Four Takeaways from the Arkansas Derby

Omaha Beach turns back Improbable in the Arkansas Derby (G1) - Coady Photography The final prep race for the 2019 Kentucky Derby produced a thrilling finish, as Omaha Beach and Improbable battled to the wire in a strong renewal of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. Wet weather may have produced a sloppy, sealed track, but it did little to dampen the quality of the race. There’s a lot to digest, but my primary takeaways [...]

Tacitus Prevails in Roughly-Run Wood Memorial

Tacitus winning the Wood Memorial (gr. II) at Aqueduct - © NYRA/Coglianese Photography In one of the roughest races seen on the Road to the Kentucky Derby this winter, favored Tacitus emerged from a battle-weary field to win the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct in hard-fought fashion. Chaos reigned during the run to the first turn, and even Tacitus did not emerge unscathed. A generally ragged start was made worse when Tax, breaking from the rail, [...]

Plus Que Parfait Rebounds in UAE Derby

Plus Que Parfait winning the UAE Derby - © Dubai Racing Club/Mathea Kelley After being soundly defeated in two Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds this winter, it seemed as though the Derby trail had come to an end for Plus Que Parfait. But his undaunted connections persevered and set their sights on another target—the $2 million UAE Derby (UAE-II) at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, offering 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner. And [...]

Tacitus Breaks Through in Tampa Bay Derby

Tacitus winning the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) - Photo by SV Photography Early speed, middle moves, late rallies, a wild finish with a half-dozen horses in the hunt—from start to finish, the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs had it all. Ultimately, it was Bill Mott’s lightly-raced Tacitus who emerged from the fray victorious in the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race, which was no small feat considering that Tacitus was racing [...]

Why I’m Betting Longshot Kulin Rock in the Mac Diarmida

Zulu Alpha winning the Sycamore Stakes (gr. III) - Keeneland Photo Sometimes, it seems like trainer Mike Maker is able to work miracles with little-known grass runners, turning them into graded stakes winners seemingly overnight. His strategy tends to be simple, at least to the casual observer. It goes something like this—find a nice, solid competitor, stretch him or her out in distance, and see what happens. That exactly what Maker will do with #9 Kulin Rock in [...]

Harvey Wallbanger Posts 29-1 Upset in Holy Bull Stakes

Harvey Wallbanger winning the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) - Photo by Adam Coglianese Photography/Leslie Martin Harvey Wallbanger spent much of Saturday’s Fasig-Tipon Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park racing in last place, but the 29-1 shot made the last move and ultimately had the last laugh as he rallied to post a stunning upset victory. The early pace of the 8.5-furlong Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race wound up more contested than expected as Epic [...]

Year in Review: Who Was the Top Jockey in 2018?

Jockey Mike Smith aboard Kentucky Derby winner Justify - Coady Photography It seems like a simple question: Who was the top jockey in North America in 2018? By basic metrics such as overall wins and earnings, the answer is similarly simple: Irad Ortiz, Jr. As of December 17th, the 26-year-old rider leads all jockeys by wins (336) and by purse earnings ($27,291,607), making him the favorite to be awarded the 2018 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. However, looking [...]

Complexity Uses His Speed to Dominate Champagne Stakes

Complexity winning the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) - Photo by NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography Pure speed is one of the greatest tactical advantages a racehorse can possess, and based on the results of Saturday’s $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, there’s no doubt that Complexity has more than his fair share of pure speed. How can you beat a horse who can sprint you off your feet and just keep going? It isn’t easy, as Complexity’s nine [...]

Abel Tasman Edges Elate in Thrilling Personal Ensign Stakes

Abel Tasman edging Elate in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) - Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Viola Jasko Neck and neck, nose to nose, Abel Tasman and Elate came roaring down the homestretch in Saturday’s $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, a “Win and You’re In” prep race for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). The two accomplished fillies had met once before at Saratoga, pushing each other to the limit in a thrilling renewal of [...]

Speed Makes Lull Dangerous in Just a Game Stakes

Lull winning the Autumn Miss Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita - © BENOIT PHOTO She won’t be the most popular choice in the wagering, but I have the feeling that #4 Lull might get out in front and forget to stop in Saturday’s $700,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. When this talented daughter of War Front gets out near the lead through fast fractions, she can be almost impossible to run down. Just [...]