Race of the Week 2017

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Zipse At The Track

Pants On Fire Out to Buck Japan Cup Dirt Trend

Pants On Fire 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

When Fleetstreet Dancer battled back on the inside to edge Admire Don in the Japan Cup Dirt, it came as a shocking result. The unheralded American shipper, trained by Doug O’Neill, and ridden by Jon Court, not only knocked off the heavily favored Japanese runner, but he did so at odds of 48-1. Since that edition ten years ago, you could say the venue has been decidedly less kind to shippers coming from the United States. High profile American trained horses that ventured to the Far East for a shot at their most important dirt race include Lava Man, Student Council, Tin Cup Chalice, and Tizway. None of them could fare better than the 8th place finish of Student Council. The American Champion 3yo Male of 2009, Summer Bird, also made the trip, but was injured before raceday. Now, four years removed since our last shot in the Japan Cup Dirt, there is another American in Japan. Pants on Fire is set to join 15 other horses aiming to grab victory in the $3 million, nine-furlong race scheduled for December 1 at Hanshin Racecourse. 

Owned by George and Lori Hall, and trained by Kelly Breen, Pants on Fire races for the same connections that upset  the 2011 Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice. While that victory represents the group’s biggest win, it is Pants on Fire, a winner of nearly $1.2 million lifetime, that has proved to be their most consistent runner. 

A four-time graded stakes winner, the five-year-old son of Jump Start broke through on the national stage back in 2011 when he was piloted to victory by Rosie Napravnik in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. Off that performance, the pair garnered a great deal of support in the Kentucky Derby, and was in contention at the top of the Churchill Downs stretch, but faded late to finish ninth behind Animal Kingdom. Pants On Fire came back to win the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park in his next start, but his three-year-old season ended after a  fifth place finish as one of the favorites in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.

After a nondescript four-year-old season, in which he won only an optional claimer, and the listed Skip Away Stakes, out of five starts last year, Pants On Fire has returned to his best form this year. He finished no worse than third in his first six starts in 2013, including a 1 ¾ length score in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup. Two starts back, he arguably ran the race of his life when he rolled in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. The final time for the one-mile race was a sterling 1:33.78, which earned him a lifetime best Beyer of 107. The impressive victory earned him a trip out to California, but the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile would only result in a disappointing 7th place finish. 

Pants On Fire came out of the race good, though, and has had one workout since the effort, working a good four furlongs at Santa Anita in :48 flat. He shipped out, and arrived safely in Japan last Friday. Can Pants On Fire do something special on the ten-year anniversary of Fleetstreet Dancer’s big win in the Japan Cup Dirt? Recent history says the odds will not be in his favor, but I’d love to see it happen.  


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Older Comments about Pants On Fire Out to Buck Japan Cup Dirt Trend...

I would like to see Orb/Verrazano postpone retirement for a World tour situation. Japan, Australia, Europe, SA...there are tons of great races out there! These horse are sent to the breeding sheds so early that Geldings are the new Superstars. Today a globe trotting 4 y/o is almost unheard of (at least in the US). The game needs more superstar horses to increase track attendance, and bring some positive recognition to racing.
know bleeder? beware!
I'll be rooting for him.
Nice to see horses from the USA go overseas for a change and see for themselves how difficult it is for horses to run in far away unfamiliar environments.

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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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