Belmont Park, Horse racing, Triple Crown

Belmont Park opinions for Saturday, June 9 (Belmont Stakes Day)

Stakes races only

SECOND RACE (Easy Goer): 1. Breaking the Rules, 2. Mask, 3. Prince Lucky, 4. Dark Vader. LONG SHOT: Soutache.

THIRD RACE (Grade I Ogden Phipps): 1. Abel Tasman, 2. Unbridled Mo, 3. Pacific Wind, 4. Ivy Bell. LONG SHOT: Berned.

FOURTH RACE (Grade I Acorn): 1. Talk Veuve to Me, 2. Monomoy Girl, 3. Gio Game, 4. Caledonia Road. LONG SHOT: Starcloud.

FIFTH RACE (Grade II Brooklyn Invitational): 1. Hoppertunity, 2. War Story, 3. Hard Study, 4. Outplay. LONG SHOT: Take Your Guns.

SIXTH RACE (Grade Ii Jaipur Invitational): 1. Pocket Change, 2. Stormy Liberal, 3. Pure Sensation, 4. Blind Ambition. LONG SHOT: Holding Gold.

SEVENTH RACE (Grade II Woody Stephens): 1. Engage, 2. The Tabulaor, 3. World of Trouble, 4. Kanthaka. LONG SHOT: Strike Power.

EIGHTH RACE (Grade I Just A Game): 1. Cambodia, 2. Lull, 3. On Leave, 4. Off Limits. LONG SHOT: Dream Dancing.

NINTH RACE (Grade I Met Mile): 1. Bolt d’Oro, 2. Bee Jersey, 3. McCracken, 4. Mind Your Biscuits. LONG SHOT: Awesome Slew.

10TH RACE (Grade I Manhattan): 1. Channel Maker, 2. Beach Patrl, 3. Robert Bruce, 4. Fashion Business. LONG SHOT: Alexis Komnenos.

11TH RACE (Grade I Belmont Stakes): 1. Justify, 2. Tenfold, 3. Vino Rosso, 4. Hofburg. LONG SHOT: Gronkowski.

I haven’t picked Justify to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but that’s because I hate picking favorites. There’s no doubt he’s the best of this crop and I expect him to win the race today by going to the front and never looking back. Tenfold was closing like a freight train in the Preakness while Vino Rosso and Hofburg have the pedigrees plus connections to win or at least do well in this 1 1/2-mile test. The real interesting horse is Gronkowski. He was suppose to run in the Derby but got sick. Now, he’s in the Chad Brown barn. He could be any kind.

Good luck.

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Belmont Park, Horse racing, Triple Crown

Belmont Park opinions for Saturday, June 6

Jeff Nahill’s Belmont Stakes picks

#6 Frosted

#5 American Pharoah

#2 Tale of Verve

#8 Materiality

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Race 6: #10 Sky Kingdom (6-1)

This race is a trial for jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert for the Belmont later in the day. This 6-year-old has never been worse than second at this distance and he has been training lights out at Santa Anita for this race.

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Race 7: #10 Light the City (12-1)

Tough to explain her last, but she has since been sent East to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is 58% with horses the first time he runs them. She seems to be training well at Belmont and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who is 34% with McLaughlin, takes over.

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Race 10: #8 Biz the Nurse (15-1)

Our Eyes:  This horse makes his third start in the U.S. and he was a good fourth last time out at Keeneland. He’s moving up in class but in Grade I company in Europe and could be ready to unlease a big effort with new rider Joel Rosario.

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Race 13: #8 Biz Looie (12-1) ***

Our Eyes:  Trainer Jorge Navarro has a horse in the Met Mile and brings this high-priced claimer along, too, and also lets jockey Martin Pedroza ride. This gelding is coming off a wire-to-wire win at Gulfstream, beating the morning-line favorite in this race, Social Inclusion.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown

Coburn: Still a Dumb Ass (Partner)

Despite his “apology” Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning, America,” California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn is still a Dumb Ass, just like his stable name (Dumb Ass Partners) says.

I love how a lot of people are lauding Coburn for finally stepping up to rectify the situation he created after Saturday’s Belmont Stakes loss when he basically called the owners of Tonalist and Commissioner “cheaters” for not running in the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

The man didn’t rectify anything.

Did you see the interview with Robin Roberts? The man was choking on every word he said. He had a hard time getting them out because he didn’t believe them. He was bullied into Monday’s apology. Check it out here:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/california-chrome-owner-angry-rant-belmont-24053547

The time to apologize for Saturday’s rant on national television was Sunday morning. Instead, Coburn went back on national TV and compounded the situation by stating the situation was akin to him playing basketball against a child in a wheelchair. How does one defend that? That was so wrong, it’s unbelievable.

The Triple Crown is meant to be hard. That’s why we haven’t had a winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 36 years. A super horse hasn’t been born to do it. So be it.

In last week’s build up to the Belmont, I was still amazed Real Quiet lost his Belmont to Victory Gallop. I covered Real Quiet’s Preakness that year and for him to lose by a nose in New York still is unfathomable.

But back to the point at hand, even if Coburn and others associated with California Chrome were complaining about the Triple Crown system and dates of the races beforehand, you knew what you were getting into when you started the journey. Three wins in five weeks. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about all the new shooters in the Preakness.

Now after losing, Coburn is bitching and moaning.

I don’t feel sorry for Coburn one bit.

I feel sorry for the man’s wife, who tried to reel him in on Saturday, but was rebuffed. The woman must be a saint.

I feel sorry for others like trainer Art Sherman and his son, Steve, a trainer in his won right who stayed with Chrome on the East Coast for five weeks. I feel for the exercise rider and other barn personnel.

There is a long way to go this year, but if California Chrome ends up not winning the Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old, it might end being Coburn’s fault, and that’s just not right. I don’t have a vote, but I guarantee that if it comes down to coin flip, there will be voters who don’t vote for the horse due to Coburn’s ignorance.

One reporter tweeted on Saturday that after meeting Coburn earlier on the Triple Crown trail, he knew it was just a matter of time before the man blew up.

There’s no doubt, Steve Coburn has lived up to his barn’s name: Dumb Ass (Partners), and no apology is going to change that.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 3 (Magna Warrior $5.60, first race; Babe’s Journey $10.40, fifth; Soi Phet $7.40, sixth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 5 (Elegant $6.40, second; Natalie Paige $6.40, fourth; Red N Black Attack $6, seventh; Unusual Heatwave $16.80, eighth; Nothing to Hide $4.40, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 0

Sunday’s long shot winners: 1 (Myrna Lou $8.80, first)

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Horse racing, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

Belmont Park selections for Saturday, June 7

Belmont Stakes (11th race)

2 California Chrome

4 Commanding Curve

5 Ride On Curlin

7 Samraat

10 General A Rod

3 California Chrome: Drew great post, can be used a little to get position, will be in great spot turning for home and his Triple Crown immortality.

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FIRST RACE: 1. Forever Thing, 2. Jimmy Connors, 3. Wabbajack, 4. Catholic Cowboy. LONG SHOT: Bernardo.

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SECOND RACE: 1. Life in Shambles, 2. Misconnect, 3. No Surrender, 4. Legend. LONG SHOT: Kid Cruz.

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THIRD RACE: 1. Micromanage, 2. Ground Transport, 3. Ever Rider, 4. Golden Soul. LONG SHOT: Eriugena.

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FOURTH RACE: 1. Marchman, 2. Positive Side, 3. Ben’s Cat, 4. Spring in the Sky. LONG SHOT: Upgrade.

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FIFTH RACE: 1. Kobe’s Back (15-1), 2. Top Fortitude, 3. Pure Sensation, 4. Coup de Grace. LONG SHOT: Tonito M.

Tough to explain last race by KOBE’S BACK other than got off bit slow and the pace wasn’t as hot as he needs with his come-from-behind style. That shouldn’t be a problem here and jockey Joel Rosario, who is the last one to win with him, returns to saddle for trainer John Sadler.

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SIXTH RACE: 1. Artemis Agrotera, 2. My Miss Sophia, 3. Fiftyshadesofgold, 4. Sweet Whiskey. LONG SHOT: Euphrosyne.

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SEVENTH RACE: 1. Beholder, 2. Close Hatches, 3. Princess of Sylmar, 4. Antipathy. LONG SHOT: Belle Gallantey.

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EIGHTH RACE: 1. Better Lucky, 2. Coffee Clique, 3. Somali Leomnade. 4. Strathnaver. LONG SHOT: Dame Marie.

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NINTH RACE: 1. Palace Malice, 2. Goldencents, 3. Normandy Invasion, 4. Romansh. LONG SHOT: Vyjack.

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10TH RACE: 1. Rookie Sensation (12-1, best bet), 2. Hey Leroy, 3. Imaging, 4. Grandeur. LONG SHOT: Chamois.

ROOKIE SENSATION had a ton of trouble in Grade III Last Tycoon at Santa Anita when got stuck on rail in the stretch, had to wheel out and finished third. One horse has already come back to win out of that race and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith stays aboard.

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11TH RACE: Belmont Stakes (see above)

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12TH RACE: 1. Ghurair, 2. Artic North, 3. Inchcape, 4. North Star Boy. LONG SHOT: Shining Copper.

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13TH RACE: 1. Protocol (6-1), 2. Slan Abhaile, 3. In Trouble, 4. Confrontation. LONG SHOT: Celebrator.

PROTOCOL won his first condition in impressive fashion at Santa Anita three months ago and resurfaces here for trainer John Shirreffs. Been training in New York for couple weeks with a few good works and should love the 7-furlong distance.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown

Churchill Downs selections for Kentucky Derby Day, May 3

Kentucky Derby

11TH RACE: 20 Wicked Strong, 5 California Chrome, 15 Tapiture, 17 Commanding Curve. LONG SHOT: 14 Medal Count.

I liked HOPPERTUNITY until he was scratched. WICKED STRONG was impressive in winning the Wood Memorial. CALIFORNIA CHROME deserves favoritism. TAPITURE might be ready to rebound. COMMANDING CURVE had a horrible trip in Louisiana Derby, but was running at the end. MEDAL COUNT is bred to get the distance.

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Race 4: #10 Kyriaki (3-1)

There is a ton of speed in this grass race. This filly ships in from Santa Anita for trainer Peter Eurton and appears to be the only true closer in the bunch. Jockey Mike Smith takes the mound and should be flying down the lane.

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SIXTH RACE (Churchill Distaff Turf Mile): 1. I’m Ready Sexy, 2. Centre Court, 3. Miz Ida, 4. Effie Trinket. LONG SHOT: Ready Signal.

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SEVENTH RACE (Humana Distaff): 1. Midnight Lucky, 2. Judy the Beauty, 3. Scherzinger, 4. Iotapa. LONG SHOT: Speedinthruthecity.

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EIGHTH RACE (American Turf): 1. Cleburne (30-1), 2. Chief Barker, 3. Woodfield Springs, 4. Global View. LONG SHOT: Craftsman.

This running of the American Turf is wide open so why not go with a long shot which has a Hall of Fame jockey aboard (Mike Smith). CLEBURNE, a son of Dixie Union, broke his maiden on the grass and then won on the dirt at Churchill before going to sidelines in September. After finishing third in the Calder Derby last month, he returns to the grass and looks like he will be moving turning for home.

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NINTH RACE (Churchill Downs): 1. Delaunay, 2. Shakin It Up, 3. Sahara Sky, 4. Clearly Now. LONG SHOT: Broadway Empire.

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10TH RACE (Woodford Reserve Turf Classic): 1. Wise Dan (best bet), 2. Seek Again, 3. Guys Reward, 4. Bright Thought. LONG SHOT: Boisterous.

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Race 13: #8 Rocket Time (15-1)

This is a first-time starter sired by Tiz Wonderful, who is good first time out. Trainer Al Stall is 16% with first-timers and 27% with first-timers going a route plus jockey Joel Rosario takes the mount and they are a 33% proposition the last two years.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Friday’s top choice winners: 1 (Fiftyshadesofgold $6.20, eighth race)

Friday’s second choice winners: 2 (On Fire baby $5.20, fifth; Untapable $4, 11th)

Friday’s third and long show winners: 0

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Horse racing, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

Weak that was: very, very weird

Usually when the big money is on the line, you can count on the top trainers at Santa Anita to be in the winner’s circle.

Such wasn’t the case last week, which was highlighted by California Chrome’s win in the Santa Anita Derby.

The top five trainers in the overall standings were a staggering 1-for-61 last week in Arcadia. That’s right one win out of 61 starters.

Here are the ugly numbers:

Jerry Hollendorfer 0-for-13

Bob Baffert 0-for-7

John Sadler 0-for-11

Peter Miller 0-for-11

Doug O’Neill 1-for-19

Now add in the likes of Tom Proctor (1-for-4) and Mike Puype (1-for-10) for a truly stunning week.

The stars of the week were Javier Sierra, who won three races, and Jim Cassidy (despite his New York Yankees loving ways), who won two races on Sunday.

Miller is in a prolonged slump and hasn’t won a race in at least a month. Better wait until he gets a win or two to start betting him again.

On the jockey’s side, victories were pretty well spread out.

As usual Rafael Bejarano led the way with five wins from 28 mounts. However, I’d bet most people couldn’t come up with the jockey who had the second most victories on the week … that’s right, journeyman Brice Blanc had four wins from 16 mounts. Blanc is more known for winning on the grass, but he won on the dirt, too.

Otherwise, three was the magic number as Joe Talamo rebounded from a winless week to go 3-for-26 followed by Tyler Baze (28 mounts), Victor Espinoza (13), Mike Smith (14), Edwin Maldonado (18) and Gary Stevens (seven) all had three victories.

Speaking of Stevens, he announced on Twitter Tuesday that he wouldn’t be tweeting again until June and the tweet featured a photo of Bayern, who is trained by Baffert and will run in this Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. I’m not sure what that’s about because Stevens has been active on Twitter, but it sounds like he’ll stop corresponding until after the Triple Crown.

Of course, Baffert did Stevens one better as he completely deleted his Twitter account (@midnightlute) apparently on Monday. The only rumor I heard was Baffert had a horse breakdown on Sunday and might have received at least one unkind comment.

But it also appears Bob’s wife, Jill, who has never been shy on social media either has disappeared on Twitter, too. At least, I couldn’t find her handle (@jillbaffert) on Tuesday afternoon.

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Horse racing, Triple Crown

Lukas not happy with Strong Mandate’s Rebel effort?

Sounds like trainer D. Wayne Lukas wasn’t all that happy with Strong Mandate’s second place finish in Monday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Quotes are courtesy of the Oaklawn Park media department:

Lukas: “He ran well. He didn’t have the cleanest of trips. We had wanted to be more forwardly placed, but he got bumped leaving the gate and was actually wide the whole trip. The winner ran exceptional. We’ll just go back to the barn and look at the Rebel Stakes (March 15).”

Jockey Joel Rosario, on Strong Mandate: “He broke a little slow. In the first turn, I wanted to get into position, but I couldn’t. I had to hold a bit because a few horses were bouncing in and out. He’s the kind of horse you need to let run easy. He’s a big horse and you want to let him do what he wants. Maybe next time we’ll get a better trip.”

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Winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Tapiture: “It was a big step forward for him. I was impressed with  what he did. I saw some things we need to improve and he’ll have to continue to improve with the races coming up. I think the series sets up really well for him.”

Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr, Tapiture: “This horse was working really nice. I was so excited for this race. When we got to the straight, he showed all his class. He was really nice and was really relaxed today.”

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Trainer Billy Gowan, third with Ride OnCurlin: “He ran a heck of a race. He was hung nine wide and he got a little bit tired. We’ll be back for the Rebel.”

Jockey Calvin Borel, third with Ride OnCurlin: “He ran good. He broke sharp. He got hung a little wide going into the first turn and he didn’t like that. I had to take him back and let him go about his business. He got a little heavy at the end.”

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Jockey Terry Thompson on Kendall’s Boy, “He had a real rough trip. He got banged up basically from when the gates opened until he just gave up on me. He never go into stride. It was his first time going two turns and we needed everything to go right. Hard to go off of this one.”

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