Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Hold me closer Tony Danza

Danza Arkansas Derby 615 X 415
Photo: Coady Photography


And that’s why they run the race. Ignored at odds of 41-1, Danza made the most of his maiden opportunity around two-turns, and ran away with the $1 million Arkansas Derby by an impressive 4 3/4 lengths. In so doing, the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners owned son of Street Boss galloped his way into the 2014 Kentucky Derby picture.


Making only the fourth start of his life, and his second of 2014, Danza took advantage of his inside post position. He stalked the pace setting duo of favorite Bayern, and longshot, Thundergram, from the inside, in third, through fractions of :23.72 and :47.71. With veteran rider Jersey Joe Bravo giving him a heady ride, the chestnut sat comfortably until a seam opened up on the inside in the latter stages of the far turn. The inexperienced colt went for the hole along the rail like a pro, and struck the lead early in the stretch. As most eyes panned for one of several more highly regarded horses going in, it would be the longshot, on the rail, who had all the answers.


Striding out to the wire, Danza won the centerpiece of the Oaklawn Park meet with authority, and in style. His final time of 1:49.68 for the nine furlongs of the Arkansas Derby was solid, and by comparison, less than a fifth of a second slower than the top older horse, Will Take Charge, needed to complete the Oaklawn Handicap one race earlier on the card. Of the rest, only the experienced son of Curlin, Ride On Curlin had much punch at all, as he rallied well on the outside to get up for second.



The winning rider was understandable excited after the stunning win.



"That was a pretty great effort. It was textbook, just textbook," said Bravo. "Everything unfolded like a dream. That was pretty cool down the lane. It's really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I'm not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I'm crossing my fingers, he's my Derby horse. This is what dreams are made of."


While the performance of Danza was a revelation, the result marked a serious disappointment for the connections of a number of horses, including Bayern (3rd), Tapiture (4th), Conquest Titan (5th), Commissioner (6th), and Strong Mandate (8th). Of that bunch, only Tapiture has likely earned enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

With the big victory, Danza raised his lifetime record to 2 wins and 2 thirds out of 4 starts, for trainer Todd Pletcher. A first-out winner last summer at Belmont Park, Danza finished fast to be third in a three-horse photo in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in his next start. Off until the first of March, he returned to finish a well beaten third in a fast allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Suddenly he’s a grade 1 winner, and in with a shot in the Run for the Roses in three weeks time. Hold me closer, Tony Danza.


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Older Comments about Hold me closer Tony Danza...

#1 Fan I am…..i see it in their eyes!!!! <3 lol!! Love him!!!
Kentucky Derby 2014 (y)
102 BSF for Danza's Arkansas Derby win.
wow, this fella came out of nowhere, but he sure ran a great race. Super ride by JB too. As a side note, I hope Jose gets Willie Martinez to ride Wildcat Red in the Derby, with a great jock like Willie, Wildcat Red has a good shot.
He was a good baby last summer. Glad he shook things up with this win. Brian, I always think of those lyrics that way when Tiny Dancer is played. Who's The Boss? Ha,ha.
opportunisitic RIDE not any spectacular new find here
I'm hoping that Tonalist becomes a graded winner here soon
Just look at their running styles, off the pace types. Gulfstream was super speed favoring. But the allowance race Wicked Strong ran in was TOUGH. That was a graded stakes caliber field. Commissioner, Wicked Strong, Tonalist, Mexikoma, all talented horses. Two of them are now Gr.1 winners
There must have been some really tough allowances at GP this year! Wicked Strong and now Danza stepping up after being well beaten in N1X's! I'm not sure weather Florida was really tough on some of these colts, weather they just didn't like the speedway that is Gulfstream Park's surface or weather the East Coast contingent is a bit week this year... Should make for an interesting Derby!

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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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