John Brown’s Horse Racing Blog

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks. Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 16, 2008

Curlin and Pyro

Curlin and Pyro Perform Well on Saturday

Saturday marked Churchill Downs’ third-biggest racing day of the year. The competition didn’t disappoint.

Curlin proved that he is the top horse in the world, as he took the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap by 4 1/2 lengths.

This was the 4-year-old Curlin’s first race in more than seven months on U.S. soil. His last time out, he captured the world’s richest horse race, the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Curlin won $589,000 in the handicap, raising his lifetime earnings to $9.4 million. He only trails two horses in career earnings, Cigar ($10 million) and 1996 Ohio Derby winner Skip Away ($9.6 million).

In the race, Curlin showed late speed as he rallied from fourth at the 3/4 mark to first as the field straightened. From the stretch turn on, Curlin proved why he is the world’s best.

A 4 1/2 length win may not seem that impressive, but under the circumstances it was. Since the race was a handicap, Curlin was forced to weigh 128 pounds. That was atleast 10 pounds heavier than all the other horses in the field.

There is no immediate decision on what Curlin’s next race will be, but speculation has a turf race on the horizon. The media is trying to brew a Curlin vs. Big Brown match up in the Breeders’ Cup. That’s still months away.

Bad Day for Ohio Derby Winners

Two Ohio Derby winners were matched against Curlin in the Stephen Foster Handicap. Last year’s winner, Delightful Kiss, left from the second gate, while 2004 winner Brass Hat left from Gate 10.

It was a rough day for the both as they struggled from the start, as Delightful Kiss brooked 9th and Brass Hat 7th.

Delightful Kiss made a late rally down the stretch to improve his position from eighth to his seventh-place finish over Sam P.

Brass Hat also improved his position down the stretch. He made a rally to finish fifth, but was never a threat to the winning horse.

The Brazilian Einstein took second, as he finished 4 1/2 lengths away from Curlin.

Pyro Gets Back on Track

After a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Pyro got back to his winning ways. The stable mate of Curlin, won the Grade III Northern Dancer Stakes, also held at Churchill Downs.

After winning the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby early in 2008, Pyro suffered a brief slump. He ran 10th in the Blue Grass Stakes, finishing 39 lengths away from the lead.

A good field was set out in the eighth race in Louisville, consisting of past Kentucky Derby and graded-stakes runners.

Texas Wildcatter, who last ran in the Lone Star Derby, was the early pace setter but finished well off the lead in fifth.

Pyro took the lead away from Texas Wildcatter after the 3/4 mark and had a length-and-a-half lead over My Pal Charlie. He would hang on to the lead as he held on to win by 1 3/4.

My Pal Charlie held off 12th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Visionaire, by 2 1/4 lengths, as he finished second.

Post-time favorite and 5th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Recapturetheglory, finished well off the pace, as he was 5 1/2 lengths behind Visonaire running fourth.

After a great start as a 2-year-old in the thoroughbred industry, Pyro was an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. However, did not live up to the hype.

His three races prior to the Northern Dancer appeared to derail his hopes at a successful summer. After beating a quality field Saturday, the summer looks bright for Pyro.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 10, 2008

What’s Next for Big Brown, Da’Tara and Smooth Air?

Over the past three weeks on, we have covered the Ohio Derby and Belmont Stakes. Now that they’re over, what’s up next for the marquee names that headlined the events?

Smooth Air had an impressive victory in the Ohio Derby, Da’ Tara followed with an even more impressive win at Belmont Park. Big Brown’s race was disappointing, but is this the last time we will ever see him run? Now we’ll take a look into what’s next for these elite 3-year-olds.

Big Brown: He’s undefeated no more. He didn’t win the Triple Crown, and a last-place finish is a punch to the gut to everyone involved with Big Brown. Rick Dutrow doesn’t know what happened to the horse he trained. He guaranteed victory, and laughed at the field the Belmont placed against his horse.

The good news is, Big Brown appears to be OK. He has been checked out almost every day since Saturday, and nothing. The owners of Big Brown will not run an x-ray on the colt because everything checks out.

So what’s next for this elite 3-year-old?

In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, Big Brown’s owners and Dutrow talked about racing their horse past the final leg of the Triple Crown.

The Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August is the race that co-owner Mike Iavarone was aiming for. The race carries a purse of a million dollars and is a Grade I event. Last year’s winner of the Travers, Street Sense, was the winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

Another race that Big Brown’s staff was gunning for was the Breeders’ Cup Classic held at Santa Anita Park. Outside of the three legs of the Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is one of the most prestigious races in the United States. The race carries a purse of $5 million and would likely feature a match up between last year’s 3-year-old champion Curlin, and this year’s champion Big Brown.

All of those plans could be derailed after the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown was sold for stud for $50 million before the Preakness. That’s a lot of money to mess around with for $5 million races.

Big Brown’s owners and trainers will sit down and map out a future for the young 3-year-old. After his problems on Saturday, his racing career may be over.

Wouldn’t we all like to retire to breed at 3 years old?

The fact is Big Brown is not immune to injury. He may be the best 3-year-old this year, but I think the Belmont was his last race. How he ran on Saturday scraed all of us, and we weren’t even involved with the horse. Just imagine if you had $50 million riding on a safe race.

Early retirement is on the horizon for Big Brown. I hope we get another chance to see the horse again, but that may be too risky.

Da’ Tara: An upset winner at the Belmont Stakes won’t sneak up on anyone in his next race. Big Brown’s racing career may be in doubt, but Da’ Tara is going for the same Travers Stakes that Big Brown was looking to run in.

Legendary trainer Nick Zito said, “obviously the main goal is the Travers.” The Tarvers will be held Aug. 23. If Big Brown doesn’t retire, it could feature a re-match between the two horses.

Aug. 23 is months away, but we may see Da’ Tara before then. The Jim Danady held held July 27, also at Saratoga, offers a $500,000 purse. Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense also won the race. “I learned one thing, Da’ Tara likes to be close to the pace. He broke his maiden going wire-to-wire. So, probably the Jim Dandy and the Travers.”

Those two races are the conventional route taken by winners in the events that make up the Triple Crown. In 2007, Street Sense swept the two stakes at Saratoga. In 2006, Bernadini, winner of the Preakness, swept the two races. We’ll see if the Belmont was a fluke, or if Da’ Tara is an elite horse.

Smooth Air: A week ago, Smooth Air captured the Ohio Derby by four lengths at Thistledown. Sure, the Ohio Derby is not at prestigious as the Belmont Stakes, but this horse is still something good.

It appears that Smooth Air will try the derby circuit from state to state. He is expected to run in the Iowa Derby, a $250,000 upgraded race at Prairie Meadows. The race is a mile and 1/16th, which is half a furlong shorter than the Ohio Derby.

“It’ll be like a sprint for him,” said Bennie Stutts. The Iowa Derby is held June 27, which gives Smooth Air almost four weeks of rest.

If Smooth Air does run in the Iowa Derby, it will be the same path taken by last year’s Ohio Derby winner, Delightful Kiss. Delightful Kiss won both the Ohio and Iowa Derby in 2007. It appears that Smooth Air would be the post-time favorite if he runs in Iowa.

If the 2008 winner of Ohio’s richest races does capture the Iowa Derby, maybe West Virginia or the Haskell is next.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 9, 2008

2008 Belmont Recap

All talk is about the ninth-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, but little is said about the Belmont winner. I had been thinking about what my next blog entry should be about over the past 24 hours. It dawned on me; why not talk about Da’ Tara.

The media made Big Brown into a super horse, and rightfully so. They also made him into a horse that couldn’t lose, and that was dead wrong. Everyone played off his crack in his hoof and him acting up in the stable on race day. Obviously all of that was a big deal. People are trying to figure out what happened to Big Brown; I have an obvious answer – Da’ Tara.

Winning a Grade I stakes race isn’t something a horse accidentally does. A great horse wins a Grade I stakes and that’s just what Da’ Tara is.

The question isn’t why Big Brown lost, but how Da’ Tara won. A great start is a good place to begin. As the gates opened, Da’ Tara wasted no time running out to the front of the pack. From that point on, Da’ Tara would not give up his first-place position.

Through the opening turn, Tale of Ekati and Big Brown were well within striking distance. Tale of Ekati sat second, three lengths off the lead.

Big Brown closed within 2 1/2 lengths at the mile mark, but that would be the closest he would come to winning the Triple Crown.

Heading into the stretch, Da’ Tara had a four-length lead, as Dennis of Cork began to make his move.

Da’ Tara withstood Dennis of Cork’s rally down the stretch to take the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths.

He was the unlikeliest of winners. He beat Big Brown in the Belmont, but finished 23 lengths behind him in the Florida Derby. He finished 11 lengths ahead of Macho Again at Belmont Park. Macho Again beat him by five lengths in the Derby Trial.

Da’ Tara became the first wire-to-wire winner in the Belmont Stakes of my generation, and what is believed to be the first since Seattle Slew.

Congratulations Da’ Tara, you have been established as a great horse. Don’t let anyone take that away from him.

Now, a complete breakdown of each runner in the Belmont Stakes.

9th Big Brown: I read on a message board where someone questioned Kent Desormeaux for easing up Big Brown. What a stupid thing to question. What Desormeaux did should be commended. It wasn’t there for his horse. He wasn’t going to win, so why try to hurt him? Jockeys need to learn from Kent.

Big Brown got off to a bad start. He slipped a bit and almost clipped heals with Guadalcanal. Desormeaux asked for speed at the far turn, and Big Brown didn’t respond. He was acting up in the stall prior to the race, and fatigue may have caught up to him. The hoof injury may have played a bigger part than anyone wants to let on. Missing workouts is not a good thing, and any discomfort in a horse can make the best of them look bad. It just wasn’t Big Brown’s day.

As I said, he is the best 3-year-old in the country. He just wasn’t the best on Saturday.

8th Icabad Crane: Called it! He finished eighth, just where I predicted him. OK, now that we got that out of the way, it just may be that Icabad Crane is not an elite 3-year-old. He started in the back of the pack and finished there too. He was never a factor as he rode wide the entire race.

7th Guadacanal: Once again, right on the money here. You can’t expect much more out of a Maiden in a million-dollar race. He stumbled a bit during the race, and never put himself in contention to make a move. He was half a length better than Icabad Crane was, but finished a distant 6 1/2 lengths behind Tale of Ekati.

6th Tale of Ekati: Once Casino Drive scratched, I immediately placed Tale of Ekati as my winning horse. I was wrong.

After he ran second the entire race, fatigue caught up with him, as he ran out of gas during the final turn. Jockey Coa Eibar had no horse down the stretch, and Tale of Ekati finished 7 1/4 lengths from fifth place.

5th Macho Again: After the scratch, I had Macho Again running fourth. I wasn’t too far off here.

At the far turn, he was ran to the rail and made a late rally. The rally made little noise as he dropped from his fourth position down the stretch to his fifth-place finish.

3rd Dead Heat Ready’s Echo/ Anak Nakal: A tie? This isn’t hockey and this isn’t the MLB All Star Game. But hey, you made out if you had both these horses to show.

Ready’s Echo’s last race was at Belmont Park, and he finished right where he did in the Peter Pan Stakes, third. He rallied from fifth at the top of the stretch to tie Anak Nakal for third.

Anak Nakal was bumped by Big Brown before the first turn. He made a move at the mile marker to gain on Da’ Tara. He moved from sixth at the mile and 1/4th mark to third at the finish. He could not hold off the late run made by Ready’s Echo.

2nd Dennis of Cork: Third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont. Dennis of Cork is making a name for himself without winning, and could end up claiming some graded stakes this summer.

Dennis of Cork passed Tale of Ekati at the far turn. He took second position and tried to make a move on Da’ Tara at the top of the stretch. It appeared that he was going to make a run at the wire-to-wire leader, but Dennis of Cork just didn’t have enough.

1st Da’ Tara: I already broke down Da’ Tara’s run, but wow, what a race. He posted a Beyer of 99 in the race, which doesn’t match up well with past winners. Nevertheless, he was the wire-to-wire winner, the first since Seattle Slew in 1977.

His time of 2:29.65 is the slowest since longshot Sarva won it in 2002. His time was almost a full second slower than last year’s winner, Rags to Riches. But once again, congratulations Da’ Tara.

There you have it, no Triple Crown winner this year, just as I expected. If I could change three things in this race…

First, I wish Big Brown was 100 percent. I wanted to see him win it or lose it with his best effort.

Second, I would have loved Eight Belles to be in this race. You are still in all of our thoughts. We miss you Eight Belles, this race wasn’t the same without you.

The last thing is Casino Drive. There is no doubt in my mind Casino Drive would have won this race. It’s a shame he wasn’t in it. Maybe we will see him at the Breeders’ Cup.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 7, 2008

2008 Belmont Predictions

Before I break down my Belmont selections, I’m wondering what Tom Durkin’s call will be for the 140th Belmont Stakes.

No matter what the outcome tomorrow, the race will feature a historic event, three winners from the same Dam, a Triple Crown winner or a longshot hopeful.

Tom Drukin is the best racing announcer, period! His calls during the past horses’ drive for a Triple Crown are history. I loved when he said, “It’s been (blank years, meaning how long since the last Triple Crown winner), and there’s just one furlong remaining.” But he has used those up in the previous years.

Here are a few suggestions for his historic calls based on the outcome of the race.

If it’s Casino Drive and Big Brown going down the stretch: “Casino Drive and Big Brown are battling, there’s just one furlong to go. Big Brown trying to do it for the Triple Crown, Casino Drive trying to keep it in the family.”

Or if Big Brown wins convincingly: “The horses are heading home. Out in front is the undefeated Big Brown. Big Brown trying to do what no horse has done in 30 years. The race will be for second because Big Brown has stormed over the competition. Put Big Brown’s name in the history book because he has just won the Triple Crown!”

If Casino Drive takes the race: “There’s one furlong reaming and Casino Drive has taken the lead. The brother of the past two Belmont winners says I too am deserving. Fathers Day might be next week, but Casino Drive gives his mother a present as he takes the Belmont Stakes.”

Finally, what if long shot Guadalcanal somehow wins: “Out of the pack comes the longshot Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal says no way Jose to Big Brown. He has turned the Belmont into a Maiden.”

Of course, Tom Drukin is the greatest and will come up with some better than those blurbs. Now, for how I think all 10 horses in the Belmont will finish.

10th Da’ Tara: Why Da’ Tara? Because he has not shown me that he can run in a Grade I stakes. Big Brown crushed him by 23 lengths in the Florida Derby; let’s see if he can cut that down a little.

9th Icabad Crane: I picked Icabad Crane in the back of the pack at the Preakness, and it came back to bite me. I’m going to pick him in the back of the field here too. I just don’t think this is a cream-of-the-crop 3-year-old. I don’t think he has the speed or stamina to compete in the Belmont.

8th Guadalcanal: I will be rooting for Guadalcanal to win the Belmont. I would pick him higher, but he gives me no reason to. I like the fact that he ran a mile-and-a-half race. He’s the only horse in the field that has run at that distance. We know he can come close to winning at the Belmont distance, as he lost by a nose. We will see if he improves from his last outing on turf.

7th Anak Nakal: It seems like this horse is being put into races too big for him. Why not run in the Ohio Derby or a Grade II stakes? Why do they keep running this horse in Grade I events? He is not a premier 3-year-old and isn’t the same horse he was as a 2-year-old. Unfortunately, I think this horse is overmatched at the Belmont. He is more suitable for Grade II and III events.

6th Ready’s Echo: A career-best third-place showing in a Grade II stakes give me no reason to go crazy about a horse. He might be able to sneak up on the field and finish in the money, but nothing tells me to place him with the best horses in this race.

5th Macho Again: I was debating on what is the better performance, third in the Kentucky Derby or second in the Preakness. I came up with the conclusion that it was getting third in the Derby.

He could not catch Big Brown in the Preakness a race that Big Brown was held up in. Macho Again is a good horse; I just don’t think he will run well in the Belmont.

4th Dennis of Cork: His race in the Kentucky Derby was very respectable. But then again, it was Big Brown, and then the rest of the field. I like the fact that he is rested after the Kentucky Derby and his owners didn’t rush him into the Preakness. He will be a contender down the stretch.

3rd Tale of Ekati: I’m taking a chance on Tale of Ekati, even though he’s been inconsistent. I think he has outgrown his slump he was in at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. His Wood Memorial win was very impressive. I also like the fact he is undefeated at Belmont Park.

2nd Big Brown: I’m sorry, I think he’s the best 3-year-old this year, and he has a good chance to win, but I have to go against the grain. Everything but my gut tells me he will win this race. He still has energy left over from the Preakness, and he has dominated in every race. He may go down as the best thoroughbred this decade. However, I am not going to argue with history and pedigree. I know streaks are meant to be broken. I do think the 30-year dry spell will end soon, but I love Casino Drive’s pedigree. Plus I can’t pick the horse everyone else is selecting.

1st Casino Drive: If Casino Drive does capture the Belmont, will Better Than Honour go down as the greatest Dam of all time? She might. Three straight Grade I stakes winners coming out of the same Dam is unheard of.

Casino Drive has a great pedigree; it might be the best in the field. Seattle Slew, Secretariat, A.P. Indy, Mineshaft and Better Than Honour are all in this horse’s pedigree. You can’t arque with that.

Casino Drive is a winner. He is lightly raced and is coming off a good rest. Not too long and not too short. He is ready go. He will be used to the track and will make his mother proud.

Check’s message board, as I release my Belmont picks.

2008 Belmont – Casino Drive Scratched

Editor’s Note: Casino Drive was scratched Saturday morning with hoof problems. John Brown’s current predicted order of finish: Tale of Ekati; Big Brown; Dennis of Cork.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 6, 2008

2008 Belmont Preview

Big Brown is scheduled for his final hoof appointment. Today, the colt is expected to receive his final patch on his cracked left front hoof.

The area will be cleaned as the minor injury has already begun to heal itself. The race favorite is expected to run off anabolic steroids, which are legal in horses in the state of New Yrok.

With those brief racing notes from today, let’s waste no time and break down the 2008 Belmont Stakes field.

1. Big Brown (2-5)

Strengths: Where do I start? The colt is undefeated in four races. He has won each race convincingly. His closest contender was Eight Bells, who finished 4 3/4 lengths away from him at Churchill.

He has never run a race under a mile. He has never finished a race with a Beyer speed out of the 100s. His career best Beyer is 109, which he put up in the Kentucky Derby. His Beyer times are the best in the field.

He is coming off his Beyer worst 100 in the Preakness. Why is that under strengths? He still has speed left for the Belmont. He could have won that race by double-digit lengths if he wanted to, but Kent Desormeaux held him up. He’s in good shape despite running the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

He has been saddled by Kent Desormeaux, and only Kent Desormeaux. So, Big Brown’s jockey knows this horse well.

He is the best 3-year-old in 2008.

Weakness: History could be a weakness. Since 1978, a number of horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and failed to capture the final race. Smarty Jones in 2004 was an example of an undefeated horse, which was outmatched in the Belmont. History says there will be one horse that is better than he is at a mile and a half.

His hoof troubles are minor, but he did miss some training time because of it. I have no doubt he is ready to race, but will the missed workouts come back to bite him?

Saturday will mark his third race in five weeks. I don’t care if you’re the best 3-year-old in the world or not; three races in five weeks will get the best of any horse.

Let’s see if he’s the best horse at a mile and a half in 2008.

2. Guadalcanal (50-1)

Strengths: Strengths for Guadalcanal? (insert cricket noise here). He’s coming off his best race, a second-place showing at Churchill Downs.

His Beyer speeds have improved every time out in 2008. He is coming off a race at a mile and a half where he finished second by a nose.

Weakness: We can go on for days, but let’s just stick to a few key weaknesses. He has never won a race. How can you expect a horse who has never won in a Maiden or an Allowance to do well in the Grade I Stakes?

His Beyer best is 82. He also has Beyer times of 71, 46 and 55 to put alongside his best.

He has never run in a stakes race, and his last two races came on turf and synthetic surface. I’ll be kind and stop here.

3. Macho Again (20-1)

Strengths: Macho Again is coming off a second-place finish in the Preakness. He posted a Beyer of 92 in the race, which wasn’t even his career best.

His best speed time was a 99 in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.

Macho Again is very consistent on dirt. His poor outings came on the synthetic surface, where he posted lackluster Beyer times.

His $343,761 have all come without him winning a graded stakes race, which means he’s held his own in graded stakes and he wins other races.

He has finished in the money six times in nine starts.

Weakness: Even with arguably his best performance in the Preakness, he still finished 5 1/4 lengths behind Big Brown.

He has never won a graded stakes race, so for him to win the Belmont would be a big raise.

He has never run at Belmont Park, so he might not be used to the surface. He is not lightly raced in 2008; this will mark his sixth race. In two out of his three graded-stakes attempts, he finished sixth and seventh.

4. Dennis of Cork (12-1)

Strengths: Skipping the Preakness may have been a good decision for Dennis of Cork. He is coming off a one-month rest, so he should have tons of energy.

He’s a winner too… in five lifetime starts, he’s won three.

He captured the Grade II Southwest Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.

In the Kentucky Derby he showed a respectable third, posting his career best Beyer of 97. He claims $413,552 in career earnings.

Weakness: His fifth-place performance in the Illinois Derby was nothing special.

He did have a respectable run in the Kentucky Derby, but still finished more than eight lengths away from Big Brown.

He will need to run a career-best race if he wants to win the Belmont.

5. Casino Drive (7-2)

Strengths: Pedigree, Pedigree and Pedigree. This horse has the pedigree to take the Belmont stakes. Casino Drive’s half-brother Jazil, and 3/4 sister Rags to Ritches have won the Belmont the past two years.

It’s obvious that his Dam, Better than Honour, puts out horses that can run the distance.

He is lightly run, only racing twice in his career while winning both races. That means both he and Big Brown are undefeated. However, unlike Big Brown, Casino Drive will be well rested, as his last race came almost a month ago.

Speaking of his last race, the Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont Park, Casino Drive bulled over the competition. He won by an impressive 5 3/4 lengths over a quality field. In the Peter Pan, his Beyer time was 101, which was better than Big Brown’s in the Preakness.

Weakness: Inexperience could plague this horse. This is only Casino Drive’s third race. This will mark his second race in America.

His race in the Peter Pan was impressive, but the event only had one turn. How will he react through two trurns?

6. Da’ Tara (30-1)

Strengths: Saturday will mark the second Grade I stakes Da’ Tara will run in, which means he has raced against quality horses before.

He is coming off a second-place showing in the Barbaro Stakes, where he produced a career best 92 Beyer.

At Belmont Park, Da’ Tara opened his racing career finishing second.

Weakness: There are many weaknesses in this horse. He has never won a stakes race, and has only won once in his career.

He finished behind Belmont runner Macho Again in the Derby trail by five lengths. He was crushed by Big Brown in the Florida Derby, as he finished ninth, 23 1/2 lengths away from the Belmont favorite.

7. Tale of Ekati (20-1)

Strengths: The Belmont Stakes marks the fourth Grade I stakes Tale of Ekati will race. He won the Grade I Wood Memorial by half a length over War Pass. In the Kentucky Derby, he finished fourth with a Beyer time of 93.

In the Grade II Sanford, he placed second and he captured the Grade III Futurity. The Futurity was held at Belmont park.

He knows how to win stake races and has raced with the best horses before.

Tale of Ekati is unbeaten in two starts at Belmont Park. He is lightly raced, as his last performed came in the Kentucky Derby.

Weakness: He finished 11 lengths away from Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby. He was crushed by 17 1/2 lengths in the BC Juvenile. This horse has shown to be a tad bit inconsistent.

In the Grade II LaDerby he finished sixth, but it seems this horse has outgrown the slump he was in at the end of being a 2-year-old and the start of racing at 3 years old.

8. Anak Nakal (30-1)

Strengths: Pedigree; Anak Nakal is the sire of Victory Gallop, who won the Belmont in 1998. The colt has already won at Belmont Park, as he captured his Maiden there last year.

Saturday will mark his third Grade I stakes attempt and his seventh graded-stakes race. In fact, the only race that he ran that wasn’t a graded stakes was his opening Maiden.

He has already captured a graded stakes as a 2-year old.

Weakness: It seems he peaked during his time as a 2-year-old. This year has been rough on Anak Nakal.

His 87 Beyer in the Kentucky Derby tied his career best set in the Wood Memorial. The average winning speed at the Belmont is 102.

He has already finished behind Tale of Ekati in his fifth-place showing in the Wood Memorial. In the Kentucky Derby he finished seventh, 15 lengths away from Big Brown.

9. Ready’s Echo (30-1)

Strengths: Ready’s Echo last raced at Belmont Park in the mile and 1/8th Peter Pan. He set a career-best Beyer in the race of 91.

He has improved on his performance every time out in his career. This horse has never finished out of the money in any race.

His jockey John Velazquez knows his horse well, as he has raced on top of Ready’s echo every time. He is lightly raced, as the Belmont marks his fifth career start.

Weakness: The Belmont marks just his third graded stakes start.

He has already raced behind Casino Drive in his third-place performance in the Peter Pan, 6 1/4 lengths behind the Belmont’s second favorite.

He finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Z-Humor, who had a disappointing race in the Ohio Derby.

10. Icabad Crane (20-1)

Strengths: A third-place showing in the Preakness is nothing to be ashamed of. In the Preakness, Icabad Crane posted a career-best Beyer of 91. In fact, the horse has improved on his performance all but once in his racing career.

Coming off his best performance will be key for a horse who looks to improve every time out.

Icabad Crane has finished in the money in all five of his starts.

Weakness: Prior to the Preakness, Icabad Crane never ran in a graded stakes. In the Rush Away Stakes he posted a disappointing 76 Beyer.

He has never raced or even trained at Belmont Park. His speed may not be up to par for this race.

Nine of the 10 horses will try to derail Big Brown’s attempt at greatness. As I have said before, Big Brown is the best 3-year-old this year. But is he the best 3-year-old at a mile and a half?

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
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Posted June 5, 2008

The Field is Set for the 2008 Belmont Stakes

We are just days away from the Belmont Stakes, and we now know which horses will be running and from which post position. Favorite Big Brown drew the rail, as he will start from the first gate.

Big Brown has started from the outside gate (20) in the Kentucky Derby, the middle gate (7) in the Preakness, and now the rail in New York.

Ten horses will run in the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown is the favorite at 2/5. The second favorite is Casino Drive at 7/2. The rest of the field are considered longshots at above 12-1 odds.

Now, here’s are the postpositions for the Belmont Stakes.

1. Big Brown (2-5): Why not the first spot? There is not doubt Big Brown is the best 3-year-old in 2008. He has already won the Florida and Kentucky derbys, and cruised to an easy win at the Preakness. Now, the undefeated Colt will try to earn his place in history.

A loss in the Belmont Stakes will mark the 19th time a horse won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and failed to capture the last.

A victory marks him as the 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first to win the title since Affirmed in 1978.

2. Guadalcanal (50-1): I guess the Belmont has become a Maiden Race. That’s what it would become if Guadalcanal wins.

Guadalcanal has only $16,000 to career earnings and has yet to win a race in five starts.

The Belmont will be his sixth start with his last race coming May 23 at Churchill Downs. In the race that was run on turf, he lost by a nose. The race distance, 1 1/2 mile the same as the Belmont Stakes. He is the longest shot in the field, as he was a last-minute entry in the race. He is the sire of Graeme Hall, a previous winner of the Arkansas Derby.

3. Macho Again (20-1): Second-place Preakness finisher Macho Again, will again face off against Big Brown. Macho Again finished 5 1/2 lengths behind the Preakness winner at Pimlico.

He has already finished ahead of Belmont Stakes runner Da’ Tara in the Derby Trial.

Garrett Gomez will ride him in the race.

4. Dennis of Cork (12-1): As the third favorite in the race, Dennis of Cork will come off his layoff since finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. He finished 8 1/4 lengths away from Big Brown at Churchill Downs.

He enters the Belmont with $413,522 in career earnings. Robby Albarado has been chosen to ride Dennis of Cork. He last worked out Monday Morning at Churchill Downs where he ran four furlongs in 48.60.

5. Casino Drive (7-2): I’ve been waiting for this horse for weeks. After the Peter Pan Stakes, I said this could be a sleeper horse, but he will not sneak up on anyone now.

Japanese-owned Casino Drive took Belmont Park by storm on May 10, as he captured the mile and 1/8th Grade II Peter Pan by 5 3/4 lengths.

Kent Desormeaux, who will be on Big Brown Saturday, rode him in the Peter Pan. Edgar Prado will fill in as jockey on Saturday.

Casino Drive’s half-brother Jazil, and 3/4 sister Rags to Ritches have taken the Belmont Stakes the past two years.

6. Da’ Tara (30-1): Da’ Tara was at Pimlico for Preakness Day, but raced in the ungraded Barbaro Stakes instead of the main event. He finished second in the race, half a length away from Roman Emperor.

He finished fifth in the Derby Trial, a race that Belmont runner Macho Again won. He finished ninth in the Florida Derby behind Big Brown and Ohio Derby winner Smooth Air.

Alan Garcia will be the jockey for the Nick Zito-trained horse.

7. Tale of Ekati (20-1): Tale of Ekati can already claim two graded stakes to his resume. He won the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and won the Grade II Sanford as a 2-year-old.

He is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, as he was 11 lengths away from Big Brown. He is unbeaten in two starts at Belmont Park.

8. Anak Nakal (30-1): In his horseracing debut, Anak Nakal won his maiden at Belmont Park. As a 2-year-old, he started three times. He won a Grade II stakes and finished second in a Grade III. Since then, he has struggled.

In the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes he finished eighth;`in the Rebel he placed seventh; and in the Grade I Wood Memorial he finished behind Belmont runner Tale of Akati with a fifth-place showing.

He is the sire of Victory Gallop who won the Belmont in 1998.

9. Ready’s Echo (30-1): His last race was the Peter Pan Stakes and he hung in with winner Casino Drive, but finished 6 1/4 lengths away from him with his third-place showing.

John Velazquez will saddle Ready’s Echo trained by Todd Pletcher. He last trained on Belmont’s dirt Sunday, going five furlongs on the track in 1:00.91. The Belmont Stakes marks his fifth race.

10. Icabad Crane (20-1): After a strong third-place showing at the Preakness, Icabad Crane will once again try to chase down Big Brown, who beat him by 5 3/4 lengths at Pimlico.

Saturday marks his sixth start. He has never raced at Belmont Park.

Jeremy Rose will be the jockey for Icabad Crane; this marks the third straight time Rose will be on the horse.

There you have it, the field for the 130th running of the Belmont Stakes. Check in tomorrow, as I break down every horse in the field.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 4, 2008

A Look Back at 1988

There’s a point in everyone’s life where they are introduced to something special. Most people can pinpoint that exact moment. Whether it’s the first ball game or first time they laid eyes on their special someone. For horseracing and me, I can pinpoint it back to 1998.

It was May 5 of ’98, and the Cleveland Indians game just concluded on a Saturday. As my father and I were heading home from the game, we approached the exit to Thistledown racetrack. My dad made the quick exit and took me to the track for the first time ever to watch the Kentucky Derby on OTB monitors.

On the first Saturday of May in 1998, Real Quiet got off to a sloppy start. However, jockey Kent Desormeaux, who ironically enough will be riding Big Brown Saturday, kept him in contention throughout the race.

As the field turned for home, the 8-1 colt emerged. At the eighth pole, Real Quiet was in the lead, but was being chased down by Victory Gallop. Victory Gallop ran dead last at the half-mile pole in Louisville, and gained ground to try to catch a horse in what would establish one of horseracing’s biggest rivalries.

In the final strides, Real Quiet out-did rival Victory Gallop to capture the Kentucky Derby.

Two weeks later, Real Quiet drew the outside post in the 10-horse Preakness Stakes following the Derby. As he took his spot in the gate, he peered over to the left to see Victory Gallop in Gate nine.

As the horses made the far turn at Pimlico, both Real Quiet and Victory Gallop were at the front of the field.

At the quarter pole at Baltimore, both horses were first and second.

After making a wide turn, Real Quiet held on to the lead. He was on the outside, and Victory Gallop was on his inside.

As they reached the final furlong, Real Quiet bolted to a lengths lead. He held on to the lead to win by 2 1/4 lengths over his rival. He was going on to try to capture the Triple Crown.

As the Belmont Stakes approached, the rivalry between Victory Gallop and Real Quiet began to match the one established between Alydar and Affirmed in 1978. Affirmed held off Alydar in all three legs that year to capture the Triple Crown. He beat his rival by a combined two lengths in each race.

The 1998 rivalry between Real Quiet and Victory Gallop renewed on June 8 at Belmont Park. It was the final leg of the Triple Crown. Race experts agreed the only way Real Quiet was not winning the final leg was if Victory Gallop could beat him.

Leaving from Gate eight, Real Quiet tried to create history in the 130th running of the Belmont Stakes.

With five furlongs left in the race, Real Quiet sat in third place, a perfect striking distance with a majority of the race left. Rival Victory Gallop was 10 lengths off the lead.

As the horses hit the top of the stretch, Victory Gallop had already gained four lengths on the leader, but the new leader was Real Quiet.

Desormeaux ran Real Quiet strong, as his horse straightened and headed to the finish.

Legendary track announcer Tom Durkin, delivered another historic call. “He’s [Real Quiet] coming to the eighth pole. Twenty years in the waiting, one furlong to go. But here comes his rival Victory Gallop.”

With 1/16th of a mile left, Real Quiet was clinging to a one-length lead. Desormeaux was begging for everything his horse had left.

Victory Gallop made one final surge in the remaining yards, and then… the waiting game was played.

After a mile-and-a-half of racing in 2:29 flat, a photo had to determine the winner of the race.

None of the national TV pictures could detail who won the race.

The photo from Belmont Park showed that Victory Gallop finally beat out his rival by a nose.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but for this photo finish, it wasn’t. Even if Real Quiet won on the photo finish, he would have been disqualified for bumping his rival down the stretch.

After the race in 1998, I was distraught and in shock. I felt like I did in 1997 after the Indians lost in Game 7 of the World Series. From that point on, I became a fan of horse racing and felt the emotion just as if it were my favorite pro sports team.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 3, 2008

Just Do What It Takes to Win the Triple Crown

Just what does it take to win the Triple Crown? Skill… Luck… Both?

Only 11 horses can claim the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to their resume. Affirmed was the last horse to sweep the three races, as he out-did his biggest rival Alydar in each race.

In 1973, Secretariat let there be no doubt that he was the best, as he went on to win the Belmont Stakes by 30 lengths.

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, other horses have came close making history. However, they could not finish the grueling mile-and-a-half race as the victor. Let’s now reflect on some of the candidates who almost made history.


In 2004, Smarty Jones was the king of the 3-year-olds. In fact, Smarty Jones may go down as the best thoroughbred this century.

After winning the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths and then bulling over the competition at the Preakness by a record 11 1/2 lengths, Smarty Jones was undefeated heading into the Belmont Stakes.

After taking his spot in post No. 9 at Belmont Park, Smarty Jones was ready to make history. After getting off to a good start, he ran third through the first turn.

Down the back stretch at the Belmont, Smarty Jones took an early lead not even half way through the race.

Around the far turn, the undefeated colt had a 1 1/2 length cushion. As the field straightened and headed for home, Smarty Jones turned the middle and Birdstone took to the outside.

Tom Durkin then delivered his legendary call. “It’s been 26 years, it’s just one furlong away.”

In the final strides, Birdstone snuck past the race favorite and captured the 2004 Belmont Stakes by a length.

It was a great effort for a horse who would go on to win the 2004 U.S. 3-year-old colt of the year. But he didn’t have enough energy as he finished in second.


The first gelding to win the Kentucky Derby since 1929 ended up capturing the Preakess Stakes by 9 1/2 lengths, the second best in the race’s history.

Funny Cide entered Belmont Park on a sloppy rainy Saturday. He exited with a third-place finish, as he was never a serious contender.

Funny Cide was ridden strong in the Preakness and many people say he was just worn out. A few days prior to the race, Funny Cide was supposed to be breezed along the track. Instead of a light workout, the horse was ridden hard and race experts say that was a factor for his show performance.


About 103,000 people saw history at the Belmont Stakes in 2002. No, it wasn’t a Triple Crown winner. Instead, they saw a 70-1 long shot take the Belmont. Sarava paid $140.50 for a $2 ticket, making him the biggest longshot ever to win the race.

Kentucky-bred War Emblem captured the Kentucky Derby at 12-1 odds. He then breezed to an easy victory in the Preakness.

A bad start can cost you a race, and for War Emblem it was just that. The 3-year-old colt broke badly from the gate, stumbling almost to his knees.

War Emblem made a move with five furlongs to go, but as the field turned for home, the bad start caught up to him.

He ended up finishing eighth. A poor start could doom Big Brown, much like it did to War Emblem.

The 2008 Belmont marks the 10-year anniversary of Real Quiet’s near win of the Triple Crown. Log in tomorrow to read about his near-victory.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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Posted June 2, 2008

Belmont Week Begins

Ohio Derby Week has come and gone. It was fun to follow Ohio’s richest horse race, and it was a nice little break from the constant talk of the Triple Crown pursuit. Scroll down to find a link to my pictures from the 74th running of the Ohio Derby.

Now, we are back in full gear as we kick off Belmont Stakes week.

The unconfirmed runners for the Belmont include:

Anak Nakal


Big Brown

Casino Drive

Da’ Tara

Denis of Cork

Icabad Crane

Macho Again

Ready’s Echo

Mint Lane

Tale of Ekati

Of course, the field is always subject to change.

Now, here are some news and notes regarding the Belmont Stakes.

– After missing three workout days last week, it appears Big Brown is healthy. The undefeated colt has a new structure in his hoof, which appears to be going well.

“The little crack looks like it’s in pretty good shape,” said trainer Rick Dutrow.

Big Brown galloped around the track at Belmont Park Sunday, and it appears that he is ready to run this Saturday.

– Winner of the Grade I Wood Memorial Tale of Ekati, breezed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:11 4/5 on a sloppy Belmont Park surface Sunday.

He is trained by Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide, who too was in contention for the Triple Crown in 2003.

– Todd Pletcher trained Ready’s Echo, worked five furlongs at Belmont on Sunday in 1:00 4/5.

He finished third in the Peter Pan Stakes. A rider is yet to be determined to guide Ready’s Echo.

Casino Drive, who is likely to be the second favorite in the final leg, arrived on the scene on Saturday.

He is the three-quarter half brother of last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Ritches, and the half brother to Jazil the 2006 winner.

– Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dennis of Cork is slated to work out Monday at Churchill Downs. He will likely fly to New York on Tuesday along with Macho Again.

Tomcito and Spark Candle, who were rumored to start in the Belmont Stakes, were both officially ruled out for the mile-and-a-half race on Sunday. The two were longshots to win the race, and will focus on other graded events this summer.

The Belmont Stakes Draw will be Wednesday morning, 11 a.m. on ESPN News.

In my articles this week, you can expect to read about how to lose the Belmont, how to win the race, and of course an analysis of each horse in the field.

Now my photos from the 74th running of the Ohio Derby.

This is John Brown’s horse racing blog, where he’ll discuss horse racing news and release his picks.
Send John an e-mail here: [email protected].
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More of John Brown’s Horse Racing Blog Entries.