Bemont Stakes review and looking ahead

Racing didn't get a Triple Crown winner, but it got a compelling race in the Belmont Stakes.

Union Rags was a deserving winner. He showed class and stamina rallying up the rail to beat Paynter by a neck. Union Rags was America's best two-year-old in 2011, and there is still an outside, remote shot he could be our best three-year-old in 2012. To earn that honor, Union Rags needs to get faster. He still hasn't jumped forward at age three from a speed figure standpoint (he was given a 96 Beyer speed figure for the Belmont), but this is a win he can build on in the second half of the year.

Paynter also aquitted himself well. He set all the fractions and turned back Optimizer, Unstoppable U and Atigun before succumbing late. I did not like Mike Smith's ride on Paynter.

Smith used Paynter too early (did he think he was on Bodemeister!?) and then compounded that error by allowing Union Rags to rally up the rail. A rematch of these two in a race such as the Jim Dandy at Saratoga would be interesting. The Belmont was only Paynter's fifth career race. He is a major talent.

Atigun ran a surprisingly nice race to be third. This is an interesting pedigree --  by second-crop sire Istan (Gone West), out of a Dynaformer mare.

Street Life ran ok to finish 4th, beaten 7 1/2 lengths, but his lack of early speed is going to continue to haunt him. He may need class relief or he could try turf next.

The two other horses coming out of the Belmont that interest me are Dullahan and Unstoppable U. Dullahan is better than he showed here, but I am still not sure how good he is. He might go back to turf for his next start. His stride has always looked a little choppy on dirt, and a little more efficient on turf or the synthetics.

Going into the Belmont I thought Unstoppable U was a horse to watch, although not necessarily in this race. His first two career starts were really nice, much better than they look on paper, but the connections got a little too ambitious by putting him in the Belmont coming off a one-turn mile win at the NW1  level. He flashed enough ability in the Belmont to keep me interested in his next start.

Here are my notes on a few other members of this crop that could have a good second half of the year:

Bodemeister: He could be unbeatable in a race like the Haskell, at nine furlings on a speedy track. I predict they'll have trouble filling the gate if Bodemeister goes here.

Howe Great: He ducked out at the start from the 13-hole in the American Turf S. (G2) and found himself much further back than he is used to. His rally for third behind Silver Max was a good effort. Those two will rematch Wednesday night (!) in the Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs. That race drew a field of 12, including Travel Advisory and Cozzetti.

Finnegan's Wake, who closed for 4th in the American Turf, returned Sunday to win an allowance race at Churchill with an impressive late burst. Look for this son of Powerscourt (GB) back in graded stakes company next time.

Speaking of turf sires, I am looking forward to seeing Optimizer get back on the turf when/if he recovers from his ill-advised Triple Crown campaign. Optimizer ran in all three legs of the TC and hasn't seen turf since his first two career starts, which produced a maiden win and a second in the With Anticipation Stakes, where he was beaten by State of Play but finished ahead of Dullahan.

Optimizier is by English Channel, a superior turf influence and one of my favorite new sires in years.

Went the Day Well: If I could have picked one horse out of this year's Derby to skip the Preakness and aim for the Belmont, this would have been the one. I think Went the Day Well can run all day. He is being pointed to the 1 1/4-mile Travers, and his connections will consider the Jim Dandy or a confidence-building prep in New York-bred company.

What three-year-olds are you interested in watching, and perhaps betting on, in the second half of 2012?


Leave a Comment:


I had stopped coming to the Bloodhorse for handicapping bc JShandler wasn't really a good handicapper although he was a decent horse writer. I'd bet my house he isn't a positive ROI bettor for his life. Point being that I have read two of your columns and although I may not see eye to eye about some horses, you sure sound like a serious handicapper. What do you make of a horse like Paynter who couldn't collar Hierro in the Trial and then Hierro basically got outclassed by 5 or 6 horses in the Woody Stephens? Where does he fit? I don't think he can win a Grade 1 race on the lead at 9f+ and he doesn't seem explosive enough to win middle distance sprints at this level.  I think he will be hard to spot for a win unless they start showing up at Lonestar, Indiana, or Parx(i.e. not in Ny, or Socal) for some of the lower tier Grade 1/2 events.

11 Jun 2012 8:47 PM

I am interesting in finding Bodemeister and Street Sense.

11 Jun 2012 9:50 PM
Minnesota Kid

I know everyone wants to focus on the 3YO routers, but we do have an interesting and talented 3YO sprinter that deserves attention.

It is unfortunate that this colt's connections seemed to contract Derby fever in late April, but, based on Saturday's Woody Stephens Stakes, he seems to have recovered nicely.

Of course, I am speaking of Trinniberg, winner of three graded stakes races this year, so far.

My ? is this--what if Trinniberg were to win the Carry Back(or the Smile) next month at Calder, then the King's Bishop at Saratoga in late August, then one of the BC preps, and then the BC sprint in early November?

And what if no 3YO router dominates the second half of the year? That could allow Trinniberg to become an Eclipse Award finalist, right?

Could someone(maybe Pete Denk, or Gun Bow, Slew, 2:24, or one of the many other bright posters) please tell me the last time a 3YO sprinter was even a finalist for 3YO male?

My memory says maybe LOST IN THE FOG, 2005, but I'm not sure.

11 Jun 2012 10:20 PM
Pete Denk

Uncle Stosh, thanks for the compliment.

I don't absolutely LOVE Paynter as a racehorse, but I did like him in the Belmont based on raw ability, the forecasted trip, and breeding.

I *think* he's a two-turn, 9-10f horse capable of running 100+ Beyers. Compare the internal fractions of his NW1 at Pim on 5-19 with the Preakness fractions.

The Pimlico race was probably the race he should have gotten after the maiden win: a confidence-building NW1 around two turns. But they tried him in the SA Derby instead (and he broke slowly and kinda looked lost).

I understand your concerns about the Derby Trial cross-form (Stealcase did come back and win big), but I am not using that race as my eval of Paynter because it was run on a sloppy sealed CD surface and because that trip might be a little sharper than he should be running to get the most out of his abilities.

I like him sitting just off the pace and taking control somewhere in the final 3f.

12 Jun 2012 12:05 AM

I don't necessarily agree with you that Mike Smith gave Paynter a bad ride though I concede that it was a a bit of a tactical error to leave the rail open.  It can't always be helped and it wasn't like he left a gaping chasm for Union Rags to come through.  But the question you asked was who else I want to watch this year...

Hansen, Gemologist, Creative Cause, Trinniberg. All good colts coming into the derby that could still have big races ahead of them.  Actually Trinniberg already has...

12 Jun 2012 12:27 AM
Pete Denk

Minnesota Kid-

I loved Trinniberg's first two races of 2012.

He ran fast final times AND he came home fast in his two victories this year – striding out nicely while running his final three furlongs in 36-3 in the Swale Stakes and 36-flat in the Bay Shore.  

I was worried that the Derby might have taken something out of him, but like u said, he looked like his old self winning the W. Stephens.

The 3yo title usually is reserved for classic distance form, and rightfully so imho.

Sprint champ and "Finalist" for champ 3yo would be great accomplishments for Trinniberg.

12 Jun 2012 12:37 AM
Pete Denk


My biggest problem with Smith's ride was that he was pumping Paynter for speed out of the gate. He ran a sub-24 first quarter, and I think that's a bad idea if u want to finish going 12f. Don't ask a horse for multiple moves if it's not necessary.

He could have galloped out of there and found comfortable pressing/stalking position.

12 Jun 2012 12:42 AM

Bodemeister and Paynter are obviously two of the best colts in this crop and both should go on to win major stakes. Hierro beat Paynter on a sealed sloppy surface when Paynter was shipping in from Cali, so I wouldn't knock Paynter for losing that one.

However, Baffert is becoming more like Lukas every day... training them hard and fast in the morning and send them to the lead in the afternoon.

I feel the outcome of every triple crown race could have been different had Bodemeister and Paynter been given different trips. I still don't understand why Bodemeister didn't rate off Trinniberg in the Derby. In the Belmont, even Smith admitted that he screwed up by letting Johnny V up the rail. If Smith holds the rail, there is no way Union Rags gets out with Leparoux on his outside.

I guess since the Breeders Cup is at Santa Anita, it should be an advantage to have a horse with early speed, which should benefit Bode and Paynter.  They should also be double tough in the BC since they will be at home.

Speaking of the BC at SA, it should be fun to watch Trinniberg take his game out West. He seems to take his track with him and it should be fun to watch him try to run older horses off their feet on what is typically a very fast surface.

Trinniberg could have a monster season and still not win the 3-year-old Eclipse. There is way too much emphasis but on the triple crown.  Also, there is way too much politics involved in the Eclipse voting. Last year Caleb's Posse was screwed out of an Eclipse by Animal Kingdom, who is mostly owned by Barry Irwin, who was a journalist. Well since the Eclipse is mostly determined by journalists, doesn't there seem to be a conflict of interest here? Reddam has been in the game for quite sometime and has pumped plenty of cash into the game. I'm sure he has plenty of friends around the track, so, I'll Have Another has 3-year-old Eclipse in the bag.

Anyway, good job Pete on giving out the late Pick 4 on Belmont day and a key win play on Love to Run in the MSW early in the card. I liked Papaw Bodie in the Manhattan at a price, but included Desert Blanc on my ticket after checking the Locksmith.

12 Jun 2012 12:52 AM

Any news about Secret Circle ?  He was my derby horse.  Also looking forward to seeing El Padrino, Gemologist and Alpha.  Is Alpha okay ?

Pete : Agree with UncleStosh about you being a serious handicapper.  I'm more inclined to watch the THS now just to see who your pick is and why.  I also got a sense that you're more of a longshot player.

12 Jun 2012 1:25 AM

Minnesota Kid:

I am not sure the last time a pure sprinter was a finalist for the 3 year old Eclipse.  Caleb's Posse was obviously a finalist last year, but he's more of a miler.  I don't know if Lost in the Fog was a finalist for the 3 year old Eclipse, but he won the Sprint Eclipse.

As for Trinniberg's chances at the 3 year old Eclipse, I agree with Pete.  Actually, I will go a step further: Trinniberg has NO CHANCE at the 3 year old Eclipse with a schedule such as the Smile/Carry Back, King's Bishop, Vosburgh, BC Sprint.  No way a sprinter is unseating a dual classic winner and 3-time grade 1 route winner.

If Trinniberg does pull off a schedule like that, he'll get the Sprinter Eclipse.  But the waters will get a lot deeper for him when he has to face older.  The Woody Stephens, however, was easily his most impressive effort to date, because for the first time in his 3 wins this year he actually ran fast early.  Still want to see how he will respond to a sub-44 pace, the type of pace he'll see out at Santa Anita for the Breeder's Cup.

12 Jun 2012 2:36 AM
Susan W.

Gemologist is now back in training.

I feel he is worth a mention here for the late-summer and fall classics.

12 Jun 2012 5:36 AM

I'm looking forword to seeing Hanson run his proper distance of a mile or less. I'd like to see how he would do against Trinniberg spinting. I think Hanson could be the best sprinter or miler in the Country. I'm also looking forward to the queen's plate June 24th I'm Canadian and our Triple crown is important to us. River Rush a non winner breaking from the outside just set a track record at 1 1/8 miles at woodbine in the plate trial he looks like a good one. Lots of good racing coming up this year I think this years crop was excellent.

12 Jun 2012 6:11 AM

I completely agree with you on Went The Day Well, the decision to run him in the Preakness rather than the Belmont baffled me, as I thought the stretch run in the Derby showed he needed more ground.

I have a hard time blaming Smith for what happened in the stretch - he was trying to make sure Atigun didn't catch him, and Paynter was tiring which almost always leads to bearing out to some degree.  I do think having the right jockey on Union Rags made all the difference, as he previously showed reluctance to use a hole (Florida Derby).  I am very interested in watching this horse over the next several months.  Dullahan surprised me, as I felt he had a very legitimate shot, and Romans sounded just as surprised.

12 Jun 2012 7:04 AM

I am interested in Algorithms and Out of Bounds. Those are 2 forgotten horses that got hurt early in the year. Is either back in training? Hansen also could be a nice horse at a mile to 9 furlongs.

12 Jun 2012 9:23 AM
JJs Rocket

The Belmont was a good race and congradulations to everyone that picked Union Rags to win. He was the best horse that day and Mike did give him a break. My pick Dullahan is still trying to catch his breath. I think the track was deeper and besides one little move didnt run a step.

I think that Atigun will turn out to be a better horse than most thought before the Belmont. The addition of lasix two races back has moved this horse forward. He got bumped FTL against Bode and wasnt a factor. His next race on Derby day was much improved. His speed figures have gone up too. He will be a good horse to use underneith at the top level of competition.

I cant wait for the summer races with some of these to see where they all sort out. Pete you are doing a great job and bring lots of insight into the sport we all love. We are all in the same boat in trying to get better at picking the right ones. Thanks to everyone for giving your opinions as that will always make me check mine before I get to the window to pull the trigger.

12 Jun 2012 9:24 AM

Minnesota Kid - Caleb's Posse was a finalist last year.  While not a pure sprinter, the fact of the matter is that if Caleb's Posse didn't win the 3 year old title last year, I don't think it's possible for a sprinter to win.

12 Jun 2012 9:28 AM
Pedigree Ann

Form-lines did very well in predicting the top horses in the Derby and Preakness and the form-line through Paynter makes Union Rags still several lengths inferior to I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Creative Cause.  As did the form-line through Rousing Sermon-Mark Valeski-El Padrino did. Just to keep things in perspective. Nice horses like Rags can win graded races and mucho dinero by avoiding the big boys; an honorable course followed by horses like Lost Code and Smarten.

12 Jun 2012 9:30 AM

Minnesota Kid - I looked up Eclipse Award voting for 2005.  For Three year old male, Afleet Alex received 253 votes, Flower Alley 6 votes, and there were three voters abstaining.  Lost in the Fog received no votes.  Althopugh he would have never won over Afleet Alex, I suspect the fact that LITF didn't receive a vote is indicative of the fact that a sprinter will never win top 3 year old male.

12 Jun 2012 9:36 AM
Rusty Weisner

Pete Denk,

I've never seen anything like what his trainer did in the Derby, running Trinniberg there in the wrong spot and bringing him back so sharp.

Bodemeister will probably be 1-9 in the Haskell.  I can only think of Hansen as a challenger to him on that surface and at that distance, but I expect he won't be there.

As someone who also bet Paynter, I felt like, even though he had raced less, he was more of a known quantity -- you knew he'd run on the lead -- than the down on his luck UR or the non-winner on dirt Dullahan.  My congratulations to those who knew something about UR.

12 Jun 2012 9:41 AM
Pete Denk

Lots of interesting posts.

JayJAy- I am sometimes a longshot player, but most importantly I to try to be a VALUE player.

Just so you guys (and gals) know, I am going to miss the taping of That Handicapping Show this week. My dad had a heart attack. Scary, but he is going to be ok. I want to go see him and help him come home from the hospital.

I'll be back in Lexington next week for THS. Will continue to blog from Chicago, do the locksmith analysis, etc...

12 Jun 2012 11:26 AM

sorry about that Pete. They have great hosptials in Chicago for heart attacks, I think my old man has a wing named after him at Rush.... Hope he makes a speedy recovery.

12 Jun 2012 11:54 AM

Not disrespect to Mr D wayne lucas one of the gratest trainers of our generation,But,for how long will he keep entering his horses in the wrong spot.Im not a big fan of stats,but his 1-80 record in graded stakes, is a red flag.Sometimes is so easy as a handicapper just to cross his horses,{specially in big racing days}, again a master in his best training days, but please help out your horses placing them in the right races

12 Jun 2012 12:14 PM
Rusty Weisner


Before Preakness Day commenter bohemia_stable was making the same disgusted observation -- he noted that Optimizer's by English Channel and asked why he's not on the turf already.  That same day Lukas put one Skrying, another of his "dirt" horses, also by English Channel, on the turf for the first time and won at 8-1.  Go figure.

12 Jun 2012 12:32 PM
Rusty Weisner


...then promptly put him back on the dirt Belmont Day, where he finished up the track a couple races behind his stablemate Optimizer.  

12 Jun 2012 12:36 PM

Yes Rusty that winner {skrying} stop a 0-77 slump, and by the way I had him in my p-4 that day best price of a pick4 that paid 466,that horse was not running in the wrong spot and was impressive 2 weeks early in derby day, But please optimizer is a clear example, I could mention 10 or more examples of horses with next to nochance if I had a better memory

12 Jun 2012 12:50 PM
Rusty Weisner

Pete Denk,

You had a an xcellent eye for Unstoppable U, who ran great in his first at two-turns.  I was pretty surprised he had a little bit left there at the top of the stretch.  

12 Jun 2012 1:11 PM

Fillies, fillies, fillies.  Some really nice girls this summer.

Also, turf horses.

Finally, agree with the comments about Trinniberg and the sprinters.

(This summer I am also really looking forward to European stuff" Frankel vs. Black Caviar vs. Camelot vs. all the nice 2YOs just thinking about Royal Ascot.)

Lots of nice horse racing possibilities -- and not just the usual 3YO suspects.

12 Jun 2012 1:13 PM

And Pete: nice to have you on board (as I said before) but no dissing on Jason -- even tho we didn't always agree with him.

If you are a good handicapper/journalist/horse racing analyst, I expect there will be many disagreement with you, too.

(She lost.  Get over it.)

12 Jun 2012 1:14 PM
Rusty Weisner


That horse stuck in my memory because I had the same Pick 4 you did, putting him on my tickets after noting his sire.  I was agreeing 100% with you:  Lukas seems to need to stick his nose in the TC and big GStk races when he should be running his horse in the same kind of spot he put a less high-profile horse.

12 Jun 2012 1:16 PM
Karen in Texas

Rusty----Regarding Trinniberg coming back well in the Woody Stephens after his misplacement in the Derby...There was a lot of "discussion" over Serena's Song being the Derby pacesetter in 1995. She finished 16th in a field of 19, then returned only two weeks later to easily win the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico. She proved to be very resilient.

12 Jun 2012 1:39 PM
Pete Denk

There are no recent published workouts for Out of Bounds, Algorithms, or Secret Circle.

12 Jun 2012 1:55 PM
Wil. E. Kayotay

Mr Denk, we really connect on two of your points: 1) I have never been impressed with Mike Smith as a rider. He will beat you like Damascus in a 100K allowance race or GII handicapper, then loose the most important race of his life on the greatest race mare we are likely to see (I won't even say her name).

2)Went The Day Well: I am still high on this horse, and not just because of the unique name. His connections need to sharpen this colt and place him in spots where his closing talent can be most effective. Keep him on the dirt or, make the switch to turf. Either way, I think we have "NOT" seen the best of this colt. I fully expect him to make an impact in the second half classics.

If he makes "the Classic" at Santa Anita, I will be very tempted to put some money on him. He's got that classic Tiznow blood on the dam side and, her family included good grass runners. Talk about regal breeding, Went The Day carries Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Dr. Fager, Roberto and a host of really good horses in hsi bloodline. Of course we all know the Green Monkey story, but still, this horse should be a classic runner. We'll see, I guess.

12 Jun 2012 2:38 PM
Rusty Weisner

Karen in Texas,

Parboo's comments about the Derby were interesting...quite candid.

12 Jun 2012 3:31 PM

Bob Baffert thought Unstoppable U was in the Belmont to act as a rabbit for Atigun. He told Mike Smith to get the lead and not let the other horse get in front of him. Mike had to use Paynter from his outside post position to do this, and again in the fourth quarter to hold the lead.(Mike Smith is not stupid - contrary to what some of you think.) Paynter made the first start of his career on February 18 of this year. He had 5 races in 3-1/2 months. He ran in the Derby Trial the week before the Derby, on Preakness day, and then again 3 weeks later in the Belmont. He had a stiff 7-furlong work the Sunday before the Belmont. He had a right to get tired. I thought he ran a great race considering how green he is. As for Mike Smith, he is known as a money rider, period. Tied with Jerry Bailey for most wins in the Breeder's Cup. Rode Drosselmeyer twice - won Belmont & Breeder's Cup Classic. Rode Richard's Kid twice - 2 wins in the $1,000,000 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Rider of 3 Horses of the Year (Holy Bull, Azeri & Zenyatta.) Winner of the Derby on a 50-1 shot. As for Zenyatta in the 2010 B/C Classic, she had the worst start and trip of any horse, ever. I don't see how this is Mike Smith's fault (maybe John Shirreff's for not putting her in a race where she had a chance to experience dirt in the face). I'm sorry I'll Have Another wasn't able to run. We probably would have had that Triple Crown winner.

12 Jun 2012 4:52 PM
Rusty Weisner

Gemologist, Algorithms, Discreet Dancer, Thunder Moccasin.

What do these four horses have in common?

12 Jun 2012 4:58 PM

With all due respect, Pete, if Atigun's pedigree is so interesting -- which it is -- why didn't you take the time to analyze it prior to the race in your "Handicapping Belmont Pedigrees" column?

12 Jun 2012 6:09 PM
Jean in Chicago


 Best of luck to your Dad.

12 Jun 2012 7:35 PM

Pete : My dad had a mild heart attack just a couple weeks ago, he's home and doing well now.  I just have to keep him from watching too much horseracing lol.  I know how you feel about it being scary.  Glad to hear he's doing ok and hoping for him to get much better soon.

Rusty : Todd Pletcher

Stephen Foster field looking tough.

13 Jun 2012 12:20 AM

Sorry to hear about your dad. We'll hold the fort down while you go take care of him ;-)

Also want to mention that I'm looking forward to seeing Dullahan go back to the turf...

13 Jun 2012 1:46 AM
Pedigree Ann

Sprinters will have a hard time earning breed-wide championships because sprinters are failed Thoroughbreds. Not failed racehorses, since racing secretaries write innumerable races for them. But the Thoroughbred is a breed whose greatest attribute is speed married with stamina and it is horses with both these characteristics who deserve to be named champions of their breed.

If you want to celebrate speed only, go watch Quarter Horses - most of them are more than 3/4 Thoroughbred anyway, the descendents of sprinting TBs like Three Bars, Beduino, Azure Te, Top Deck, etc. QH great Dash for Cash was at least 7/8 known TB and from the same female family as Secretariat.

13 Jun 2012 10:20 AM
Rusty Weisner


That and they're all injured.

Ken McPeek had a great Belmont.  That name is going to stick in my head.

13 Jun 2012 11:01 AM

Pete:  Hope your Dad is recuperating well.  

13 Jun 2012 11:05 AM

Pete: heart attacks are warnings but not endings.

Hope he's well.  

(Don't worry .... we can carry on blathering without you)

13 Jun 2012 1:45 PM

Paynter going to the front was certainly no surprise and it was the gameplan of his connections.  Smith slowed down the pace to a crawl at the half.  While Smith was aware of the challengers to his right, he apparently did not know that Union Rags was behind him.  Gary Stevens and Donna Brothers made a similiar comment after the race that as a rider you can not hear if a horse is directly behind you, so when Smith went to the left-handed whip, the horse drifted just far enough out to allow Union Rags to come through.  Paynter is a good horse who may improve with age, but on Saturday I believe the best horse in the race won regardless of Smith's ride or the trips of the other contenders.

13 Jun 2012 2:19 PM
Pete Denk


I didn't think Atigun was fast enough going into the Belmont. He surprised me with that run.

With IHA out, I should have re-evaluated Atigun, as I did see some merit in his NW1 win Derby week (rallied vs. slow pace, ran good final 5/16th).

I missed him in the Belmont.

13 Jun 2012 2:26 PM
Pete Denk

Thank u everyone for the comments.

I see Howe Great is scratchiong tonight in favor of the Hill Prince at Belmont.

13 Jun 2012 2:27 PM
Minnesota Kid

Gun Bow and 2:24,

Thanks for the info and your opinions.

I agree that, even if Trinniberg could run the table on that schedule, he has no chance to win 3YO male. I just stated that, given other scenarios, he could be a finalist.

One last ? about Trinniberg for the two of you (and anyone else for that matter)--

This colt's connections could have another decision to make on or around July 7--put him in vs. older for the first time in the 400k Smile or keep him vs. 3YO's in the 150k Carry Back.

So, the ? becomes this--

As the owner, would you rather be 3-5 for 90k, or 5-1 for 240k?

13 Jun 2012 4:03 PM
an ole railbird

talk about classic distances all you want to. the race i cant wait to see is trinniberg, bodemiester, shackelford, jackson bend, & calebs posse. when they lock those up in the same race going a flat mile, that will a horse race for the ages. classic distance or not.  "an ole railbird".

13 Jun 2012 5:08 PM
Paula Higgins

Pete, so sorry to hear about your father. Hope he is doing much well. Modern medicine is so much better at dealing with M.I.'s now (stents etc.). Hopefully, he will do fine. C'mon people quit jumping all over Mike Smith. He did one thing wrong, he let Paynter off the rail. He isn't a robot. Stuff happens. Union Rags is probably the better horse anyway. As for Zenyatta, that was Quality Road's fault. He backed up and that was the ball game. She didn't like the surface either in the beginning. It took too long for her to get going so that if just one thing impeded her (Quality Road) that was it. She was the best horse there that day, but the best horse doesn't always win. It wasn't John Shirreff's fault either. The surface played differently that day and Kent Desormeaux said he hadn't seen it like that in 22 years. So racing on it more often probably wouldn't have made a huge difference.

13 Jun 2012 6:17 PM

Rusty : Didn't hear about TM's injury but that's crazy.  

Minnesota Kid : Trinniberg will eventually have to face older horses in the BC sprint so I'm hoping they start him now and for a bigger purse.  He didn't seem to have any issues post KY Derby with his last win.

Paula Higgins for President!!

Pete : Thanks for the info on Secret Circle.  I'll keep waiting, hopefully his injury isn't too bad that he'll be able to run again this year.  I think WTDW will be this year's Summer Bird.  Lost a lot of money on him in the KY Derby so he owes me lol.

14 Jun 2012 1:06 AM

Pete : One more thing, need help with your value plays for the late P4 at Churchill Downs (at Dark) on Saturday.  I'm singling Right To Vote on the 1st leg but trying to beat Royal Delta. :)  Thanks!

14 Jun 2012 1:24 AM

Did anyone notice that the $500K Illinois Derby was left off in the races for the new KY Derby points series? Looks like Churchill is trying to screw Hawthorne. The problem I have with this system is giving Churchill too much control over what races matter. I guess they put on the race, so it is up to them though.

14 Jun 2012 10:09 AM

So the Illinois Derby was left off the list for the new points system to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Another case of Churchill screwing the industry in an attempt to benefit themselves in the future. So you can get points for winning a race at Newmarket as a juvenile, but you get nothing if you win a $500K graded stakes as a 3-year-old? Seems like Churchill trying to put Hawthorne out of business.

14 Jun 2012 10:15 AM
Rusty Weisner


Don't know if he's injured; all I know is he hasn't run since February.  And how could I forget El Padrino.  This is a terrible record.

14 Jun 2012 10:44 AM
Pete Denk

The exclusion of the Illinois Derby from the Ky Derby qualifier system is CDI's latest shot aimed at hurting Hawthorne.

No way to justify a synthetic track race in Dubai or a turf race in England is more important than 9f on dirt in the USA. Ridiculous.

14 Jun 2012 11:00 AM

From the standpoint of the Kentucky Derby, I can't blame Churchill Downs for making their own rules.  The Illinois Derby, for some reason does not attract top caliber horses as much even though it's a big purse and a G2.  Sunland seems to be gettting more attention than the ID.  I think that's because the better 3 yr olds are now coming from California and Sunland is much closer.  At least Baffert loves going there for preps it seems.

As for CD trying to put Hawthorne out of business, that's really lame but it is business.  I don't agree that they get all the tracks plus I like Hawthorne, they have .50 trifectas lol.  Their P4 are so hard to hit though, I always play it and can't get past the 2nd leg (at times when I actually manage to get the 1st leg right).

Rusty : I agree about Pletcher, he gets the spotlight for having the "best" horses at the start of the preps but doesn't seem to get the spotlight when his horse(s) gets injured.  5 top caliber horses sidelined seems a lot to me.  Just to clarify, I'm not a Pletcher hater, I'm just saying.

14 Jun 2012 3:02 PM

Bodemeister IS the horse to beat now. I'll bet Baffert couldn't contain himself after hearing the news that IHA was done racing, not to imply that he would ever wish any harm to come the colt's way. I don't believe that. However, he did get a lucky break, because Bode is a powerhouse and will probably dominate the crop without IHA to stop him. I hope this isn't misconstrued, but if I'll Have Another had to succumb to injury, why couldn't it have been before the Derby? Bode would've never sat out the Belmont after winning the first 2 jewels of the crown, and I think he could've won the mile and a half judging by the way it unfolded, no disrespect to Rags ofcoarse. Hell may freeze over before we come this close to a triple crown sweep again. A triple crown curse? Sure looks like it from where I sit.

14 Jun 2012 3:56 PM

It's interesting to see that the field under the new qualifying system didn't differ much from the field that ran in the Derby as shown in this article :

I say limit the field to 14 or even 16, don't count 2 yr old earnings and we have a better system :).  Limiting to 14 gives the 1 hole at least a chance to get into the race and lesser horses allows for more maneuvering and tactical rides from the jockeys instead of them focusing on not tripping or falling down.  The 2 yr old earnings should not count because not all 2 yr olds transition their forms to 3.   The Kentucky Derby is suppose to be the BEST 3 yr olds in the country, if you were great at 2, you'd have to be great at 3 to be in the Derby.  Otherwise, it affects the late bloomers who are just getting better at 3 and since the Derby is for 3 yr olds, they should have a better chance to get in than the 2 yr olds who never showed any improvements turning 3 or even worse, never wins a G1 race prior to the Derby.  A placing in any one of the top G1 preps should be enough.  A 2 yr old can win the BC juvenile by luck and earn enough to qualify but doesn't mean they belong.

R.I.P Giant Ryan.

14 Jun 2012 11:12 PM

Jayjay, stop contradicting yourself. Which is it, they cant get in unless they win a Grade 1 race, or they get in if they place in a grade 1 race. Which horse's are you referring to anyway?

Giacomo was not a grade 1 winner, Mine that Bird was not a grade 1 winner, Super Saver was not a grade 1 winner, yet they all won the derby. In this system, Giacaomo would of only had 36 points. Barbaro only 110.

15 Jun 2012 8:57 AM

I see where you got confused.  What I meant was that a 2 yr old can win the BC juvenile which gives him way more than enough earnings that even if they don't transition their form turning 3, they are still in.  They can lose all their prep races and not even win a G1 and they still have a spot.

A late blooming 3 yr old will have to earn enough to get in during their 3 yr old preps, getting a 2nd in one of the major big purse G1 preps may not be enough to get them in the derby.  Is that clear enough for you?

I'm not referring to any horses, I"m not sure where you got that from.  I was talking about the new system.

15 Jun 2012 10:04 AM
Karen in Texas

I read on DRF that Darren Rogers of Churchill said 40 points should guarantee a spot in the field, with even 20-30 points okay at the low end. He estimated high point horses at 120-150 I think. Everyone is going to have to ponder this for a while. I do believe the Illinois Derby should be given consideration over the synthetic race in Dubai though.                    

15 Jun 2012 10:51 AM

I think that it will prove a tall order for this new system to better the Graded stakes system. I'd wager that in a few years people will be calling for a return to the one just abandoned.

Think about it: they paid scant respect to recent history in that Animal Kingdom 2011 Derby winner), Mine That Bird (2009 Derby winner), Went The Day Well (2012 Derby 4th place) and Eight Belles  (2008 Derby runner-up) would not qualify. Also, as Carl Naftzer commented they are using the system to manipulate trainers in planning the development of their charges.

In comparing this new system with the previous one it helps to look at who benefits the most, who suffers and whether the notion that fan support and new fans will increase is based upon any scientific survey or is just some ones "bright idea".


It might be a good idea to have a blog column dedicated to discussion of this matter. What do you think?

15 Jun 2012 1:18 PM
Rusty Weisner


I don't think you're completely right there.  WthDW would get in by virtue of winning the Spiral.

Here's the table of the points this year's starters would have had:

Aside from the blatant injustice of excluding the Illinois Derby (War Emblem, Ten Most Wanted, Musket Man), what are fillies supposed to do in this system?

I'm not sure it's good that it favors the big final prep races to 2-yo races.  Does this mean we'll see Derby prospects racing less at two?

At least it would have eliminated Trinniberg.

I'm the exception in being glad they didn't reduce the field size!

15 Jun 2012 2:42 PM
Karen in Texas

Ranagul----You wanted to see Alan Porter's "spin" on the Belmont outcome. I found his analysis while researching something else, and will link it here. He essentially gives credit to Nijinsky through Terpsichorist, saying (as is infinitely true) that genetic shuffling can give diverse results even in full siblings.

16 Jun 2012 3:49 PM

Karen in Texas,

Thanks for the link to Allan Porter's post Belmont "spin gig" on Union Rags. His pedigree expertise took a major hit in my view because of the misleading conclusion that his opinion gave rise to, about the stamina of Union Rags since prior to the Kentucky Derby. He should have given a more indepth analysis of U/Rags pedigree and noted the strong posibility that the colt would stay a distance of ground based upon the factors which he is now eloquently pointing out after the fact (including Union Rags' relation to previous Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair). He failed many fans that were relying on his expertise to guide their opinion of the colt's stamina. I give him a thumbs down for that.

Interestingly, he now mentions High Hat (son of Hyperion), the broodmare sire of Terpsichorist, as a stamina influence. Terpsichorist, the grand dam of Union Rags is inbred 5X3 to Hyperion via Nijinsky and Glad Rags respectively. Also Dixieland Band (sire of Dixie Union) is inbred 4X5X6X5 to Hyperion via Northern Dancer and Mississippi Mud respectively. Any pedigree rookie can see the stamina influence of Terpsichorist but, where is that stamina coming from in the pedigree ...what is the main source and what were the potential limits of Union Rags' stamina?

I'll play 'little boy blue' here and blow my own horn: I spotted the pervasiveness of Hyperion and his English Triple Crown winning sire Gainsborough in the pedigree of Union Rags and concluded that this colt could possibly stay as far as 14 Furlongs at the top level of competition. Porter has not even commented on the Hyperion factor which most novice analysts would not regard as significant, being further back in the pedigree chart, but I think he knows that it is significant ...but perhaps its too late for him to admit.

I appreciate very much your alertness and sourcing of interesting information on here. Blessings.

16 Jun 2012 10:01 PM

I've decided I'm going to run the Boston marathon, I've been inspired by Ranagulzion's excellent pedigree analysis, he's like the Oracle when it comes to pedigree analysis.  I have no doubt I can apply his analysis to my "pedigree" and after reading his last post, I am very confident that I will win the Boston marathon, I have genes from african descendants, and even better, from the neanderthals who roamed the world on foot.  Now THAT'S stamina!!!

17 Jun 2012 3:05 AM

jay jay,

Now I get your kind of logic your own admission, genes you inherited from sub-species of homo sapiens, Neanderthals. If only I knew I wouldn't have given you such a hard time on here. Good luck with your Boston marathon, friend.

17 Jun 2012 5:21 PM

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