Vineyard Haven Should Finally Get His Breeders' Cup Shot

Vineyard Haven is one of the most talented horses in training that has never raced in a classic or a Breeders' Cup. For the last two years he has been at the top of his class, but for a couple different reasons has not made it to the biggest races.

Hopefully, that will change in November.

In 2008 while owned by a partnership that included Bobby Frankel and Joe Torre, the talented Lido Palace colt romped in the Hopeful and Champagne (both gr. I) but Frankel decided against running him in the BC Juvenile because of the Santa Anita synthetic surface. Instead, they sold him to Godolphin for $12 million. It was huge news considering he was then thought of as the nation's top Kentucky Derby prospect.

Vineyard Haven was then sent to Dubai to prep for the 2009 Derby, but that didn't work out. He struggled training on synthetics, which was confirmed during a fourth-place finish in the UAE 2,000 Guineas. With the Derby dreams over, he was sent back to U.S. for a second-half campaign. Though he did win the De Francis Dash for his third grade I victory, the gray colt was DQ'd from a King's Bishop (gr. I) win before that and narrowly missed in the Cigar Mile (gr. I), which they chose instead of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile--again because of Santa Anita's synthetic surface.

Vineyard Haven sparkled in his 2010 debut--the James Marvin Stakes on opening day of Saratoga last week, setting a wicked-fast pace and still having plenty left to finish. He earned a 102 Beyer off a nearly eight-month layoff. Not too shabby. Other than Quality Road, he might be the fastest horse out there. I'm guessing we will hear plenty more from him the rest of the year and beyond. On Wednesday, Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee was kind enough to answer some questions about the star 4-year-old:

JS: He ran so well off a layoff in the James Marvin. Did you expect that because he had also run so well off a layoff in the King's Bishop last year?

RM: He did a lot of work for the race-he had a long, steady set of works. But he was not as sharp as he was as a 3-year-old, so we were a bit concerned. So we were pleasantly surprised to see how well he ran.

JS: He ran a huge race, especially the pace that he set. Were you at all concerned when you saw him run a :45 half-mile?

RM: Yeah, I was a little concerned, especially because the horse going with him, Flat Bold, was a nice horse and the rest of the field was good. But it was a muddy track and that might have helped. Sometimes it's hard to make up ground on an off track.

He's run some big races on the slop. That might be an advantage at the Breeders' Cup this year since it's at Churchill. It's been known to rain there in November.

JS: Speaking of which, are you pointing him toward the BC Sprint or the Mile?

RM: I think the Dirt Mile more than the Sprint. It's a one-turn mile and he has such a high cruising speed. I think it will suit him well.

JS: It's kind of a shame to think that this horse hasn't run in a Breeders' Cup race after being such a talented horse the last two years.

RM: Last year we had the Cigar Mile targeted for him. The way he trained in Dubai, we had no confidence in him on synthetics. The De Francis and the Cigar Mile were nice alternatives. But we're looking forward to giving him a chance run in the Breeders' Cup. He deserves it.

JS: I read that you guys considered pointing him for the Woodward but ultimately decided on the Forego for his next start. Is that true?

RM: Yes, we thought about stretching him out and that time might come at some point. But he is so good at seven-eighths, especially at Saratoga, and the Forego is too good a spot to pass up right now.

JS: What about his prep for the Breeders' Cup? Any races that you have in mind?

RM: Nothing right now, although the Kelso at Belmont was moved from turf to dirt this year. That is one option as a prep.

JS: You are fortunate to have three exceptional sprinters-Vineyard Haven, Gayego, and Desert Party. I know that Gayego and Desert Party are pointing for the Vanderbilt in a couple weeks. I guess you would like to try to keep all of them separated after that?

RM: Yes, Gayego will run in the Vanderbilt and then there is there are the Vosburgh and Ancient Title in California-which he won last year-later this fall.  A lot depends on the Vanderbilt. We'd like to keep them separated, but they do have different running styles. Gayego likes to come from off of it and so does Desert Party. So in theory, they wouldn't get in each other's way.

JS: A lot was made of the price that was paid for Vineyard Haven. Does it feel any more satisfying that he has proven to be a top caliber horse and he has maybe justified the price tag?

RM: He was really bought to be a racehorse, not a stallion prospect. I think you will see him race for a while. He will probably stay in training next year at least and hopefully win a lot more races. He's a top caliber horse. He won a grade I as a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old, so it would be nice to win the Forego and get one as a 4-year-old.


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"102 beyer not too shabby off 8 month lay-off" "doesn't like synthetics" "just missed" "didn't work out" "for different reasons didn't go to the big dance"...

ahh, JS, when you like a horse...

28 Jul 2010 1:20 PM

I am skeptical of any colt being bought as "a racehorse, not a stallion prospect" when the sales price is more than he could possibly earn in his career.  That said, it's nice to see Vineyard Haven running this year, and makes me think the only positive thing to come out of this crummy economy is that a lot of colts appear to have their stud careers delayed.  Which is nice for us fans.  I hope VH runs next year, too.

28 Jul 2010 1:29 PM

I love Vinyard Haven, and it's too bad he didn't get a legitimate shot as a 3YO what with all the time spent in Dubai. I hope they're serious about leaving him in training at age 5.

28 Jul 2010 1:44 PM

vineyard haven isn't the fastest sprinter out there this yr that title belongs to majesticperfection who won the iowa sprint handicap in 1:07 and change earning a 117 beyer

28 Jul 2010 1:53 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Excellent recap of Vineyard Haven's career so far. He was superb in his last and I was thinking at the time also that the only horse I know of that could have challenged him is Quality Road. I'm really rooting for Vineyard. It's been a tough road for him. I like to see him win a Breeder's. Another smart one that likes the smell of dirt. It's unfortunate that synthetics got in his way.

28 Jul 2010 2:03 PM
In aint easy being good!

Nicole well said. You think about it they came back with QR, Zenyatta, IWR, RA, Curlin its great to see all these owners give back to the fans. I hope this trend continues. BTW I am curious is a horse considered in his prime at 4 years old or 5???  

28 Jul 2010 2:17 PM

Nice interview.  Did RM mention what the plans are for Girolamo?  

28 Jul 2010 3:11 PM

It ain't easy,

In racing 3-4 are the ages of prime, however, IMO if manged right, and that does not mean coddling the horse from start to finish, and they are allowed to race longer, I believe 4-6 could be the prime ages. Horses don't stop growing and aren't physically mature until they are six years old. They continue to fill out, and some even contiune to gain height, though not by much. Some horses are more precosious than other, I know I spelled that wrong, however, IMO that is due to their growing pattern. LAL matured very quickly, even for a Smart Strike colt. Though, he does seem to keep on maturing, even though he was so good while so young. SB didn't get good until mid way through his 3 year old year, Zenyatta wasn't even raced until November of 07. Physical maturity is not all of it of course, desire and mental maturity has to be their along with the physical talent. So, while a horse may be at their best if allowed to race from 4-6, they also need to have the mentality and desire to run. Mentality may come later, but the desire mixed with the other two is what seperates great from good.

28 Jul 2010 3:12 PM
Jason Shandler

Whatever Rachel. Next time VH races, get back to me and you can put your $ where your mouth is.

Trebloc: Sorry, I didnt ask about Girolamo.

28 Jul 2010 3:37 PM

I like Vineyard.  I just wish that we would see more of him.  It seems to me that he either has physical issues or maybe owner/trainer issues.  They are letting the best part of his career slip away from him, but they're also famous for that.

28 Jul 2010 3:44 PM


I agree. I'm not sure if it's soundness issues, it very well might be. But I wish if he really was sound they would race him more often.

28 Jul 2010 4:43 PM
Diane J

I don't understand why Godolphin continues to buy up two year olds and then ship them to Dubai to prepare for the American classics. I think Vineyard Haven would have been much better off staying here.  He is a nice horse and I hope he continues to win.

28 Jul 2010 4:43 PM
In aint easy being good!

Well said LDP! Who does everyone like this weekend. Personally I think Fly Down might be running for 2nd due to the outside post and 121 weight he was assigned.

28 Jul 2010 5:55 PM


That is called ego. The sheik is absorbed with winning the Derby, but winning it HIS way.

28 Jul 2010 6:01 PM

Someone, on the last blog, quoted Einstein's definition of insanity... I wonder if the powers that be, in Dubai, have ever heard of it. Maybe somebody should clue them in. lol!

28 Jul 2010 6:19 PM
Ida Lee

I was not a happy camper when VH was bought and taken to Dubai. I love me my greys and VH is one of the prettier and more talented  ones and I just adored him. I was quite glad when he came back and I think he's been running beautifully. I hope he makes it to the BC this year.

28 Jul 2010 7:13 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Diane J

  Good point. I think Frankel would have sold him no matter what for 12 million, but I don't think that Frankel thought that Vineyard Haven could win The Derby. I think he thought of him more as a miler or sprinter so he was thrilled to get that price which i thought was 9 or 10 million but apparently was a whopping 12 million. I'm sure Frankel wanted to win The Derby as much as anyone so I do wonder if there was a possibility of him not selling him if he really thought he could win The Derby. But you're right. Thinking they can take them to Dubai and get them ready for The Derby, then bring them back just in time to run in The Derby and think they can win seems pretty far fetched to me. But the Mets did win the World Series in 1969. I don't think they have the pitching staff in Dubai to compete in The Derby.

28 Jul 2010 7:33 PM

It ain't easy, I'll have to look at the field for the Jim Dandy again, and some others when the PP's are released, they can make or break a horse sometimes. I'll probably write about them on my own blog and here, like I did Del Cap week. One thing you can bank on is that two of my top three will hit the board, lol. All you have to do is decide which horse on my top three you think should be tossed.

28 Jul 2010 8:12 PM

Wow, an unprovoked attack by Rachel.  She's not an ex-girlfriend, is she Jason?

I like Vineyard Haven and look forward to his career.

28 Jul 2010 8:32 PM
Pam S.

I agree with Nicole.  I bet in this economy, there is a lot of wheeling and dealing going on with the stallions' fees, and if that's the breeding environment, why shouldn't such a talented and lightly raced horse stay on the track for another year?  But I too doubt he'll earn back his purchase price.

I also agree with Diane J, if some of these colts were left in the U.S. and prepared more traditionally, one of them would probably win the Derby.  Or it might have happened already.

28 Jul 2010 8:35 PM

No apology needed but, I predict Girolamo to win the Breeders Cup mile.  I like Super Saver in the Haskell, and with the death of Mr. Beck, I will be betting the house on Afleet Express.  If my memory is correct whenever a big time owner dies or trainer retires, his last horse he trains seems to win and the first horse after the death of the owner they win.  Not that I am saying the fix is in.

28 Jul 2010 8:45 PM
mike rullo


why didnt you ask rick mette about girolamo??

28 Jul 2010 9:25 PM
Jason Shandler

Just forgot Mike

28 Jul 2010 10:11 PM

Vineyard Haven is a class act indeed.  His 2008 Champaigne Stakes victory under Edgar Prado was the most impressive performance by any 2YO that year, and with hindsight he would have revelled in the mud of Derby 2009, won by Mine That Bird.  If Godolphin were a bolder enterprise they would send this colt to test 'His Royal Highness' Quality Road in the Woodward.  He is fast, tenacious and very game.  Otherwise, The Forego promises an intriguing match up with Big Drama, another super talented colt from the 2YO class of 2008.

My winning selections for the Jim Dandy and Haskell respectively, are Friend Or Foe and Super Saver.  

Can't wait to see Quality Road's exhibition in the Whitney ...its gonna be awe-inspiring.  

28 Jul 2010 10:39 PM

I hope we get wins by Afleet Express and Trappe Shot this weekend.  We need some second half of the year three year olds that can bring a little more excitement than those who raced in the Triple Crown.

28 Jul 2010 11:03 PM

I also can't wait to see Quality Road in the Whitney. I think this horse has got a shot at a track record every time he runs.

29 Jul 2010 12:27 AM
The Deacon

Excellent interview Jason.  Vineyard Haven is a classy horse, it just shows that many horses that go to Dubai are not the same when they get back. Vineyard Haven does however look kije he is indeed peaking. Hope the best for him. If Twice Over comes back for the Classic this year I think he has a great shot at winning.

29 Jul 2010 3:01 AM


29 Jul 2010 3:20 AM


I wouldn't say Lookin at Lucky wasn't exciting. I think during the trail and the TC itself he had so much trouble that in the one race he had a decent trip, the harshness and amount of trouble he had in his last three races had caught up to him. I wouldn't give up on him yet. He has remained the top of his class for so long and that is not an easy thing to do.

29 Jul 2010 7:30 AM
In aint easy being good!

I like this blog QR gets some love. LDP lets hear your top 3 horses! Yes jason I still owe you its coming soon I have the address still! I think Fly Down is in trouble on Saturday. You guys think super saver huh what about first dude he seems to be getting better and better. The haskell is going to be hard to handicap. Alot of theses horses havent raced in 2 months.

29 Jul 2010 12:57 PM

Good question about Girolamo - his whole season has been a giant waste of time. I hate that they skipped the whole year with him (with all of these horses) just so they can get maybe 2 or 3 races into them. I haven't heard one peep about Girolamo from Godolphin....frustrating.

29 Jul 2010 2:07 PM
Ted from LA

Try as I may, I cannot think of one clever thing to say between the Belmont Stakes and the Travers.  Do you know why dogs lick their own genitals?  The answer is so obvious it is embarrassing that I even asked the question.  But it does remind me that I need to take up Yoga.  However, since I am not really from LA the nearest Yoga joint is probably 640 miles from my nearest mule.

Ted from LA is going into seclusion to try to get in touch with his inner hairy man.

29 Jul 2010 2:43 PM
Paula Higgins

I like Vineyard Haven too but I don't know that he is the second fastest horse out there right now. That remains to be seen.

29 Jul 2010 2:54 PM
In aint easy being good!

K another question for you guys. With a field for the haskell being very competitive dont you think First Dude has an advantage over everyone else? He has a better post than LAL and Trapp Shotte and has a 4 lbs wieght break on LAL and supersaver. My question is will 4 lbs make a big difference?? I feel like First Dude has a huge advantage over the field.

29 Jul 2010 3:07 PM
Cowboy Adventure

Thank you for this interview. I love Vineyard Haven and have been waiting for him to race.  That would be great if he made it to the Breeder's Cup. Though I hope he doesn't run against Big Drama - I can't choose between the two!  I'd have to go with Big Drama!

Did Rick mention anything about Vale of York?  I miss him...I saw him race in the Breeders Cup; he galloped out right in front of me and I knew right then he was going to win the race - what happended to him?

29 Jul 2010 4:20 PM

Well, the Haskell is one tough race to try and handicap. My top three are LAL, First Dude, and ODK.

Other horses racing on the Monmouth card I'm interested in watching are Rated Fiesty and Charitable Man. Both have show they can run well, but don't always put forth their best effort.

For the Jim Dandy, I like Afleet Express, Fly Down, and Winslow Homer.

I know the Diana is chalky, but I'm not good at capping turf races. I'll go with Maram, Proviso, and FT.

In the Ruffian I'll take UB, MP, and TT.

Thats all the races I've done for now.

29 Jul 2010 5:59 PM

You're right LDP, LAL is a classy horse.  I'd like to see one of the others become a blow me away superstar though.

29 Jul 2010 6:12 PM
Pedigree Shelly

        I cant't wait for the Haskell !! This should be Trappe Shot's coming out party ! This years 3yr old crop has been boring to say the least ! If Trappe Shot wins the Haskell , we'll have some exciting new blood in the 3yr old division :)

trappe Shot's coming out party !!

29 Jul 2010 6:20 PM
Pedigree shelly

       2.24 ,I posted my blog before I read yours ! You must have been reading my mind !

29 Jul 2010 6:27 PM

I don't usually give picks, but here they are:

In the Haskell I'll take Uptowncharliebrown, Lookin At Lucky and Our Dark Knight

In the Ruffian I'll take Tasty Temptation, Unrivaled Belle and Malibu Prayer(almost typed Barbie)

In the Diana I'll take Phola, Forever Together and Proviso

In the Jim Dandy I'll take Winslow Homer, Fly Down and take a flyer with Steinbeck even though he probably won't run a lick on dirt.

Good luck everyone!

29 Jul 2010 7:37 PM


Lucky, IMO, could've been that horse with some cleaner trips. He's never really had an "off" day, just bad trips, excuse me horrible trips. Even with just normal trips we may have had a huge star this spring. Cleaner trips could've left him fresher for the rest of the TC and I have no doubt he would've been right there, if not the winner, if he had run in the Belmont. He may not blow people away by margins, but neither does Zenyatta.

IMO he never really got the chance to show what he was made of this year, because he was so hindered. By the time he did get a decent trip, I would say it was safe to say that some of the spark had been taken out of him.

Hopefully a fresh, more mature, and lucky, Lucky will prove me right in the Haskell.

29 Jul 2010 9:13 PM

I'm just glad they brought back Gayego to the states.  From his last race, I think it's pretty obvious he doesn't like synthetics and looking forward to his race in the Vanderbilt.

Haskell picks :  Since there's a chance of rain and a sloppy track, I'll definitely stick with IceBox   with SS, FD and Trappe Shot and LAL.  I had LAL for 2nd in the other blog but with that draw, not sure if he can overcome it specially if the track comes up sloppy (almost like Kentucky Derby again.)

Jim Dandy : Fly Down/Afleet Express with Aikenite and Friend Or Foe.  DRF reports Winslow Homer will be running in the Curlin.

29 Jul 2010 10:43 PM

i hope they stretch him out he's bred for distance

30 Jul 2010 12:19 AM


30 Jul 2010 12:24 AM


VH is a nice horse that has been overpowering weak opposition and I do not think he merits the attention you have given to him. That said he was visually impressive in his last victory. How could you enquire about Desert Party and not Regal Ransom who defeated him the last two times they met? I have been out of the loop so pardon me if had missed the announcement of his retirement. He is by far the faster of the two.

A horse I think you should be focused on is Skipshot. He seems to be improving along a similar line to that of his late sire Skip Away. Skip Away certainly got better with at late 3 and was a monster as a 4YO. Skipshot is by a rarely seen Sonny’s Halo broodmare which makes him a very interesting colt. Every talented horse sires at least one brilliant prodigy and I think he is the one for the brilliant Skip Away.

Another colt of interest is my pick for the Jim Dandy, Friend or Foe. I predicted sometime ago that Friends Lake will eventually turn out to be A.P. Indy’s best son at stud. A. P. Indy was sired by a HOY (Seattle Slew) and his dam was sired by a HOY (Secretariat) Friends Lake was sired by a HOY (A. P. Indy) and his dam was sired a HOY (Spend A buck) Friend or Foe has no business running 7F in 1:21 and change. His sire Friends Lake was no sprinter and sires of his first and second dams, Unbridled and Crystal Waters were G1 winning routers.


I see you are maintaining your confidence in Super Saver. Emotions must not be a substitute for cold facts. Ice Box was stopped numerous times on horrible track in the derby and still had the best finishing kick. This suggests that SS was a shade lucky to emerge the victor. Do you really believe he will be capable of out running this colt with hopefully less perils? It’s possible but only if Ice Box has regressed. Mr. Pletcher is good but he is not magician. Outside of SS being average, there is a bit of history going against him. Only two derby winner have won the previous 42 runnings of the Haskell. (Big Brown/War Emblem) If you have suddenly dropped into despair, here is bid of information that should reverse your state. Your trainer has won two of the last four running. (Any Given Saturday/Bluegrass Cat)  Do you think SS’s ability is comparable to the aforementioned colts? I wagered on First Dude in the Preakness as he looked the best in the post parade. He was in receipt of a horrible ride from the grossly overrated but very average Ramon Dominguez. I am happy that Mr. Romans has come to the realization that you cannot select a boy to do a man’s job. Wager First Dude and WATCH THE RIDE.

30 Jul 2010 8:35 AM

LDP, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing that.  I love the owners and trainer of LAL.

30 Jul 2010 11:17 AM

RA to the Personal Ensign.  Let's hope Zenayatta is on the next plan to Saratoga.  Enjoy the weekend!  

30 Jul 2010 1:08 PM


As always I enjoy sparring with you on th subject of classy thoroughbreds.  You should temper your criticism of a good horse in terms of the weak opposition that shows up against them, as you've done with Vineyard Haven. Think about it.

We're agreed on Friend Or Foe for the Jim Dandy but I believe that Super Saver will cause you to smell crow in the Haskell.

30 Jul 2010 2:07 PM


Most race fans enjoy "watching the ride" when the jockey is Calvin Borel, therefore you should take your own advice when viewing The Haskell and save your money (be a super saver dude).

Having mentioned Todd Pletcher's history of success in this "Midsummer Classic" a la Bluegrass Cat / Any Given Saturday of yesteryear it should really be a no-brainer for you that Super Saver will likewise improve off his Kentucky Derby form, but alas, you've drawn another unpredictable conclusion.  I wouldn't knock First Dude but that colt is becoming a habitual "bridesmaid" (not knowing how to be in front where it matters most.  I wish you luck 'cause you're gonna need it friend.  

Never mind the excuses for Ice Box in the Derby, a 2 1/2 lengths beating suggests that Super Saver has his measure, not to mention the reduction in distance and that Monmouth Park is kinder to front-running and stalking types.  Looking At Lucky and Afleet Again are Super Saver's main dangers.      

30 Jul 2010 3:12 PM


bobby frankel tricked godolphin into paying 12million for VH. they were originally going to buy him for 3 million but frankel said he would win the derby if all goes well. then they offered 6million for VH. Then bobby said he could win the triple crown. thats when the 12 million came in and that was there final offer and bobby agreed.

30 Jul 2010 4:32 PM


coldfacts is still mad due to the fact sidney's candy didn't even hit the board in the derby.

30 Jul 2010 4:35 PM

VH.....such a beautiful horse!

30 Jul 2010 6:59 PM

So wonderful to see that a horse from my old mare's family finally vindicated my hopes that she or a daughter would get lucky and come up with something of highest class. Endurance on the part of his breeder should be highly commended as she had faith in her foundation mare,kept breeding her daughters to the best available, had good management and won!

Interestingly, all the produce are gray that I know about, except one, and they are all nice movers that look very much alike. My Spectacular Bid mare from that group looks extremely similar to VH. Gold is where you find it!

31 Jul 2010 8:43 AM
Ann in Lexington

Vineyard Haven was never anybody's idea of a stallion prospect. His sire Lido Palace stayed well enough (Premio St. Leger in Chile - a race also won by his half-sister - and good seconds in the JC Gold Cup and Suburban) but the damside is sprint-oriented. US breeders are painfully xenophobic when it comes to pedigrees with names they don't recognize, so Lido Palace was never going to get the mares his racing prowess (a Whitney, two Woodwards) earned him. And he is small, too; the fashion is for big horses.  VH's dam has the blue-est of blue collar pedigrees; you have to go back to the fifth dam to find one gotten by a first class racehorse and sire, and back to the seventh dam to find one that produced any kind of black type horse before Princess Aloha showed up. Interestingly, VH's grey coat goes straight up the female line to his sixth dam, sired by the grey sprinter-miler and chef-de-race Abernant. But I digress.

VH was not purchased as a stallion prospect. He had shown his heels to the best East Coast 2yos so was spoken of as a leading Derby prospect and that prompted his sale to Godolphin. These are the same people who overpaid for so many decent Derby prospects like Ruler's Court. Their concept of money is different from ours.

31 Jul 2010 11:40 AM

I LOVE this horse. I have been following him since I first saw him race. I fell in love when he ran in Saratoga at the Kings Bishop and am now completely depressed to think I missed him at Saratoga this year. It is incredibly difficult to search when particular horses are running and that is frustrating. Vineyard Haven will be an unforgettable name, just watch!

03 Aug 2010 8:44 PM

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