Showing posts with label Saratoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saratoga. Show all posts

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oh Yee-uh Yee-uh Yee-uh

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Rachel Alexandra and Rachel Alexandra both race tomorrow. Separately. They are both prepping for the MONUMENTAL showdown in the Apple Blossom next month. Zenyatta hasn't raced since she shook up da worl' in the Breeders Cup Classic in November. Rachel hasn't race since she nearly blew the roof of the historic wooden Saratoga in early September at the Woodford Memorial.

My dream has always been: at the same time Rachel Alexandra races Zenyatta in a race with other horses (i.e. not a match race), while Manny Pacquiao boxes Floyd Mayweather in the infield's backstretch turn, while at the far turn is a steel cage match in a 100 yd. x 100 yd. steel cage that is 50% water 50% land that contains a lion, tiger, orca and a great white shark.

You have to dream big. You HAVE to.

That's how I roll.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ohhhh Maaaaa Gaaaaaa, Ohhhhh Maaaa Gaaaaaa Rachel Alexandra Wins the Woodward

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Rachel Alexandra won an AWESOME race in the Woodward today, narrowly holding off a charging Macho Again. That was an uber-doozie for the ages. Great race by Rachel, great ride by jockey Calving Borel and a fabulous call by announcer Tom Durkin. My brother was at the race and said that was the loudest he has ever heard Saratoga.

Here's Rachel Alexandra's 2009 Woodward on YouTube, it was post just a minute ago

Some random notes:

- To show what an impressive horse Rachel is, watch how quickly Da Tara runs in reverse at the far turn. Staying a length behind Rachel Alexandra for a half-mile proved too taxing for the 2008 Belmont winner and he just stopped. (I hope that wasn't caused by injury. If he did get injured I take that back, but I haven't heard that he was injured during the race yet, so I am assuming he was sound).

-Rachel turned away Da' Tara, Past the Point, Bullsbay and Macho Again. All four had their shot, took their best shot, and got dirt kicked in their face.

-At the 1:52 mark I am 100% positive that Macho Again will run her down. Despite knowing the outcome of the race, and having watched it 4 or 5 times already, I keep expecting Macho Again to pass her (Psychology scholars will note well that Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and that has served as the general functional definition ever since).

- That race had to have been ridiculously grueling for her. I hope she comes out of it in good shape. Not many three year olds go 8-for-8.

- Great job Breeders' Cup. Yes, I'm still harping on it. Synthetic surface TWO YEARS IN A ROW. You reap what you sow, get what you deserve, get back what you put in, etc. And what you deserve is not having Rachel Alexandra. You earned getting your nose turned up in your direction. (Editor's note: Mmmm, those Hater-Tots were delicious)

-You really can't overetate how good of a filly she is. It's not like she just broke her maiden and won by 15 lengths, then after getting all excited about it someone said, "Ok calm down, she still has a lot to prove. We can't call her the second coming of Ruffian just yet." Well, that isn't the case with Rachel Alexandra. She is the second coming of Ruffian and as long as you don't say she is clearly better than Ruffian you aren't getting carried away. It is ok to go nuts over here.

- She also bucked Calvin Borel off before the race. I just thought I'd add that. Usually that isn't a great omen, and I am pretty sure she'd never done that before.

-I will say it again. GREAT call by Tom Durkin. I'm 29 years old. The odds of me liking another announcer of any sport more than I like Durkin by the time can be measured only in scientific notation. 10 X 5^1-18th. I love Durkin, and this call ranks among his very best (I just updated my salute of him) He conveyed the heightened stakes with his voice alone. It just sounded different than a maiden claiming race- as it should have. It was a great call. He knew that regardless of the outcome, it was Rachel's race- she was the story, and he called the race as such. Lesser announcers would have pretended it was just another race. You could hear the release of his full theater-major gusto. I know for a fact that he had a lot stored up for when Smarty Jones was going to win the Belmont. Unfortunately, Durking had to tuck that away, but it sounded liek he culled from that reserve to call Rachel's historic race and Tom was among the people I was most happy for. He let loose and it sounded like it felt it great. It felt great hearing it, anyway. He's kinda the male announcing equivalent of Rachel Alexandra, I guess.

-I'm eager to see what her Beyer Speed Figure will be. That race, though visually stunning and fast early on, wasn't super fast as far as Grade 1 races go. I'm guessing she'll be in the 105-109 range, but that's just a guess based on how the Forego was raced before it, and the time for the Whitney this year.

- With Rachel winning by only a head, every single bit of ground-saving helped, another advantage of being a speed horse, drawing near the rail and being ridden by Calvin Bo-rail. If you're following Macho Again (in the yellow coming from off the picture on the far turn) it looks like he's a sure winner at the 1:33 mark. Then turning for home you see Rachel and Calvin on the rail, and Macho Again 3 wide. It's obvious that Macho Again ran substantially farther than Rachel Alexandra did. Macho Again's jockey, Robby Albarado, isn't to blame, he is an accomplished jockey and his horse has a late-running style and they are often caught going 5-wide around the far turn, but that's where the race was both won and lost.

I just saw Robby said this (here), "I never thought I had her," he said. "The only thing I was hoping for was that she'd tire. Champions show different dimensions. She's in a league of her own. Older horses, her own age, it doesn't matter. No matter what they throw at her, she'll beat them." That was classy of him. I also didn't expect it, not because he is not classy, but because I was positive on two different occasions that his horse would win, yet he was positive zero times. I guess its time to admit that that awesome jockey (who jockey'd Curlin among others) knows more about horse racing than I do.

- If Macho Again hadn't run ragged and bumped Bullsbay at the 1:54 mark, would he have won? It looked like he was flying, then brushed Bullsbay and lost a bit of steam, then picked it right back up again only to lose by a head. I guess we'll never know, but that appeared to slow him down. (update again) I would not believe that anyone in the world has watched this race more times than I have, and (not that he needs my validation) I think Robby was right. I don't think his bump costed him all that much momentum/velocity.

-If a high school senior asked Rachel Alexandra to his senior prom and her handlers accepted, wouldn't that kid be guaranteed an internship at the Daily Racing Form?

-That race kicked hiney. She really is the Rachel Alexandra of horse racing.


Now I'm just being (more) self indulgent/autobiographical. It's totally fine if you don't read this portion.

I had to work until just before the start of the race, and I wasn't by an OTB. I don't get TVG or HRTV. Luckily I have a-hole/very good friends. My friend Joe sent me the following texts, "Do you get the Woodward on TV?" He read my blog and tweets, so he knows how big of a deal this race is, and how much I care about it. So I reply with, "No I don't", I assume he is interested in watching it, so I instruct him on how to watch the race replay on shortly after the race, or where to find a live radio feed. He smugly replies with, "Too bad, I get it on live TV". In so many words I reply with something to the effect of, "Though you are a gentleman, you do not deserve this honor.". Since I know I have no chance of watching it live, I ask him to place his phone by the speaker of his television during the race. He's a good friend and obliges. I sat at home watching my racing form listening to Tom Durkin's call. That race was every single thing I hoped it would be. I know that Durkin calls the race like a tv announcer (meaning for those watching on-track, as opposed to those listening at home without sound, a la radio) but I was still slightly misled. I thought Da' Tara still held the lead throughout, for one. That turned out to be irrelevant once Rachel ran her down.

But the tension I felt listening to Tom Durkin (via my friend Joe) will be something I can never share with anyone. Durkin did a tremendous job calling the race, but I still somehow wanted more. When he said it will be "a dramatic stretch drive awaits in the Woodward Stakes" I gripped my chair tighter. I hoped he meant it would be easy for Rachel, but dramatic....I don't know why....cuz it was historic? I didn't want a close race...I knew Rachel had the lead and was waiting to hear until she was overtaken, and she wasn't...Then I heard Durkin- who has never mislead me- say it will be "desperately close" and my heart sank. I knew he wanted Rachel to win and if he said it would be "desperately close" it would be that close. I also thought that it was his way of breaking the news softly to us. He'd be too kind to say, "Macho Again runs down Rachel", or "Macho Again inhales a tiring Rachel". I appreciated the passive voice and euphemism and was prepared my ears for the worst. I knew they'd hit the wire at the same time, and when Durkin says it will be close, it IS close....I know his calls. He says it's close.......he pauses........he announces the winner. That is what he does.

'It's going to be desperately's the wire!!!" *************95 years of my life. seriously. 95 years. ***************** That was bad. Tom is the best. If he knew Rachel would win he would have said it. But the bravado in his voice as the super-talented Macho Again started his stride hurt my confidence. I knew he inched closer and closer, and since Tom didn't say Rachel kicked him away I feared the worst. They hit the wire together. My heart was residing behind my navel. The hit the wire together. The next name he says is the winner- that's just his way. PLEASE TOM. Just. Say. "Rachel". HOW MUCH LONGER CAN THIS GO ON!!! YOU ARE MURDERING MY SOUL!!! (it was half a second)

"RACHEL WON!!!!!!!!!!"

*room starts spinning*

the end.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rachel Alexandra to Race Against Older Boys in 2 Days. Feel Free to Run Around Screaming While Flailing Your Arms Wildly In Anticipation

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

As TR Slyder scholars know well, I like horse racing and the filly Rachel Alexandra. As the headline mentions, on Saturday she takes older males for the first time and is installed as the 1-2 favorite on the morning line. I couldn't think of a cohesive and prosaic way to fit all I want to say about this topic and include all the links, so this post will be all over the place. On the off chance you find segues intoxicating, this blog post will be a sobering one. To alleviate the sobriety however, I'll pepper in some amusing pictures that are loosely, or not related to the text in order to help you get through the whole article.

It's a bigger deal than you may think. The top three stories on the reputable are all about Rachel (here, here and here). The has Rachel as their lead story and also as their 7th. For historical perspective of the feat Rachel is shouldering, This article from is the most informative I have read (for those of us that are less mature and/or unfamilar with horse racing, yet familiar with what a bris is, feel free to snicker at the site being called "Brisnet" and that they have a column called "Handicappers Edge").

It was historic when Rachel beat dudes in the Grade 1 Preakness, and also in the Grade 1 Haskell, but those were against 3-year olds, or boys here own age. This time she is taking on older dudes in a Grade 1 race. "Grade 1" just means that it is THE top tier of racing- as dictated by the race's history and the prize money. 3 year old fillies have beaten older males in Grade 1 races before, but an American filly has accomplished it in only twice since 1987.

Another historical aspect of this race is that with this blog post, Rachel ties Rod Blagojevich for 6th place as the most frequent topics of blog posts on, as you can see in the margin.

If Rachel wins on Saturday she will basically guarantee that she wins the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. A win would also cement a spot for her alongside Ruffian as the best filly race horse in the modern era. The latter is probably meaningless to the casual reader, or even to readers in ball gowns or tuxedos (HELOOOOO), but again, it's a huge deal for horse racing. Much like how discussion of the best basketball of the modern era starts and stops with Michael Jordan, the same is true for fillies and Ruffian. In an era when 0 people follow horse racing, the sport making headlines only from tragedies, and the public never getting to know any horses because their careers are now so short, its nice to see such a positive story, and one that might bring a few fans into the sport. That being said, her race will not air live on national television unless you get either HRTV (Horse Racing TV) or TVG (also a horse racing channel). If you are lucky to get either, the race will air at 5:52 Eastern Time. Well, the race will air at the time regardless of whether you get those channels, but you know what I meant.

I downloaded the Past Performance for Saturday's race, but it's probably illegal to post it, despite this site getting about 60 readers a day. But if you'd like a copy of it, just email me and I'd be happy to email it to you as a personal favor. That's probably legal enough for my low standards.

As far as the race itself, she is the logical favorite in the field of 8. It isn't the strongest field in the history of Grade 1 races, but is solid nonetheless. Notables include 2009 Whitney Stakes winner Bullsbay; Da' Tara- the only horse to finish first in a race which included Big Brown, that happened in the 2008 Belmont Stakes, thus ending Big Brown's bid for the elusive Triple Crown; Macho Again who finished 2nd in both the 2008 Preakness and the 2009 Whitney Handicap and who, like Bullsbay, ran the best race of his life last time out over the Saratoga track; and It's a Bird- the son of Birdstone, who won the 2005 Travers and Belmont Stakes. It's a Bird is also the half-brother to both Mine that Bird (winner of the 2009 KY Derby) and Summer Bird (winner of the 2009 Belmont Stakes and Travers Handicap, but lost to Rachel by 6th lengths in the 2009 Haskell Invitational). And since you're wondering, It's a Bird's owner, Edmund Gann, was also the owner of Rachel Alexandra's father, Medaglia D'Oro.

I guess I digressed from the actual race though. Those are the notable foes for Saturday, and on paper Rachel towers over the field. Her career earnings vs. the next highest opponents are...Oh. I'll be damned. I was getting ready to type that she has way more $ in career earnings then any other horse in the field, then I was gonna check the PP's to see by how much and over whom, but she has actually been out-earned by a horse I did not mention, Asiatic Boy. He's earned $3.7 million to Rachel Alexandra's 2.4. Who knew? In Rachel's defense, it has taken him 4 more races to do so, but both are impressive, nonetheless. Rachel's highest Beyer Speed Figure is 116, the next highest in the field is owned by (another horse I didn't mention in the last paragraph) Past the Point and is 110. Interestingly enough he did it in this race (the Woodward) last year, and he has the same jockey (Edgar Prado) as he did then.

I'm sure I'll preview the race in more depth later on Thursday or at some point on Friday, but I've probably written at least 400 words too many enough about her.

I'm T.R. Slyder Tyler Benchfield, and that's how you Tangueray.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Who Came Out of the Travers Looking the Best? Rachel Alexandra.

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Were you expecting me to say "Summer Bird"? After Summer Bird's gutsy win in the Belmont and on Sunday's Travers we're finally starting to appreciate what a great horse he is. Any horse that wins those two races is bonafide monster.

A look at Summer Bird's past performances in the Daily Racing Form reveals that in his last race, The Haskell Invitational, Summer Bird earned a 106 Beyer, yet finished second, beaten 6 lengths. Who was it that beat Summer Bird by 6? Rachel Alexandra.

You could now do a 2-Degrees-of-Separation test with Rachel and nearly every three year old male that matters to indicate she has beaten either the horses themselves, or the horses that have beaten those horses. She's unreal.

Hey Zenyatta, come get a taste!

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Travers Assessment

(above photograph courtesy of T.R. Slyder)
By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter
(The horse in the picture is Quality Road as a young 'un)

The 140th Running of the Travers should be a doozey. The race that is often referred to as the Midsummer Derby features Quality Road- who was expected to be the favorite in the KY Derby before being sidelined with a hoof injury, Summer Bird- who won the Belmont, Charitable Man who went off at 9/2 in the Belmont before finishing 4th, and the near-overnight sensation Kensei.

I attacked this race from two angles, 1- the pace scenario, and 2- seeing if Quality Road was beatable. Of Quality Road's 5 starts, 4 have earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100+ and three of those, his three most recent, have earned Beyers of 110+. No other horse has ran higher than a 106 in a graded stakes race (Warriors Reward freaked in an Allowance race and ran a 113 in May). The elephant in the room with handicapping this race is to determine whether or not Quality Road simply lays over the field with talent and is too good to be beaten. If every other horse runs it's 100% best race- can Quality Road still beat them with a 90% effort?

Much of the pace scenario should be easy to predict- but the few parts of it that are difficult to predict are the most important. #5, Our Edge should go right to the lead with Warriors Reward and Quality Road either contesting the lead or sitting closely off it (by anywhere from .5 to 1.5 lengths off), followed by Kensei sitting another length or so behind them. Charitable Man ought to be near Kensei, my guess is that he'll be a half-length behind him, and Summer Bird and Hold Me Back both in the back, timing their final run. I anticipate Summer Bird starting off in last then slowly progressing gradually until he's about 3 lengths off the lead by the far turn.

Barring a stumbled start for one of the speedsters, its hard to see the race unfolding radically different than this. What will be difficult, yet important, to try to determine will be how close Quality Road is to the lead and how much energy, if any, he spends trying to be on the lead early. If he's able to sit patiently toward the inside, just a length or so off the lead, that ought to bode very well for Quality Road who wants to have both some gas in the tank and a slight lead on the closers when they turn for home. If he exerts a lot of energy vying for the lead, that will diminish the amount of stank in the tank, so to speak. This is also where QR's talent advantage comes into play- is he so talented that he can overcome a speed duel with Our Edge and run faster than he'd like to early on, and still have enough to hold off the late charging foes?

Kensei's position relative to Quality Road will also be important. Ideally for Kensei, he will sit patiently right off Quality Road and be in a position to run him down at the end. If, however Kensei and Quality Road "hook up" and engage in a speed duel early on, it will tire both of them out and improve the chances for Charitable Man and Summer Bird to run down their tired foes down the stretch. It's also possible that Charitable Man could be forwardly placed and duel with Quality Road, but I find that scenario less likely.

As the field turns for home I anticipate Quality Road to emerge as the leader and starting his late run before all others. Upon seeing Quality Road giving it the gas, then Charitable Man and Kensei will also be summoned to make their bid, where they'll run down a tiring Our Edge, and probably Warrior's Reward. Once all of our eyes focus on QR, CM and Kensei, we will notice that Summer Bird is not far behind.

Then what? This is when I think Quality Road is going to wow us. After pulling away from Our Edge I don't think he'll be caught. Even if one of the talented horses happened to stay with him or even catches him I don't think anticipate them having more grit and determination than Quality Road. Why do I say that?

In holding off the favored Dunkirk, Quality Road showed more tenacity in that race than any of these horses have. He also held off a higher-caliber horse than any of his Travers foes ever have.

I think the Travers' 1 1/4 will be a touch too far for Charitable Man and he'll be run down by Kensei and eventually Summer Bird, who will compete for 2nd place. I give the edge to Summer Bird here because I think he has more flexible with his timing and had will have a few options on Saturday. It also doesn't hurt that I saw his father win the 2004 Travers over a sloppy track.

To provide more context for this race- here is the 2009 Jim Dandy which was run over the same Saratoga surface earlier this month. It featured Kensei, Charitable Man and Warrior's Reward.

That race was an eighth of a mile shorter than the Travers will be, and you can see that Charitable Man wants no part in any added distance. Kensei showed us some talent, but seemed to just outlast tired foes, moreso than ripping the race away from a determined bunch.

Being that I think the top three will be Quality Road, Summer Bird and Kensei- I haven't really taken much of a stand as those are the three favorites (with QR being the favorite). So I feel obligated to throw in my longshot pick- Our Edge.

I think the winner of the race will have to run at least a 106 Beyer. Hold Me Back and Charitable Man have had chances to show us that they're capable of running a 106 and have been unable to. Warrior's Reward freaked in one race and ran a 113, which is the highest lifetime Beyer in this race, but I think that was a bit flukey with Calvin Borel giving him a dream trip along the rail while at the back of the pack at Churchill Downs, a la Mine That Bird. Since he'll be more forwardly placed this time around I just don't think that will happen again. So that leaves us with Our Edge at 15-1. He's been in only 5 races and his Beyer's keep going up in his 5 starts his Beyers are (48, 79, 91, 91, 100). In his last race while recording the 100 BSF, he won by 7 lengths so, you have to figure he wasn't giving it his all towards the end and could have run a 103 or 105 if need be, so he could be sitting on a big race here. His last two works are bulleted works over the Saratoga track, and he is also the only horse in the race who has won over a Sloppy track- which could become a factor as rain is in the forecast. You know he's going right to the lead and if Quality Road stumbles at the start or just throws in a poor effort, he could get loose on the lead and hold off the closers. At 15-1, there is a lot to like.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

After Watching the Alabama Stakes, maybe Zenyatta is now the #2 Contender to Rachel Alexandra.

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

With Zenyatta's diminishing margins of victory, maybe she should have to go through Careless Jewel to earn her shot at Rachel Alexandra. Watch her victory in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga today. Just sayin.

Looks like Zenyatta's "The ball is in my court- come and get me" stance might be over. Those on the East Coast sure hope you aren't just the female version of Lava Man (Lava Girl?). You aren't, are you? See ya in the Beldame.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bobby Flay Announced the 8th Race at Saratoga on Sunday

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Daily Racing Form's Steven Crist summed it up pretty well on his blog-

"5:00 pm: Which was the most surreal part of the 8th race? The skies opening the moment the field started loading into the gate? The race's being called, and not very well by "guest announcer" Bobby Flay? Or the victory after an agonizing nine furlongs in 1:53.07 by 32-1 Freddy the Cap, trained by Finger Lakes-based Oscar Barrera Jr.?

Maybe none of the above. If you watch the replay carefully, coming out of the first turn, it appears winning rider Sebastian Morales is hit in the head by an unfortunate seagull, who bounces off him and then hits Julien Leparoux, (TR Slyder's note: that means from the 7 horse to the 9) aboard A Zero Trap, also in the head. At this time I can not determine the further fate of the seagull. "

The seagull strike is right at :39 seconds when Bobby is saying "the club sandwich turn". It hits the horse in the lead right as they pass the 8th pole (I think it's the 8th)- The white pole with black and white stripes and a gold ball on top. You can't see it flying in very well, but you can see it flop after impact and go from the 7 to the 9. Once Bobby says "they go around the club..." lean in and really stare and it's fairly easy to see.

P.S. When is Bobby gonna get a show called "The Bobby Flayshow"? (If you didn't get the joke, don't ask a co-worker to explain it).

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Queezy Reezy won the Amsterdeezy

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Quality Road won the Amsterdam Stakes on Monday at Saratoga. TR Slyder scholars will doubtlessly remember that he was my pick for the Ky Derby before a recurring hoof injury sidelined from then until this race on Monday. Most people felt that Quality Road would need a race or two under his belt before he could be expected to be at his best. It appears that he was at his best today because he set a track record- not too bad considering that horses have been running at that track for 141 years.

Did the jockey's silks on the #5 horse look familiar? They are the same ones as Rachel Alexandra's jockey wears (as seen below with Calvin Borel up). They're the silks of Stonestreet Stables, who own the #5 and Rachel.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Day of Racing at Saratoga

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Let's get some links out of the way:

Starting at 11:45am ET the above link will be home to a daily handicapping seminar for that day's card, hosted by the always informative and entertaining Andy Serling. I would recommend it. update: get it here's Saratoga Page

Andy Serling's Twitter

Steven Crist's Blog
- he's the editor of the Daily Racing Form and probably the most influential bettor in America. He is also the first guest on Andy Serling's show on Wednesday.

It's gonna be an awesome season.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moose Sighting at Saratoga Race Course

By: T.R. Slyder,

The story about it is here. It doesn't sound like there many exciting details- a female moose was found near the race course, so authorities opened the doors to the race track to quarantine the moose and keep it out of harm's way. A few years ago a fox was found in the stables of the harness track across the street, and now a moose.

Saratoga is a wild, wild place.

Update: The Saratogian shed some more light on the moose- including her late-night on Broadway last night. Seriously.