather than just seeing brown horses with the thoroughbreds

untitled-1640There are scheduled races but a lot of the races were set up on the spot. Trainers would put up the money, winner take all, and decide on the distance right then and there. So while some horses were brought there and scheduled to run, others were brought just in case.

untitled-1655This is Down Town Patriot, another quarter horse who has run at the big tracks but is 0-17. She’s a pretty good looking horse though, right?

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I didn’t catch the whole story on this race, but it was one that was put together last minute.

What I believe happened was the rider on the bay horse wanted to ride in a race to prove he still can so challenged one of his buds to a race, so the two found some horses and the race went on without the starting gate.

You’ll notice the bay horse, ridden by the guy who set it up, is wearing a western saddle.untitled-1680untitled-1701

untitled-1715This is Down Town Patriot winning. Again, even though she wins she is still officially considered a maiden.

untitled-1730Look how perfect she is!

untitled-1738Final race of the day and the sun came out, as did this guy’s saddle!

untitled-1739Blue pants is back!

untitled-1744untitled-1751Last race, and Blue Pants walks away with two wins. Winning horse is named Cool Bug.

There was one more race people were trying to throw together, but the two trainers could not decide on if they wanted the race to be 275 or 300 so it never happened.

I said it to a lot of people but this was definitely the most genuine racing experience I ever had. Everyone from the trainers, jockeys and the crowd was there just to have a good time. Smiles all around, even if they lost they were all still really upbeat and enjoying the day.

Being used to the main tracks, it was really awesome to see such a different side of the sport. Can’t wait to go to one of these again!

February Derby Thoughts

66 days! We are only 66 days away from the Kentucky Derby! The Derby picture is getting a bit more in focus, we got 14 prep races left to go and 1547 points still to be taken!

If the Derby was run tomorrow, here is the field and how many points they have

  1. Mohaymen, 70
  2. Gun Runner, 51
  3. Nyquist, 30
  4. Mor Spirit, 30
  5. Mo Tom, 22
  6. Forevamo, 20
  7. Zulu, 20
  8. Sunny Ridge, 18
  9. Exaggerator, 16
  10. Flexibility, 15
  11. Brody’s Cause, 14
  12. Greenpointcrusader, 14
  13. Swipe, 12
  14. Fellowship, 12
  15. Collected, 11
  16. Airoforce, 10
  17. Suddenbreakingnews, 10
  18. Cocked and Loaded, 10
  19. Discreetness, 10
  20. Frank Conversation, 10
    1. AE Riker, 10
    2. AE Vorticity, 8

If there is one thing I love in racing it is undefeated horses, and we still have three with Mohaymen, Nyquist and Smokey Image. This is so great.

Going by past years, looks like Mohaymen and Gun Runner have definitely stamped their Derby tickets already as the cutoff point is normally around 40 points.

Speaking of Mohaymen, he once again had a super easy win at Gulfstream while Golden Ray was losing his mind. He had a bit of a tougher time in this race, seems like Zulu isn’t quite the pretender I thought he was, but with a little urging Mohaymen cruised on past him. He still really reminds me of Cairo Prince, only thing is Cairo Prince had an injury that took him out of the Derby and ultimately ended his career, so its a little unfair to use that comparison as a knock. Fact remains though, a lot of early Derby favorites don’t carry their skill all the way to May.

At the Derby Museum I always said it as like that kid in middle school who was super good at sports because he grew up fast. In PE he was always the top basketball player, or kickball player, faster and stronger than everyone. But once high school rolled around, everyone else caught up and suddenly he isn’t the star he was. Same thing with horses, top juveniles do not always maintain their dominance at three. Those that do are stars, American Pharoah, Beholder, Shared Belief to name a few. They are exceptions, not the rule.

That’s what makes Mohaymen, Nyquist, and Smokey Image so interesting. All three are carrying on their form pretty soundly so far. Nyquist held off Exaggerator pretty comfortably in the San Felipe. For some reason Nyquist has carried most of the “but will he get 10 furlongs?!” load compared to the rest of the contenders, which is a stupid question considering absolutely no one in the field has run close to that distance. Being an Uncle Mo, I get it not only did he never run the far and Nyquist is his first crop. Still, so far the horse has given little indication that 10f is too far besides the fact that he’s still young and developing, as is everyone else. Whatever. Shipping to Florida for the FL Derby and then going up to Kentucky from there isn’t even that bad either.

Smokey Image is the coolest horse this year because he has slayed everyone he’s ran against, even if they’ve all mostly been against lame California-breds. But he’s such a tank, I really want him to step up in the San Felipe. His average win margin against mostly lame-CA breds is 4 and a half lengths. The San Felipe field is looking pretty solid too with Mor Sprit, Exaggerator, and that Danzig Candy horse pointed that direction. Not to mention that work where Smokey’s Image looked really awesome accidentally chasing Danzig Candy. Smokey Image rocks.

I still really like Exaggerator because he’s so far the only contender I’ve seen with my own eyeballs, plus it will be fun to see Kent D have another big shot in the Derby because he is just so loony. Mor Spirit is pretty cool too. Not totally wild about him but there’s really not much to knock. He had that oopsies work where they called it off in the middle, but all was well and he is still looking good. Mor Spirit is absolutely one to consider but there are more impressive horses to look out for at this point, but having Baffert and Stevens with him is not something to ignore.

Still maintain that Greenpointcrusader will never win another race.

Best prep of the year so far has been Suddenbreakingnews. At least in the fun to watch aspect. What a crazy run in that Southwest Stakes eh? He’s been alright his whole career but not really top level, his win at Oaklawn could have been luck but he also might be coming into his own. Whitmore right behind him isn’t looking too bad either. But seems like the Arkansas group isn’t quite as strong as they’ve been in the past.

Brody’s Cause is super interesting to me. Having the huge break between the Breeders’ Cup and the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 is huge in my opinion. Giving horses a decent winter break is important, since the road to the Derby and if they continue the Triple Crown is very tiring. And hell, its only March there is a lot of the year still to go. So Romans and co taking it easy on him is a huge plus.

Last few years I’ve never been too into the Louisiana and New York runners. So horses like Gun Runner, Flexibility, and Sunny Ridge etc. I don’t wanna get that excited about. They normally do pretty well in the Derby, but a winner hasn’t come out of either of those in a while. The last one was Super Saver and look how his career ended up.

Haven’t heard many people knock this crop yet, which is normally what people love to do this time of year. But it does look like we have a pretty solid bunch going into March, it will be really exciting to see how they all progress.

 


 

Last 10 Derby winners at this point (March 1) of the year.

American Pharoah: Champion two year old, still unraced in 2015.

California Chrome: Dominantly won the California Derby on January 25, but his only graded stakes performance was a well beaten sixth in the Del Mar Futurity.

Orb: Won his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth

I’ll Have Another: Stakes-placed at two, but stepped into the Derby picture after winning the Robert B Lewis.

Animal Kingdom: Two career starts in maidens, still unraced in 2011.

Super Saver: Won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs at two, still unraced in 2010.

Mine That Bird: Had a fantastic juvenile season at Woodbine, but absolutely sucked in the Breeders’ Cup. Came in second in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park on Feb 28.

Big Brown: Only raced once at two, still unraced in 2008.

Street Sense: Had a sensational win in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs which proved to be a foreshadowing to how his Derby would go. Still unraced in 2007.

Barbaro: Won the Tropical Park Derby on the turf on New Year’s Day and took home a win in the Holy Bull on February 4.

Kinda crazy that half of the Derby winners in the last 10 years had yet to run by March 1, right? Two of them, Animal Kingdom and Big Brown, haven’t even run in a stakes yet. So who knows who will enter the fray in the coming weeks.

Keep Your Chin Up, Dortmund

Hi Dortmund.

Lately you’ve been down in the dumps, and we all know why. Your main barn rival was American Pharoah. Hell, this time last year YOU were the Baffert star sophomore with with AP on the mend. But after he came back and spanked you twice you’ve been in a pretty big funk.

You just gotta accept that AP was better no one could beat him. Well, Keen Ice did but that was a fluke and he probably will never win another race. Frosted doesn’t seem to care that he got totally walloped every time they ran. Look at him now! He won the Pennsylvania Derby, some prep race in Dubai and is primed for the Dubai World Cup (two of which you were slated to run in). That could be you bud! Instead you’re throwing such a fit that you’re casting in your stall.

You haven’t run since November dude, which is weird since you’ve pretty much been working well since firing bullets left and right. But now you have problems with your feet and will be off for a month!? C’mon D, we all know you’re just upset and your feet are totally fine.

Listen my man, when you’re on it you’re one of the best out there. Sure Baffert will never love you as much as AP, but Kaleem might love you more than Bayern if you actually run for once! So stop being such a weenie, and get out there and be the big ol’ boss we all know you are!

You go, Dortmund, you go!

 

xoxo Carly

Zenyatta breaths sigh of relief

“Oh thank god,” Zenyatta sighed after the third race at Santa Anita. The champion mare watched her second son Ziconic rally from about 15 lengths back to lose by only about two. “After Cozmic One, I was scared I was a horrible mother,” Zenyatta told reporters from her home at Lanes End in Kentucky. “He’s just so slow. I don’t get how he sucks so bad but he does. Ziconic always looked better, I’m so relieved that he showed actual ability. After waiting so long for him to finally race, it was worth the wait.” Cozmic One has raced twice against 15 horses but has only beat two in his life, one of which was being eased. There’s no real plan with him yet, but the good news is he can’t get any worse.

The plans for Ziconic are still not totally clear, as he is likely still cooling out, but Shirreffs indicated a two turn maiden special is in his future.

January Derby Thoughts

95 days! Just 95 days left before the Kentucky Derby! 19 preps still to go, 1938 points still up for grabs. So basically we have no idea what the Derby picture is gonna look like. But if the race were run this Saturday, here’s the field.

  1. Nyquist, 30
  2. Mohaymen, 20
  3. Sunny Ridge, 18
  4. Exaggerator, 16
  5. Flexibility, 15
  6. Brody’s Cause, 14
  7. Greenpointcrusader, 14
  8. Mor Spirit, 14
  9. Swipe, 12
  10. Mo Tom, 12
  11. Airoforce, 10
  12. Cocked and Loaded, 10
  13. Discreetness, 10
  14. Riker, 10
  15. Collected, 10
  16. Vorticity, 8
  17. Rated R Superstar, 6
  18. Toews On ice, 4
  19. Tom’s Ready, 4
  20. Gordy Florida, 4
  21. AE Kasseopia, 4
  22. AE Lets Meet In Rio, 4

It is impossible to not be impressed with Mohaymen. Nothing to fault about this horse at all, and its awesome to see Kiaran McLaughlin have a legit contender again. Horse hasn’t missed a beat, but the parallels to Cairo Prince to me are really hard to ignore. Both broke their maiden in their first race at Belmont, both went on to win the Nashua, Cairo was second in the Remsen (to Honor Code!!) whereas Mohaymen won it, and they both had a clear easy win in the Holy Bull. Both Dubai owned, Kiaran trained them both. End of the day I am cautiously excited about Mohaymen, but man that Holy Bull win was just so good.

Something that’s pretty funny is how little the current leader Nyquist is brought up. Undefeated, he’s won three Grade Ones in a row winning the Breeders’ Cup and the Eclipse along the way, but he is hardly ever in the conversation. Horses who excel at two rarely continue the success on at three, if they do they are very talented individuals (American Pharoah, Shared Belief, Lookin at Lucky to name a few). One worrying thing about Nyquist is, while he is winning, his lead dwindles late in the stretch. Is he slowing down or are closers like Swipe gaining? Hard to say, but its still its not a promising trend.

Speaking of, there’s a lot to like in Swipe. He’s been second to Nyquist four times in a row, gaining in every single race. Here’s the problem: he had surgery to remove a knee chip about three months ago. He is back in training at Santa Anita, but who knows if he will be fit enough to run in any prep let alone the Derby itself. Belmont, perhaps?

I love Exaggerator. Slight bias since he’s the only dude in the field who I have actually seen with my own eyeballs in the Saratoga Special. A big thing against him is the fact that his only other success was the Delta Jackpot. Being a talented horse in a bullring isn’t always promising, as past Jackpot winners have shown. While he was fourth in the Juvenile, he had a solid kick and finished strong considering the rough trip he got. Very excited to see him progress.

Brody’s Cause is the horse everyone will have as number one to seem smart. Had an awesome race in the Breeders’ Futurity, and had an awesome kick in the Juvenile under Corey Lanerie mowing ’em down. Along with Exaggerator he’s progression throughout the trail will be exciting.

At the end of the day, I do not think Flexibility or Sunny Ridge will do anything major. They may do well in the Aqueduct preps but will prove to be irrelevant Derby wise.

Mo Tom and Mor Spirit have stupid names and I will get them confused all the time. Mor Spirit had the advantage of the huge stretch at the Paperclip but it really was not that great of a race. Mo Tom is going to be just another Louisiana horse who will show well but wont be able to win in the end. Classic Louisiana.

Airoforce is the other “I wanna seem smart” horse. Next race is slated as the Sam Davis down in Tampa. He started out on the turf then Oxley YOLO’d and put him on the dirt and he won and looked very good at Churchill Downs, which is always a plus, unfortunately it was in the slop. Regardless, being a graded stakes winner on both surfaces as a two year old is just awesome. Even if he doesn’t do well in the Derby his whole career should be a lot of fun.

If any horse here will never win another race my money is on Greenpointcrusader.

At this point the best case scenario is a Derby exacta of Cocked and Loaded and Rated R Super Star just for funsies.

The Arkansas route will be pretty fun, who doesn’t love seeing Jinks Fires have another good one in Discreetness?! Plus with Whitmore entering the picture in the Southwest in a couple weeks it should be really solid. Collected should be showing up as well, Baffert loves sending a horse out there. And well, it’s worked out pretty well, eh?.

Right now people are going ham over both Zulu and Awesome Banner. See, Awesome Banner I get since he’s doing the patented Haskin-Sprint-To-Route to get into the gate but Zulu absolutely needs to win both at stakes level and around two turns for me to be hyped for him.

Smokey Image has won all six races, his last win was a ezpz romp in the California Derby, very similar to Chrome. Hard to know how he stacks up against better competition but man he would be a lot of fun if he steps up, undefeated horses are the best.

These are my thoughts at this point. Still 95 days to go and lots to happen and its going to be awesome, Derby prep season rocks.


 

Last 10 Derby winners at this point (Feb 1) in the year:

American Pharoah: He is still on the mend and wont race again until March 14.

California Chrome: Dominantly won the California Derby on January 25, but his only graded stakes performance was a well beaten sixth in the Del Mar Futurity.

Orb: One race on the year, and allowance win.

I’ll Have Another: Stakes-placed at two, but wouldn’t make his presence really known until the Robert Lewis on Feb 4.

Animal Kingdom: Only a maiden winner with two races, wouldn’t race until an allowance on March 3.

Super Saver: Won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, wont race again until March 13 in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Mine That Bird: Had a fantastic juvenile season at Woodbine winning the Grey Stakes along the way, but absolutely sucked in the Breeders’ Cup. Three year old debut wont come until February 28.

Big Brown: Only raced once at two, first race wont come until a March 5 Gulfstream allowance.

Street Sense: Solid performances most of the year at 2, but had a sensational win in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs which proved to be a foreshadowing to how his Derby would go. Wont race until March 17.

Barbaro: Won the Tropical Park Derby on the turf on New Year’s Day and took home a win in the Holy Bull.

Pretty interesting that, as of February 1, only three had actually raced at this point right?

Lecomte Stakes: Who was Lecomte?

The Lecomte Stakes is a Kentucky Derby prep race run at Fairgrounds Race Course in mid-January. The race has had a few notable winners including Oxbow, Ron The Greek, and Hard Spun to name a few. But who is the race named after?

Regarded as one of the fastest racehorses in the world in the 1850s, Lecomte was a chestnut colt sired by Boston and owned by a trainer named Jefferson Wells.

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Lecomte got his name from a good friend of Wells, Ambrose LeComte of Magnolia Plantation.

The Spirit of the Times on November 9, 1856 had an excellent description of the colt.

“Lecomte is a rich chestnut, with white on one hind leg, which reaches a little above the pastern joint. He stands fifteen hands three inches in height. Is in a fine racing form, and well spread throughout his frame, with such an abundance of bone, tendon, and muscle, that he would be a useful horse for any purpose. His temper is excellent; he is easily placed in a race, and yet responds to the extent of his ability.

He never tears himself and his jockey to pieces attempting to run away. His action is low, smooth, and easy. His stride is about twenty-three feet, and he gets away from the score like a quarter-horse. He has a constitution of iron, the appetite of a lion, would eat sixteen quarts of feed if it was given to him, and can stand as much work as a team of mules.

In a word, he has all the good points and qualities of both sire and dam, without their defects; consequently, he is about as fine a specimen of a thoroughbred as can be found in this or any other country.”

Lecomte’s rise to the top was swift after winning races at Fairgrounds and Metairie Race Course, both in New Orleans, as well making winning appearances in Mississippi.

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Life on the Metairie,” Theodore S. Moise, 1867

At the same time there was an undefeated colt getting attention up in Kentucky. Originally raced under the name “Darley,” he was purchased by Captain Willa Viley and Richard Ten Broeck and the two renamed him Lexington then moved him to the deep south to race and train.

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Lexington,” Edward Troye

Lecomte and Lexington met a couple of times on the track and are remembered as one of the best rivalries in American racing, but the details of the meetings are pretty inconsistent depending on which source you use.

Story goes that Lexington won a hard fought victory over Lecomte in a series four mile heats in January 1854 in the Great State Post Stakes at the Fairgrounds. Also in the race was Highlander, one of the best from Alabama, as well as Arrow, another Louisiana runner. The local fans of Lecomte demanded a rematch, and Lexington’s team agreed.

On April 9, 1854 a $2,000 a series of heats were set up for the two. Another horse named Reube was entered to fill the stakes requirements, but it was marketed as a match race which they ended up being. Lecomte pulled away to win the first heat by six lengths, finishing four miles in a world record 7 minutes and 26 seconds.

Lexington’s owner Ten Broeck was so bothered by the loss that just the mention of 7:26 would drive him nuts. There were a few attempts to get the two back on the track but nothing materializing. He set up an exhibition for Lexington to race the clock to break the record, which he did, coming home in 7:19 1/2. After a lot of pressure from the public once again, Lecomte’s team agreed to another race.

On April 14, 1855 the two met one last time at Metairie. For a brief moment it was a head to head match, but once Lexington shook off Lecomte it was all over, Lexington pummeled him and won going away. This was Lexington’s final race.

Lecomte continued to race well into 1856 with some success. But for reasons not totally clear, Wells decided to clear off his stock later that year. He sold Lecomte for $10,000 to Ten Broeck who then sent him to Kentucky to join Lexington for a short rest and a brief stint as a stud before sending him to England. He only raced there once finishing last in the Warwick Cup. Shortly after the race, Lecomte suddenly died of colic.

As a stallion he only bred a few mares but his son Umpire, out of the dam of Lexington, was also sent to England by Ten Broeck and won the Goodwood Nursery.

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Richard Ten Broeck continued on in racing, his obituary in the San Francisco Call  referred to him as a “landmark of the turf.” He was one of the first Americans to regularly send horses to race in England, and even spent 30 years there.. In 1889 he came back to the states and settled down in San Mateo, California. He died at the age of 81 on August 1, 1892 and the San Francisco Call wrote of him, “Here was the noblest Roman of them all, he lives in crowds and clubs and died at last in his old age forsaken and alone, but with no taint of dishonor to his name.”
DSC_1266.jpgHall of Fame racehorse Ten Broeck was named in honor of Richard, and was a part of the 1877 “Great Match Race” which is immortalized outside of Pimlico Race Course. It was a three horse race between Ten Broeck, Tom Ochiltree and Parole. The US Congress shut down for the day for the Congressmen to attend the race. Parole would go on to win with Ten Broeck finishing second.

Ten Broeck also had a very publicized four mile match race against undefeated California super start Mollie McCarty. The race was huge in 1878, and even inspired a folk song called “Molly and Tenbrooks.”

 

It is 2016 now and besides the Fairgrounds race, Lecomte’s name is nearly forgotten 160 years later. But in the 1850s, there was no denying he was one of the best horses in the country. With the help of both Lexington and Richard Ten Broeck he will always have a huge spot in Antebellum racing lore.

My Take on Women in Racing

Earlier this week Steve Haskin wrote a column on why women will keep racing alive. I understand where he is coming from and I know he meant no harm and wrote it with the best intentions but frankly, I wasn’t a fan.

The long short of it is that Haskin painted women in horse racing as the pretty pony fans, which in my experience is a rough stereotype that leads to less respect. It has happened a lot, at the track or online, that someone won’t listen to what I have to say much because they think I only like American Pharoah because I think his short tail is cute. Even if that’s why someone originally got into the sport it shouldn’t matter, but that first assumption takes a while for people to get over.

I do not care what road someone takes to get into racing, but I do care when people think we take the same one to get there.

Back in school I was totally the horse girl. In 2004 I watched Smarty Jones’ Arkansas Derby and my parents encouraged it and took me to Emerald Downs whenever they could. Sure I thought the horses were cool and still do, but what hooked me in was the atmosphere, the crowd, the speed, the excitement of a stretch battle, the intensity of it all, that is what hooked me in. Some people have similar stories, some don’t, we all came in for different reasons.

Being a girl should have absolutely no impact on how anyone is viewed or respected. If I say something I expect it to be held in the same regard. If I say something horribly wrong or mess something up I expected to be criticized or called out. I’ll be damned if I am considered for a position because I am a woman. I am not here to fill someone’s quota to look progressive.

Unfortunately though, there is sexism in racing. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, I’ve seen friends go through it. Such is life. Thing is everyone has experienced it differently. Listen to the heckling women jockeys get in the paddock versus the men, the tone is different. How girls are talked to and respected on the farm and backside is different. 

Jockeys and trainers who are women are almost always shown in the “just a girl and her horse” light. I hate that. It was like that with Chantal Sutherland and Game on Dude, it was like that with Maria Borell and Runhappy, it was like that with Rosie Napravnik and Untapable. Remember Kristin Mulhall, who was 21 with Imperialism? Happened to her too. No one would be a professional trainer or jockey if they didn’t love it, but women are given this weird image that its something more spiritual, guys in the business rarely if ever are perceived in that light.

There is no need to separate men and women. Haskin says women will keep racing alive. I disagree. Doesn’t matter if its a guy or a girl, passionate people will keep horse racing alive.

The #HKIR for Americans Who Don’t Follow International Races

If you’re like me, you’re one of those people who love horse racing and everything about it until it goes overseas.

This week on twitter has been obnoxious with everyone talking about the Hong Kong International Races, #HKIR, posting blurry pictures of horses and videos of the contenders jogging really far away. You might be wondering, “what on earth is going on why is this a big deal all of a sudden?”

Don’t worry y’all, I got you.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has done a hell of a job promoting the races this year. They set up a group of social media experts or whatever to go out and flood our feeds with their thoughts on the races. Its pretty cool, but they keep talking about horses like Maurice, Free Eagle, Fiero, Mikki Isle and so many others. No idea who they are. So here’s your brief guide to the #HKIR from an American who does not follow international racing, for Americans who don’t follow international racing.

The #HKIR are made up of four races run at Sha Tin:

The Hong Kong Cup is worth about $3,200,000 which is a lot of money and is a mile and a quarter on the turf, which is the surface all #HKIR are on. Even though the Hong Kong Vase sounds a lot fancier, I believe this one is the biggie.

The Hong Kong Mile is a mile and worth almost $3,000,000. Once a horse named Good Ba Ba won this three times, people love Good Ba Ba!

The Hong Kong Vase is a mile and a half long and is worth about $2,100,000. Remember Ouija Board? Yeah, she won this one.

The Hong Kong Sprint is about six furlongs and is worth $2,400,000 or so. It is the final leg in the Global Sprint Challenge which is made up of a bunch of races around the world, here is the official site if you wanna learn more about that.

Earlier in the week there is the Hong Kong Jockey Challenge, where jockeys from around the world compete at Happy Valley and earn points in specific races, jockey with most points win. Some South African jockey won it, and Victor Espinoza failed to score anything.

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Simply outstanding. Well done, Parx!

When it comes to the horses, the main one you should know about is Mongolian Saturday. He used to be a pretty garbage horse, but 2015 has been a very successful year for him. He has hit the board in all ten (yes, ten!) races this year including the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint where he, ya know, won and now suddenly everyone is his biggest fan. He was also second in the Turf Monster Stakes a few months ago, which had the best saddle cloth ever.

Flintshire is another that should ring some bells at least. Last year’s winner of the Vase, he is back at it again. For some reason they shipped him in to Saratoga from Europe to win the Sword Dancer Invitational, then shipped him right back. He was second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe this year, which is a big deal in Europe.

Another horse you might be aware of is Green Mask. He’s an American trained by Wesley Ward, so he’s kind of a Euro. He was third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint behind Mongolian Saturday. Before then though, he’s been in a bunch of ungraded stakes (in his defense there’s not many graded turf sprints here) except for randomly running third in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.

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This is not actually Green Mask

A local horse to pay attention to is last year’s Hong Kong Mile winner Able Friend. They love him in there, but he kind of sucked when he tried to step up at Ascot. Don’t worry bud, we’re back on your turf now.

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You can also follow Mondialiste’s groom on twitter, but he prefers to be called “head lad”

Another Breeders’ Cup participant is Mondialiste, he won the Woodbine Mile before heading on down to Keeneland to lose to a girl in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Most of his races on Equibase are “Weight for Age Stakes” which normally means its probably a big deal, but who knows.

On the Arlington Million undercard European invader Highland Reel won the Secretariat Stakes. Dude’s been all over in Europe, USA, Australia, and now Hong Kong and Dubai is in his sights. What a globe trotter! He’s trained at Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien so he’s probably alright.

Now Criterion is an Australian who finished third in the Melbourne Cup, second in the Cox Plate and won the Caulfield Stakes which I believe are all big races down there. He was third in last year’s Hong Kong Cup so he’s gonna give it another go.

Another horse that whole social media team is buzzing about is Japanese runner Danon Platina, which I suspect is mostly because he’s an eye-catching gray. He is the JRA Champion 2-Year Old from last year, and has only managed to win a G3 this year, but was third in a G2 and was way far back in a G1 attempt so take from that what you will.


 

That’s all I got. Make sure to tune in late, late Saturday night around like, 2am EST to check out the races.

If you want some more information about the races check out Pat Cummings (@PatCummingsHK) and Andrew Hawkins (@AndrewNKHawkins) (especially him, his twitter is verified!) for local info. I know, neither are actually from Hong Kong but they both live there now so that’s the best we can do.

The rest of the squad they assembled is José Contreras (@LosPonies), Acacia Courtney (@acacia_courtney), Harriet Fuller (@HattieLFuller), Victoria Garofalo (@itsmevictoriag), Candice Hare (@chare889), Calum Madell (@calummadell), Keith McCalmont (@TripleDeadHeat), Penelope Miller (@PenelopePMiller), Bri Mott (@FashionAtTheRaces), Graham Pavey (@LongBallToNoOne), Andrew Rideout (@ThoroughbredAR), and Dan Tordjman (@DanonymousMan).

Happy #HKIR!