Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cross Traffic Shines at Saratoga

Cross Traffic earns his Grade I credentials in the Whitney
Credit: Courtney Heeney, Courtesy NYRA/Coglianese
A week after the untimely death of super sire Unbridled's Song, his son, Cross Traffic, emerged as a shining star today, capturing the prestigious Whitney Handicap-G1 at Saratoga over a stellar field of older handicap horses.  It was the first stakes victory for the four-year-old steely gray colt, and in addition to his trophy and purse monies, Cross Traffic earned an automatic berth in November's Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Cross Traffic grabbed the lead from multimillionaire Mucho Macho Man soon after the start, and seemed to just cruise along in first position until the far turn of the mile-and-an-eighth contest, when he was challenged in earnest by both Mucho Macho Man and last year's Whitney and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Fort Larned.  Though Fort Larned couldn't sustain his bid, both Successful Dan and Mucho Macho Man appeared to be getting to Cross Traffic in the stretch.  Jockey Johnny Velasquez roused him, and he quickened, then swerved slightly, but it didn't matter.  There was no catching Cross Traffic today.

It wasn't that way in the colt's last two races, when he was narrowly bested after setting the pace in the one mile Westchester-G3 and Metropolitan-G1 at Belmont, grudgingly settling for second both times.  In spite of stretching out today, Cross Traffic didn't appear to be spent at the wire, galloping out with strength and confidence and the admiration of race fans hungry for a new hero.

Unraced at two and three, Cross Traffic broke his maiden in his initial outing at Gulfstream last January, then captured an allowance race at the same track before graduating to stakes company in New York.  Cross Traffic has now won or placed in all of his five starts, while amassing earnings of $681,300.

He was born to be great.  Cross Traffic is at least the 101st stakes winner and 16th grade I stakes winner by sire standout Unbridled's Song, a son of Brilliant-Intermediate Chef-de-Race Unbridled. His dam, the consistent and classy Cure the Blues mare, Stop Traffic, notched Grade I stakes on both coasts, including Saratoga's seven-furlong Ballerina, which she captured by seven widening lengths over Alabama victress Runup the Colors (by A. P. Indy), dam of this year's Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary (by War Pass).

The sixth foal out of Stop Traffic, Cross Traffic was purchased for $300,000 by his current connections, GoldMark Farm, at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale.  He is a full brother to the stakes-placed filly, Bianco Tartufo, and a half-brother to three other winners, including stakes-placed Into My Soul (by Pleasantly Perfect).  Cross Traffic's victory in the Whitney is sure to fuel interest in his yearling half-brother by Medaglia D'Oro, who is slated to be sold as Hip #134 on Tuesday night at Fasig-Tipton's Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion, across the street from the storied racetrack.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Orb's Class Shines Through

Orb after the Florida Derby
Photo courtesy of Coglianese/Gulfstream

The best horse doesn't always win the Kentucky Derby.  But yesterday, he did.

If you want to know what a superior equine athlete looks like, look no further than Orb, who relentlessly surged from the back of a muddy pack to capture the 139th Kentucky Derby with absolute authority.  It takes a really good horse to do that.

When the equine biomechanical experts at EQB evaluated Orb's cardiovascular system for owner-breeders Janney and Phipps, they deemed his heart scan results to be "elite."  That's no surprise, given his illustrious pedigree.  A grandson of Belmont winner and classic sire, A. P. Indy, out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, Orb hails from a female family that has been flush with class for generations.  It's produced standouts Ruffian, Icecapade, Buckfinder, Private Terms, Coronado's Quest, and now, Orb.

Through his sire, Malibu Moon, and his maternal grandsire, Unbridled, Orb is inbred, 3 x 4, to the influential Mr. Prospector, bred on a similar cross to Tapit (by Pulpit, out of Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled).  Orb's second dam, the Cox's Ridge mare, Mesabi Maiden, won the Black-Eyed Susan-G2 at Pimlico for Janney and Phipps in 1996, narrowly defeating favored Cara Rafaela, who would later achieve Broodmare of the Year status as the dam of Champion Bernardini

Orb's dam, Lady Liberty, though never finishing on the board in stakes company, was no slouch, either, amassing $202,045 in earnings.  She broke her maiden at Saratoga at three, at a mile and an eighth on the grass, and subsequently captured allowance tests at Gulfstream, Belmont, and Keeneland during three seasons of competition.  Throughout her career, in which she won from six and a half furlongs on the dirt to 12 furlongs on the turf, she demonstrated the same late kick that Orb has shown in each of his five victories. 

Orb's Derby conquest was no fluke.  He ran farther than most of his 18 competitors, and in the final quarter mile, when it counted, he ran fastest.  According to Trakus, whose technology digitally measures each horse's performance during a race, Orb was the only runner to have accomplished his final quarter mile in less than 26 seconds; Orb did it in 25.88.  Orb also covered 80 feet more ground--the equivalent of nine and half lengths--than runner-up Golden Soul, whose official losing margin was two and a half lengths. Thanks to Trakus's saddle-mounted GPS system, we know that Orb's performance was even more impressive than it seemed.

If all goes well, we'll see Orb in two weeks, at the Preakness.  His unflappable quality dares us to dream that he could be the first Triple Crown winner of the 21st century: the second since his great grandsire, Seattle Slew accomplished the feat in 1977.   Orb seems to be that good.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Day of Firsts at Keeneland

Jack Milton (white bridle) edges Up With the Birds
 in the Transylvania-G3 on Keeneland's Opening Day

Photo: Coady Photography

It was a day of firsts on Opening day at Keeneland

In the inaugural two-year-old race of the season, juvenile filly Sweet Emma Rose was never headed, flying through the four-and-a-half furlong maiden special weight contest in :51.94 while trouncing second-place finisher GingerStone by nine widening lengths.  After her impressive showing in her initial outing today, the highly touted daughter of City Zip may have earned a trip to Royal Ascot in June, according to trainer Wesley Ward. 

Two races later, first-time starter I'll Call, a three-year-old son of Smart Strike, rallied smartly to win a maiden special weight test at a mile over firm turf, giving trainer Graham Motion a much-needed boost on the day Team Valor announced it planned to remove its horses from his care, notwithstanding the trainer's superb record on the partnership's behalf.  

An Augustin Stable homebred, I'll Call demonstrated composure and class while debuting without lasix, marking himself as one to watch.  Out of the graded stakes-winning Danzig mare, Recording, I'll Call has the credentials to suggest that he'll get better yet.   His full brother, the durable and consistent millionaire Smart Bid, was a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf.  He entered stud this year and stands for $4500 at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York.

In the featured Transylvania-G3, lightly raced Jack Milton notched his first graded stakes win in only his third lifetime start, gliding over the mile and a sixteenth grassy distance in a respectable 1:41.80.  Piloted by John Velasquez for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Gary Barber, who had purchased the colt 24 hours before he won at first asking at Gulfstream in January, Jack Milton further burnished the shining reputation of hot Danzig sire War Front, becoming the stallion's 11th graded stakes winner from just three crops to race.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Clear Attempt burnishes the legacy of A. P. Indy and the Wygods

Clear Attempt wins the Poker-G3 at Belmont on July 4, 2012
Photo: Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
Clear Attempt, a lightly raced son of A. P. Indy out of Santa Anita Oaks-G1 winner Silent Sighs (by Benchmark) was a facile winner of the eight-furlong grassy Poker Stakes-G3 at Belmont yesterday, defeating seven other rivals to notch his first stakes victory and his third trip to the winner's circle in 11 starts.

The four-year-old dark bay or brown colt, racing in the colors of his breeders, Martin and Pam Wygod, became at least the 80th graded stakes winner for his venerable sire, whose last foals are two-year-olds of 2012.

Patiently handled by trainer Bill Mott, Clear Attempt was unraced at two.  His initial two starts, in maiden special weight company over conventional dirt at Gulfstream early last year, were undistinguished, but when the colt was switched to the grass, he became a different kind of runner, narrowly losing turf contests at Gulfstream, and over yielding ground at Keeneland, before eking out his maiden victory at a mile and a quarter over good turf at Belmont last June.  He went on to place at Saratoga before capturing his second race, over allowance foes, at nine furlongs on firm turf at Churchill Downs last November.

In two prior outings this year, Clear Attempt placed in grassy allowance/optional claiming events at Gulfstream and at Belmont, where he was nosed out in a head bob on May 18th, a race that perfectly primed him for his winning effort in the Poker.  Clear Attempt has now won or placed in eight of 11 starts, amassing earnings of $197,902, a bankroll that seems certain to grow.

Clear Attempt is a product of the Wygods' breeding program, through and through.  They raced and bred Clear Attempt's first three dams, who trace back to the Chilean mare, Viga (by Schleswig), a winner of the 1000 Guineas in her native country before being imported to the U.S.

Clear Attempt is the third winner and first stakes winner from his dam, Silent Sighs, one of the classiest performers sired by Benchmark, a grade II stakes winner by Alydar who the Wygods campaigned in the name of their River Edge Farm.  His best-known runner is Brother Derek, winner of the Hollywood Futurity-G1 and Santa Anita Derby-G1, who now stands at Airdrie.  His first foals race this year.

Clear Attempt is one of several graded stakes winners produced by crossing A. P. Indy or his sons with mares by Alydar or one of his sons.  The others include the full siblings (by A. P. Indy out of Private Status, by Alydar) Secret Status, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, and Alumni Hall, who captured the grade III Ben Ali and Fayette Stakes; A P Valentine (by A. P. Indy out of Twenty Eight Carat, by Alydar), who won the Champagne-G1 and placed in both the Preakness and the Belmont; Corinthian (by Pulpit out of Multiply, by Easy Goer), a top dirt miler who won both the Metropolitan-G1 and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile; and CCA Oaks-G1 winner Funny Moon (by Malibu Moon out of Fun Crowd, by Easy Goer).  Interestingly, none of these runners showed a prowess for the grass, and of the graded-stakes caliber horses produced by the A. P. Indy/Alydar cross, Clear Attempt is preceded only by Fisher Pond (by A. P. Indy out of Chipeta Springs, by Alydar), a grade III-winning half-brother to two-time turf champion Gio Ponti, in his ability to score on the turf at an elite level.

Though Clear Attempt's female family seems also to be lacking in grassy credentials, the family of his maternal grandsire, Benchmark, has them aplenty.  Benchmark is a half-brother to the Wygods' top turf mare, Tranquility Lake (by Rahy), dam of the full brothers After Market and Courageous Cat (by Storm Cat), both of whom were grade I winners on the sod.  Clear Attempt's victory in the Poker gives the Wygods their second consecutive trophy for that race; Courageous Cat captured it in their colors in 2011.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bobina's short life ends tragically

Bobina (outside) broke down right after the finish line of the Senorita
Photo: Benoit, Betfair Hollywood Park

It was not an outcome that anyone could have foreseen.  Bobina, a three-year-old Malibu Moon filly, won the Grade III grassy Senorita at Betfair Hollywood Park today, narrowly prevailing after a brave stretch duel with My Gi Gi , but then, just a second after she crossed the wire, her right front ankle shattered and she fell heavily to the ground.

Her rider, Victor Espinoza, got up in short order, but Bobina never did.  In a display of misplaced zeal, Kevin Krigger, the rider of My Gi Gi, claimed foul against Bobina as she awaited the veterinarian’s needle.  The stewards disallowed the claim, but no one could save Bobina.

When track vets determined that her injuries were catastrophic, they euthanized Bobina as she lay, even as the tote board flashed her number on top and bettors cashed their winning tickets.  The trophy that was meant to honor Bobina’s crowning achievement as a graded stakes winner became her memorial, instead.   It’s small consolation to the people who bred and owned her, Haras Santa Maria de Araras, or to her trainer, A. C. Avila.  They had painstakingly brought Bobina this far, only to lose her, just like that.  Horse racing can be cruel.

Bobina didn’t know how to do anything but win.  Unraced at two, she didn’t make her first start until the last day of March, when she outclassed a field of maiden special weight fillies at Santa Anita, rallying to finish more than two lengths the good of her nearest rival at a mile on the grass, the same conditions she faced in the Senorita today.

She came right back two weeks later and did it again, this time over a sloppy mile in an allowance test that had been taken off the turf.  It was that victory that inspired her connections to take a shot in the Senorita, which seemed to be the perfect spot for this up-and-coming filly who had such a bright future. 

Bobina didn’t disappoint them.  Her courage carried her over the finish line today, even as her ankle failed her.  It’s not known when Bobina sustained the injury that felled her; there was nothing to suggest she’d gone wrong until she suddenly went down. 

Bobina was the fourth foal out of the durable Dynaformer mare, Maliziosa, a multiple stakes winner who won or placed in 12 of her 22 starts, while earning $327,581. In an eerie coincidence, Bobina’s stakes-placed half-brother, Tutti Buona Gente (by Aldebaran), broke down and was vanned off just three days ago in a $10,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs.  It’s not known whether, unlike Bobina, he has survived.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Don't dismiss Kentucky Oaks contender Jemima's Pearl

Jemima's Pearl (front) works with Bodemeister at Churchill  4/29/2012
Photo:  Reed Palmer Phography, Churchill Downs

Unlike most of her rivals in the Kentucky Oaks, longshot Jemima’s Pearl has never won a stakes race, but based on her running style, and the fact that she’s held her own against her workmate, Derby favorite Bodemeister, the daughter of Distorted Humor shouldn’t be dismissed. 

A $100,000 Keeneland September yearling, Jemima’s Pearl began her two-year-old career in Ireland, where she broke her maiden at seven furlongs in her fourth career start at Dundalk, defeating Homecoming Queen, who went on to win a listed stakes last year and was the recent upset winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial-G3 for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Repatriated to the U.S. this year, Jemima’s Pearl captured a mile and a sixteenth allowance test at Santa Anita in March, in her first effort on American soil, under the tutelage of conditioner Simon Callaghan.  Switched to the barn of trainer Bob Baffert, the filly ran a creditable third to Mamma Kimbo and Oaks contender Amie’s Dini in the Grade II Fantasy at Oaklawn Park

But it wasn’t until she shipped to Churchill Downs to prepare for the Oaks that people began to take notice.  She breezed side-by-side with the powerful Bodemeister on two occasions, and barely batted an eye.  Jemima’s Pearl may have been overlooked by the pundits, but she was making quite an impression among railbirds.

She’ll get her chance to prove herself among members of her own sex in the prestigious Grade I Oaks, where, in a field of fillies brimming with speed, the race may set up for Jemima’s Pearl to unleash her trademark late surge.  Her style is reminiscent of her dam, the British-bred Jemima, a closer who excelled on the turf, notching the Peugeot Lowther Stakes-G2 in England and placing in stakes company in the U.S. 

As a daughter of classic sire Distorted Humor, Jemima’s Pearl’s ability to get Oaks’ nine furlongs shouldn’t be in question.  In spite of the fact that he never won beyond a mile, Distorted Humor has been a consistent progenitor of high-class stamina, siring classic winners Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby) and Drosselmeyer (Belmont) as well as mile-and-a-quarter winners Flower Alley (Travers), and Regal Ransom (U.A.E. Derby).

Interestingly, Jemima’s Pearl has what Pedigree Consultants’ Alan Porter and Byron Rogers term a “Reverse Parallel Pattern” pedigree, in that Distorted Humor is by a Mr. Prospector-line sire (Forty Niner) out of a Danzig mare (Danzigs Beauty), while Jemima is by a Danzig-line sire (Green Desert’s son, Owington) out of a mare by Mr. Prospector’s son, Damister.  

Whatever happens in the Oaks, Jemima’s Pearl seems amply credentialed for success.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bellamy Road's All Squared Away comes into his own

All Squared Away was all alone at the wire of the Lexington
Photo:  Coady Photography/Keeneland

If ever there was a bargain basement horse gone right, it’s All Squared Away.  The three-year-old Bellamy Road gelding, who cost a mere $1000 as a yearling, came from behind to blow away a cast of 10 other high-priced contenders to win today’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes-G3 at Keeneland at odds of 70-1.  Beaten in his wake were the highly regarded Southwest Stakes winner Castaway (9th) as well as the previously undefeated Summer Front, who finished second.

All Squared Away’s victory in the prestigious mile-and-a-sixteenth contest was only his second in nine starts, but it was his first effort under the tutelage of red-hot Keeneland trainer Wesley Ward, who took over the reins from West Coast conditioner Peter Miller, part-owner of the gelding in partnership with Altamira Racing Stable and Wire to Wire Racing.   With his winner’s take from the Lexington, All Squared Away more than tripled his previous earnings, and has now amassed a bank account of $164,180.

All Squared Away raced in California until mid-March, when he was shipped east to compete in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, in which he finished sixth to Went The Day Well.  As a two-year-old, he had failed to break his maiden in $30,000 to $40,000 claiming company, at distances from four-and-a-half to six furlongs, but stepped up to win in wire-to-wire fashion in his first start at three, a mile-and-a-sixteenth maiden special weight contest over the synthetic track at Golden Gate Field. 

Based on both his race and sales record, it would appear that All Squared Away is a bit of a late bloomer.  The first foal from his unraced dam, Squared, by Posse, he was a $3000 weanling at Keeneland November, but brought but a third of that when he was pinhooked at the following year’s Fasig-Tipton October venue.   Squared herself was sold for $2000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale, in foal to Eurosilver, and subsequently exported to South Korea

All Squared Away becomes the first graded stakes winner in the first three generations of his female family, and the fifth graded stakes winner for Bellamy Road, a son of the Kinsman Stud bred and raced Concerto, a multiple graded stakes winner by Intermediate/Solid Chef-de-Race Chief’s Crown.

Bellamy Road had a short but sparkling career on the track, and is perhaps best known for his dominating 17-length victory in the Wood Memorial, in which he equaled the Aqueduct track record for a mile and an eighth (1:47.16).  Favored in the Kentucky Derby, he finished a tiring seventh, some 18 lengths behind Giacomo, and was subsequently found to have sustained a splint injury.  In what would be his final race, Bellamy Road was a courageous second to Flower Alley in the Travers, but that effort aggravated his prior injuries, and after an unsuccessful comeback attempt at four, he was retired to stud.  All Squared Away is a member of his second crop.

Bellamy Road sired seven stakes winners from his first crop, including his top earner Toby’s Corner (out of Brandons Ride, by Mr. Frisky), who emulated his sire by winning the Wood Memorial; he has also placed in two stakes so far this year.  His other graded stakes winners are both fillies who excelled at SaratogaAdirondack winner Position Limit and last year’s Schuylerville heroine, Georgie’s Angel

There seems to be a common thread in the pedigrees of All Squared Away, Toby’s Corner, and Position Limit in that all three have at least one cross of Intermediate/Classic Chef-de-Race Damascus in their first four generations.  All Squared Away’s second dam, Second Degree, is by Time for A Change (by Damascus), while Toby’s Corner’s dam, Brandons Ride, is a granddaughter of Marsayas (by Damascus).  Interestingly, Position Limit is inbred to Arabian Dancer (by Damascus), the dam of her maternal grandsire, Out of Place, and also the fourth dam of Bellamy Road himself.