HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

From the Eighth Pole to the Wire - 6/2/14

Room Service wins 2014 American Oaks.
Photo: Benoit Photo
Challenging the Crown

Sir Barton (3), Gallant Fox (4), Omaha (5), War Admiral (7), Whirlaway (4), Count Fleet (3), Assault (7), Citation (8), Secretariat (5), Seattle Slew (8), Affirmed (5). In all of the eleven Triple Crown clinching victories to date, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner faced fields that were either tiny or smallish. In fact, if you look at the field size of the Belmont Stakes in each Triple Crown year, the average is under 5 ½. That will be far from the case in 2014. With a likely field of approximately a dozen for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, our current Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome will have to do something none of the previous champions had to do ... defeat a large field in the Belmont to win the Triple Crown. Whether it speaks to contenders gaining confidence from recent failures of Triple Crown hopefuls, or a sign of modern connections liking to have their charges in the starting gate for our most visible races, or perhaps even California Chrome just not having scared anyone off this year compared to past champions, it creates a unique challenge never before successfully managed. Clinching a Triple Crown against a large field is just one more reason that if California Chrome does cross the finish line first on Saturday, he is very deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as Secretariat, Citation, Count Fleet, Affirmed and all the other great Triple Crown champions.

American Room Service is the best

Regular readers of this column might remember a piece I wrote soon after the Ashland Stakes saying that Room Service was one of the more interesting of the Kentucky Oaks contenders. Scratch that. Her trainer Wayne Catalano thought long and hard about the female classic, but in the end decided that the daughter of More Than Ready was better suited for grass than a run against the best of her crop on dirt. He knows her better than I, after all, and on Saturday, in the weekend’s lone Grade 1 event, Room Service backed up her trainer’s faith in her turf ability with a victory in Santa Anita’s American Oaks. And it was impressive. Storming down the middle of the track carrying the familiar pink silks of Gary and Mary West, Room Service ran right by the best three-year-old turf fillies in California, in route to a going away 2 ¼-length victory. Coming at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles, it also points her out as a filly who can be a threat in many of the biggest female races run in America, including this autumn’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She is ZATT’s Star of the Week.

Kitten purrs on the Penn National lawn

With sharp wins in a Saratoga maiden and the Pilgrim Stakes in the East, and then a solid third to a pair of Euros in the BC Juvenile Turf out West, I didn’t have much trouble in calling Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Bobby’s Kitten the best juvenile turf horse in the nation last year. It appears he’s only better as a sophomore. He looked the part in beating future graded stakes winner Global View in his seasonal debut on the Tampa grass, but we may have forgotten just how good this Kitten is on the grass when he failed to carry over his best form to the Polytrack of Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes. That brief memory lapse did not last long as the homebred returned to turf on Saturday for the $500,000 Penn Mile. Stalking the early lead of big longshot, Sing the Dream, the race favorite looked as comfortable as a plastic surgeon at an aging model convention. He pounced early, and before the time the field hit the far turn, Bobby’s Kitten was in command. A trio of talented turf runners in; Global View, Storming Inti, and Divine Oath tried to make headway in the stretch, but the Kitten would have none of that, roaring to an easy victory in the rich race.

Last Gunfighter fights to be first

If Bobby’s Kitten was the headliner of the excellent Saturday evening card at Penn National, then Last Gunfighter was a helluva opening act. My favorite kind of horses are those that like to win. Last Gunfighter is just such a horse. Making his first start since winning the Hawthorne Gold Cup six months ago, Last Gunfighter honestly never looked like a winner until they posted his number on top in the Mountainview Handicap. This was never expected to be easy, after such a long layoff, and while giving five pounds or more to his competition, but when the talented speed horse Valid got away with moderate early fractions, his job became that much tougher. Sure enough, Valid had no designs on stopping down the lane, so it was up to the five-year-old son of First Samurai to go and get him. He would do just that, methodically reeling in his competition to get a whisker in front on the wire and raise his record to 9-of-16 lifetime for trainer Chad Brown. It’s on to bigger and better things now for the John D. Gunther runner, starting with Belmont’s Suburban, but one thing’s for sure … Last Gunfighter likes to win.

 Photo courtesy of B & D Photography/Penn National

Polytrack Daddy

Even though he’s only four-years-old, It’s been kind of a long and winding road for Frac Daddy. Once a highly regarded juvenile who finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club, the son of Scat Daddy stayed on the Kentucky Derby Trail from start to finish last year. A second place finish in the Arkansas Derby renewed hope, but in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, he was little more than a footnote in strong victories by Orb and Palace Malice. Not afraid to experiment with his talented colt, trainer Kenny McPeek started trying new things with the Magic City Thoroughbred Partners runner, and it has paid off. First on turf, Frac Daddy showed improvement with an allowance win at The Spa, and a solid second in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes. He’s good on turf, but clearly that is not his best surface. Starting with an allowance win at Keeneland in October, Frac Daddy has reeled off three impressive victories on Polytrack. A sharp win in the Grade 3 Ben Ali in April was followed up with yesterday’s dominating win north of the border. Bettors pounded Frac Daddy down to 4-5 favoritism in Woodbine’s Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes, and the Daddy responded in kind with a five-length dismantling of the Toronto horses. Now undefeated and untested in three Polytrack starts, it would seem that Frac Daddy has finally found his niche. 

Clubhouse Ride deserved one

If ever a horse deserved some luck and a breakthrough victory, it was Clubhouse Ride. Saturday’s Californian was not the six-year-old’s first graded stakes win, but it was only his second, and first since the same race last year. Hard knocking, Clubhouse Ride could have won a lot more if not for the exploits of one horse. Game On Dude has beaten him five times, and in three of those races, all graded stakes, Clubhouse Ride finished second. It seems that some of his best lifetime performances came at the wrong time. Clubhouse Ride supporters can take a little solace in this weekend’s victory, though. Sent off as the 6-1 second choice, the son of Candy Ride stayed well off a fast early pace set by the race favorite, Fury Kapcori. Making a big move from last on the turn, Clubhouse Ride and Joe Talamo were fortunate enough to find an inviting hole on the inside as the field came spinning out of the turn, and suddenly the perpetual bridesmaid was on the lead. Fury Kapcory fought back, but Clubhouse Ride rode the momentum to a half-length victory. It marked only his 5th win in 37 lifetime starts. Oh what could have been if not for Game On Dude. In defeat, Fury Kapcori was extremely game, while seeing his four-race winning streak snapped. 




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Older Comments about From the Eighth Pole to the Wire - 6/2/14...

high school production in kahoots with the Sratogan newspaper about it. SHE calls it a chute too.
why would just about ALL the people IN the game refer to it as anything other than what it was? A chute
From a good friend, Micheal, who writes for the Saratogan. He suggested the best explanation for the CHUTE was here. A former distinctive feature of Saratoga Race Course's dirt track was the Wilson Mile chute, which branched off from the clubhouse (first) turn at a 90-degree angle. After the 1971 meeting, its use was suspended; following a brief resumption during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was dismantled, leaving no distance available for dirt races at one mile. A similarly-designed chute is still in use at Ellis Park Racecourse, a racetrack in Kentucky, and is the only such chute of its kind that can be found at any North American track today.
It was not a chute,the races started on the turn. Not only dangerous,but distinct disadvantage to any horse that drew outside of post 5.
why did they abandon that old MILE chute at Saratoga...Much akin to the one at Ellis...WOuld add an entire new dimension to the racing card
There is a great book about Saratoga racing in the '60's and '70's and through the '80's called Extra Sugar For Kelso by Landon Manning. In it he has a great story about Ruffian and how the trainers of her opposition thought seriously about running in Hopeful against colts because it would be easier than running against Ruffian in any of the filly races.
Thanks for the correction on that quote, airedale. She certainly was all that. The equine vet that reminded me of it also pointed out the class difference between Lauren's and Moody Jolley's comment after Ruffian broke down, "We pushed the b-tch and she came unbuckled.". Just hearing that about a horse I never knew made my stomach sick. Would have loved to experience a once in a lifetime filly like that, very unlikely I will see another. Then I think too, that it may just as well have put an end to my interest in the sport- for some time anyway.
By the REST,do you mean the psychos that live in Vics World where Sanity is deemed a four letter word and nonsense runs rampant??????
The REST of the world functions on logic: NOT so the Tea Party
You sound as though you are the greatest Left Winger since the Golden Jet>>Bobby Hull. Must be the quacks you constantly read that fill that clustered noggin of yours.
IF he made that statement? funny stuff. You would make a real good Tea Partier
Regardless if he said it or not , what is so far fetched about that statement . If he did make it,he more than likely was not comparing accomplishments of the 2 horses. He was comparing their absolute talent level,something we as fans have no clue about. They see them in the mornings and watch how effortless they go about their buisiness. Big Red is the standard to modern day greatness,i doubt to many would debate that. But because Ruffian was not able to fully develop and mature due to her ill fated day. Do not ever think she was as good as The top colts of her generation and beyond. Airdale is correct in pointing out her 2yo race. While you are at it,take a look at her Acorn and Mother Goose efforts. They were so effortless,it almost looked as though she was working out for a race. In todays day and age, a 3yo filly beats the girls once and most go GAGA and scream for their owners to run against the colts. If Ruffian were around,the owners of the colts would be begging Whitely to keep her away from the colts. People that never saw her run,just don't have a clue how great she was. Even if she were a notch below Big Red. The horses she surpassed are surely impressive.
The quote I read in Bill Nack's A Racetrack Romance, slewcrew, was “As God is my judge, she's better than Secretariat was when he was a two-year old.” Lucien Laurin made this remark after Ruffian's Spinaway time of 1:08 3/5 at Saratoga in her first year of racing. Vince Bracciale was choking her most of the race to hold her back, per Frank Whiteley's instructions. My favorite filly was that good. If Whiteley had allowed her to run in the three classics and she came out sound, one wonders how she would have done. Winners that year were Foolish Pleasure, Master Derby and Avatar.
laurin was always saying things like that. one time he was drinking with ron turcotte and eddie maple and told them he still thought riva ridge could beat secretariat. turcotte looked at maple and maple just smiled and then turcotte said to laurin "from a quarter mile to a mile and a half how much do you wanna bet? a thousand dollars?"
CC cannot be compared to great horses in the past...he has meet inferior fields.Alydar, who lost to mighty Affirmed would have beat him by a dozen...,
Secretariat MAY have been the greatest racehorse of the last few decades, but being a "PR hero" himself is why some label him the greatest of all time. In fact, his trainer Lucien Laurin was quoted as saying regarding the great filly Ruffian, "As God as my judge, this filly may be better than Secretariat." AS great as he was...there have been greater.
I always love the "PR heroes." Now THIS one is deserving but many over the years were duds.
ah c'mon...Junior has won the hearts and minds of the general sporting public. Time to defang the soothsayers and pledge allegiance to a brightly chromed future of racing.
Vic how in the world can you say that? Do you know that Chromes heart mass is less than Big Red? What exactly in these adolescent months have you gleaned as regards to their races?
Secretariat was the greatest racehorse of all time and never will be replaced. The crop of quality horses has declined steadily over the years and so have their performances. Compare the finish time of the Belmont winner this year to years past and you will see what I mean. If CC stays healthy, we will have a Triple Crown winner in 2014.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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