Vote now: Where will the Kentucky Derby winner come from?

Beautiful video of Frankel enjoying the winter scenery at the Manor

Thanks to Juddmonte Farms for sharing this video of Frankel

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D. Wayne Lukas chats about Calumet, Bill Parcells and Oxbow

From Oaklawn News and Notes, February 6, oaklawn.com:

 

Lukas and Kelley Bring Calumet Farm Back to Oaklawn

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is a student of racing history, necessarily as an author of so much of it, and is very excited as he sends out horses for owner Brad Kelley under his newly transferred banner of Calumet Farm.

Beginning Thursday, with Wine Glow in the seventh race, Kelley’s horses will now be listed as racing for the legendary Lexington, Kentucky stud. Kelley, who previously raced as Bluegrass Hall, was part of an investment group that purchased Calumet in May 2012 and Kelley leases the name and facility for his extensive breeding operation.

Through the middle of the 20th Century, Calumet Farm was synonymous with champions, from Citation through Alydar, many of which ran at Oaklawn. Of the 20 named barns at Oaklawn, four honor Calumet horses – Citation, Alydar, Davona Dale and Coaltown.

Lukas revolutionized racing beginning in the early 1980s and dominated the sport’s major events for more than two decades. Through mismanagement and fraud, the farm fell on hard times and lost its place among major operations. Lukas saw his spot at the pinnacle usurped in recent seasons (often by trainers he developed as assistants), but several important stakes wins this year and Kelley’s considerable commitments have the 77-year-old trainer looking forward to regular returns to the top.

“There’s such a tradition associated with the name and it has had such an impact on the sport over the years,” Lukas said. “[Kelley’s] program is a top-to-bottom plan from the studs to the broodmares to the yearlings. We already have some great opportunities here under the roof, but based on the way he’s going about it, we should have every opportunity to take it to the next level and have some fun for the next couple years.”

Lukas played a role in the last bits of glory for Calumet, training Criminal Type to a Horse of the Year title in 1990 – the last champion to race in Calumet’s original “devil red and blue” silks. Those colors were purchased by the Brazilian racing group Stud TNT and Kelley will continue to be represented by his black silks with gold chevrons.

“We had some really good luck training for them there at the end,” said Lukas. “I helped them get breeder of the year and horse of the year the last time, so it has really come full circle for me personally. I’m really looking forward to the chance to develop the same thing for the new ownership.”

Recent stakes wins by Calumet runners Optimizer and Oxbow show Lukas is well on his way to making the most of that chance. Optimizer, who was second in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn last year, recently won a stakes on grass at the Fair Grounds. Oxbow, who trains in Hot Springs, is pointing toward the Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans after taking the LeComte Stakes there Jan. 19.

“Oxbow is just super right now,” said Lukas. “He’s really an amazing horse with the way he trains.”

Lukas can also count another Hall of Famer as a client as retired football coach Bill Parcells was announced last weekend as an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“I had a great talk with him Monday,” said Lukas. “Late in his career, when he was hired by the Cowboys, he told me the thing he was going to miss most about going back to coaching was summers at Saratoga. He said the same thing last year when the Saints took a run at him. He loves his racing. I told him I really hope I can get away from Saratoga for his induction. I really want to be there. He’s a special guy.”

Lukas’s connections to legendary sports figures also include famed Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis. Both are part-owners of Titletown Five, a 3-year-old colt who returned to the workout tab Sunday for the first time since a dynamic win last October and subsequent minor knee surgery.

“He’s been galloping beautifully and he looked wonderful working the other morning,” said Lukas. “We are playing catch up. We know that. But it’s been my experience that horses with that kind of talent, it doesn’t take them as long to get back where they were. Horses without that kind of talent you have to work on and work on, but he’s got that gift. So, we are obviously coming along late to the party, but we are looking at mid-March and seeing where we are at. If he can come back to his form, he’s going to be something special.”

Todd Pletcher’s Poker Face

We couldn’t resist sharing the photos from Gulfstream Park of Todd P at the poker table during the Eclipse Awards Poker and Slots Tournament. Add your own bubble quotes!

todd p 1

todd p 3

todd p 2

Can you tell what kind of hand Dale’s got?

dale romans poker

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Renee’s Titan is a little nutty – but she’s good

The Santa Ynez was rendered Beholder’s walk in the park. It was supposed to be an easy comeback spot after her brilliant Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies win.

All was going to plan until, flying up the rail, came that nutty Renee’s Titan. A troublemaker in training, she’s got quite a closing kick and pulled off the 20-1 shocker with Tyler Baze for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Baze dropped his whip in the stretch – that one not Renee’s fault – but after the wire, she showed her usual spunk by veering, causing Baze to lose his balance and fall. Everyone appeared to be fine and Renee, riderless, zipped right over to the winner’s circle.

Apparently the daughter of Bernstein, whose broodmare sire is champion Tiznow, is quite the character.

“She’s got a few problems in her head, but she can really run when she holds it all together, and she proved that today,” Baze was quoted as saying in the Santa Anita press notes.

O’Neill assistant Leandro Mora said depositing riders is one of the filly’s fortes.

“She’s done it before, mostly in the mornings,” Mora said. “She dumped Kevin Krigger in a workout, so we keep company with her always. She’s so tough to train, we keep switching horses, and not the same horse every morning because she’ll run them out. We do what we have to.”

Quirkiness aside, the Kentucky-bred filly now has a graded stake win to her credit and ten Kentucky Oaks points to boot.

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Vote now: Will Eblouissante go 2 for 2?

Doug O’Neill at the Eclipse Awards: “Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have a great time.”

Doug O’Neill discusses his experience on the Triple Crown Trail with I’ll Have Another. Interesting insight into his thoughts on the Eclipse Awards – the voting and the party.

From Ed Golden, Santa Anita press notes:

Doug O’Neill is nothing if not a realist. If he had his druthers, he would love it if I’ll Have Another is named 2012’s Horse of the Year when the Eclipse Award winners are announced at Gulfstream Park a week from Saturday on Jan. 19.

But the 44-year-old trainer of the only winner of three Grade I races on dirt last year–the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes–realizes full well that voters chronically suffer from short attention span disorder, and since I’ll Have Another didn’t race the final seven months of last year, despite going unbeaten and winning all four of his starts, all stakes, he has virtually no chance to win Horse of the Year honors against the other two finalists, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned and favored Wise Dan.

Despite his vested interest, O’Neill can live with that.dpih

“Obviously, we’re very close to that picture, so it’s hard to be real impartial, but he’s Horse of the Year in our minds,” O’Neill said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse. Anytime you win the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, that’s quite a feat. The horse is a real champion.

“He brought Mario Gutierrez world-wide recognition, and that was huge in itself. I’ll Have Another was great to us and I think great for racing.”

No doubt about that. Now sold and retired to stud in Japan, I’ll Have Another was within a 36-hour countdown of making a bid for a Belmont Stakes victory and racing history by becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner, when a tendon injury put an end to that quest and ultimately resulted in his retirement.

Rival Horse of the Year finalists Fort Larned and Wise Dan had their day in the sun in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Fort Larned capturing the Classic and Wise Dan setting a course record of 1:31.78 in winning the Mile. For I’ll Have Another, it was out of sight, out of mind.

“I do think if you’re not running on Breeders’ Cup day, the voters definitely look down on that,” O’Neill said. “Because I’ll Have Another didn’t compete the last half of the year, he wasn’t fresh in their minds.

“Still, it’s an honor to be nominated. We’re all going to Florida and have a fun time. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have a great time.”

Team O’Neill will take solace with an Eclipse Award for I’ll Have Another as outstanding 3-year-old male of 2012, but O’Neill, never one to count his chickens before they hatch, was prepared in any case.

“We should be good there,” he said, “and if we’re not, that’s OK too.”

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What is Gary Stevens really saying?

We found another gem in Ed Golden’s recently compiled Santa Anita notes. This one’s about jockey Gary Stevens and the rampant rumors of a comeback since he was seen working horses at Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation Center.

From the notes:

Gary Stevens has dashed speculation that he would resume his riding career after an absence of seven years.

“As far as a comeback, I don’t know who’s spreading these rumors . . . I will be working for HRTV on opening day. That’s the only comment I have,” said the retired Hall of Fame jockey, who turns 50 next March 6.

Stevens, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner who rode for 27 years, announced his retirement on Nov. 27, 2005.

Stevens has been working horses recently at the Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond, Washington, and reportedly has his weight down to 122 pounds. The Pegasus operation is overseen by Stevens’ longtime friend, trainer Mike Puhich.

Hmmm. . . interesting comments from Mr. Stevens, but not really an all-out denial? Only time will tell.

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Buddies Martin Pedroza and Rene Douglas team up for the Malibu

From Ed Golden, Santa Anita Park press release:

Martin Pedroza and Rene Douglas have been friends for more than three decades.Natives of Panama, they attended jockey school there before migrating to the United States where they reached the upper echelon of their profession.

Douglas, a regular in Southern California before returning to the Chicago area where he was a six-time champion at Arlington Park, was paralyzed from the waist down in a tragic spill at that track on May 23, 2009.

Throughout his travails, Douglas maintained contact with Pedroza, who buoyed his spirits during bouts of depression, which diminished with time to the point that now Douglas is racing manager for the Good Friends Stable, which has Private Zone entered in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day next Wednesday. The rider: Martin Pedroza.

“Rene and Martin not only grew up together, they went to jockey school in Panama,” said Pedroza’s long-time agent, Richie Silverstein. “They’ve remained best friends and Rene suggested to Doug (O’Neill, who trains Private Zone) that because of his relationship with Martin, he’d like to keep him on the horse.”

Pedroza has ridden Private Zone in four of the gelding’s five U.S. starts, finishing second the last two, beaten only a length last out in the Grade III Vernon Underwood at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.

Douglas’ recovery has understandably been a work in progress.

“The first year and a half, he wouldn’t take phone calls, seemingly because he was depressed,” Silverstein said. “Now when I speak to him on the phone in Florida he seems in very good spirits. I know he goes to physical therapy every Saturday, but all in all, he’s sharp mentally and he knows his stuff.”

Added Pedroza: “It was rough in the beginning, but now I talk to him pretty much every day.”

As for Private Zone, who set the pace in his last two starts before he was overtaken in late stretch, Pedroza is optimistic, even though personally he’s coming off a forgettable Betfair Hollywood Park meet where he won only once from 68 mounts. He needs just one more victory to reach career milestone 3,500.

But right now, Pedroza’s focused on Private Zone. “I think he’s going to be all right,” Pedroza said.

The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: Fed Biz, Mike Smith; Jimmy Creed, Garrett Gomez; Drill, Martin Garcia; The Lumber Guy, John Velazquez; Politicallycorrect, Joel Rosario; Basmati, Mario Gutierrez; Castaway, Joe Talamo; Private Zone, Pedroza; Guilt Trip, Rafael Bejarano; and Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani.

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