Tag Archives: Meadow Vespers

Meadow Vespers voted Michigan’s Thoroughbred of the Decade

Four-time Sire Stakes winner Meadow Vespers took 39.76% of the vote to earn Michigan's Thoroughbred of the Decade title.

The readers of The Michigan-Bred Claimer have voted Meadow Vespers Michigan’s Thoroughbred of the Decade, from 2000-2010.

The nine-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding drew 33 of 83 total votes (39.76%) to hold off second place finisher Tenpins for the top spot. Full results from the poll can be found at the end of the post.

Meadow Vespers is campaigned by owner John Mack and trainer Richard Rettele. He was bred in Michigan by James Arnold, Marcia Arnold and Deb Miley.

One of his barn’s stars for over a half decade, Rettele listed Meadow Vespers among the best horses he has trained.

“He’s sound, tough and has longevity,” Rettele said. “He’s good to train and goes to race. That’s the kind you need.”

Meadow Vespers won 13 of 42 career starts for earnings of $489,066. Five of those victories came in stakes company, along with nine other stakes placings. He is Michigan’s ninth leading male by lifetime earnings.

Meadow Vespers’ racing career often mirrored his running style – A slow build-up to a big finish.

The gelding’s late kick often led to minor awards in early-season stakes races, but became dialed in as the season, and the race distances, grew longer. Prior to the 2009 season, Meadow Vespers’ only stakes wins came in the longest blacktype contests at the end of Michigan’s racing calendar, the Sire Stakes.

After one start as a two-year-old, Meadow Vespers’ run of Sire Stakes victories began in 2005, when he won the three-year-old males division of the race at Great Lakes Downs. That victory, along with on-the-board finishes in the Dowling and Spartan Stakes, helped secure his division’s title for the year.

Meadow Vespers stepped up into older competition the next year and won that division’s race twice before Great Lakes Downs was closed in 2007. However, year-end awards eluded him both times.

In 2008, Meadow Vespers showed he could translate his success on GLD’s five-furlong track to a mile oval with an award-winning inaugural campaign at Pinnacle Race Course. His fourth straight Sire Stakes triumph, and three other in-the-money stakes efforts, helped wrap up Michigan’s older male title.

Meadow Vespers had another solid year in 2009 and even notched his first non-Sire Stakes blacktype win; a rallying half-length score in the Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Pinnacle. However, his signature late move could not overcome traffic problems in the Sire Stakes, and his streak was snapped with a fifth place finish.

Despite showing some flashes in 2010, including a half length runner-up finish in the Frontier Handicap and a valiant effort against graded stakes-level competition in a Hoosier Park allowance, Meadow Vespers failed to find his timing last year and again finished off the board in the Sire Stakes.

Most horses spend their entire careers trying to hit in just one big spot, and most never get there. Meadow Vespers made hitting in the big spot an annual event. In an industry where many horses that show success are quickly retired, even geldings, there is something to be said for a horse that manages to compete at a consistent stakes level over a seven-year racing career.

Thanks to his longevity, lethal closing kick and status as Michigan’s alpha male for the latter half of the 2000s, Meadow Vespers is Michigan’s Thoroughbred of the Decade.

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Here are the full results for Michigan’s Thoroughbred of the Decade poll. Thanks to everyone who voted and commented on the poll, and to everyone who campaigned the horses that showed off the best Michigan has to offer.

To view the original post with information on each entry, click here.

TOTAL: 83 Votes

1. Meadow Vespers – 33 Votes (39.76%)
2. Tenpins - 23 Votes (27.71%)
3. Secret Romeo – 8 Votes (9.64%)
4. Cashier’s Dream – 5 Votes (6.02%)
5. Valley Loot – 4 Votes (4.82%)
6. Born To Dance – 3 Votes (3.61%)
T7. Rockem Sockem – 2 Votes (2.41%)
T7. Weatherstorm – 2 Votes (2.41%)
T9. Sefa’s Rose – 1 Vote (1.2%)
T9. That Gift – 1 Vote (1.2%)
T9. Other (Starlit Hour) – 1 Vote (1.2%)

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Michigan Thoroughbred of the Decade (2000-2010)

Another year is quickly coming to a close.

Year-end honors are being awarded or debated, while racing fans and participants alike are reflecting on the 2010 racing calendar.

The end of 2010 also allows for the opportunity to reflect on a much bigger scale. Depending on one’s guidelines for defining the decades, we are either wrapping up the current ten-year stretch or we are in the midst of the ’10s.

Either way, enough time has elapsed to discuss the last decade in Michigan Thoroughbred racing – the highs, the lows and all points in between. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the highs.

Over the last 11 years (to account for both schools of thought and avoid confusion we’ll include 2010), Michigan has produced solid runners on the local, regional and national levels. Michigan has proven it can produce a Thoroughbred that compete anywhere.

This state has had some good ones in the ’00s, and it is time to decide who is the Michigan-bred Thoroughbred of the decade?

Behind the jump are ten horses whose careers have put them head and shoulders above the rest of their Michigan-bred counterparts. Some have exemplified dominance at Michigan’s Thoroughbred ovals, Great Lakes Downs and Pinnacle Race Course. Others have competed, and won, at some of the most prestigious racetracks in the world.

Each horse on the list has a reasonable claim to the title. The resumes for each candidate are included to display that claim and help voters make their decisions.

Does the flash of brilliance Cashier’s Dream showed in her tragically short career put her over the top? Tenpins’ graded stakes coups? Secret Romeo’s regional dominance? Valley Loot’s success in the latter half of the decade? Meadow Vespers’ near-invincibility in the Sire Stakes? That Gift’s transition from a stakes-level competitor to a hard knocker? Rockem Sockem’s staying power in the middle of the decade? Sefa’s Rose’s ownership of her division? Weatherstorm’s quick start? The early-decade success of Born to Dance?

To make your selection, just go to the poll on the left side of the page and click on the horse you feel is the most deserving of the title “Michigan Thoroughbred of the Decade”. Feel free to back up your vote or campaign for a horse in the comments. I look forward to hearing some constructive debate on the subject and reminiscence on the careers of the state’s best.

And the nominees are…

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2010 Sire Stakes Preview: Older Horses

Baba Booyah, Valley Loot square off in older females Sire Stakes

The old guard of Michigan’s older females division will try to hold off the youth movement for at least one more race in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Nine fillies and mares will compete to add a Sire Stakes win to her resume in the 1 1/8 mile race. Valley Loot has won the last two installments of the race in this division and will go for a third this weekend.

She will face a challenge from Moonbeam Handicap winner Baba Booyah. The four-year-old Daylight Savings filly pulled away to win by five and a half lengths in the Aug. 21 stakes race at Pinnacle. She enters the Sire Stakes off a third place finish in the Oct. 2 Farer Belle Lee Handicap. Trainer Robert Gorham will once again give Jeffrey Skerrett the leg up in the Sire Stakes for owner Mast Thoroughbreds LLC.

Valley Loot has had a down year in 2010, but the Sire Stakes is her realm. The six-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare has won three state runnings of the race, as a three-year-old in 2007 at Great Lakes Downs and as an older horse in 2008 and 2009 at Pinnacle. A three-time Michigan horse of the year, Valley Loot comes off two unplaced finishes in stakes races at Pinnacle, most recently the Farer Belle Lee. Regular rider Federico Mata will be in the irons for owner Lisa Campbell and trainer Ronald Allen, Sr.

Also entered is the 2009 Michigan three-year-old filly of the year Hakuna Matata. A four-year-old daughter of Meadow Prayer, Hakuna Matata is seeking her first victory since a rallying triumph in last year’s sophomore fillies Sire Stakes. In her most recent start, she finished fourth in the Farer Belle Lee. Owned by White Lake Farms, Inc., Hakuna Matata is trained by Larry Uelmen and will be ridden by Octavio Bernal.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Valley Loot / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 3-1
2. Shesashooter / T Molina / S M Spiess / 15-1
3. Guns And Giggles / J Cruz / S M Adkins / 10-1
4. Hakuna Matata / O Bernal / L R Uelmen / 7-2
5. Half A Glance / J J Delgado / J Gold / 20-1
6. She Could Be Good / A O Stanley / R M Gorham / 20-1
7. Baba Booyah / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 8-5
8. Secret Candy / R D Allen, Jr. / R D Allen, Sr. / 8-1
9. Stellar Star / R Barrios / D Cluley / 20-1

Romeo Again looks to start streak in older males Sire Stakes

The older males division of the $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course is all about streaks.

Romeo Again will be looking to build on his success in last year’s Sire Stakes, while Meadow Vespers will try to start a new one after having his four-race win streak in the series of races snapped.

Seven colts and geldings will enter the gates in Saturday’s 1 1/8 mile race. Last year’s installment was won by Bipolar Express.

As a three-year-old, Romeo Again pulled away to win his division of the Sire Stakes on his way to a share of his crop’s title. In 2010, the four-year-old Secret Romeo gelding won the Aug. 14 Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap. He enters the Sire Stakes off an unplaced finish in the Oct. 2 Frontier Handicap. Romeo Again will be ridden by Federico Mata for owners Lisa Campbell and II B’s Thoroughbreds. Patrick White will saddle Romeo Again in Saturday’s race.

After four straight victories in Sire Stakes races, Meadow Vespers’ signature late drive came up short in 2009 on his way to a fifth place finish. The eight-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding will attempt to get back on the winning track on Saturday. In his most recent start, Meadow Vespers missed by a half length for a runner-up finish in Frontier. Ronald Allen, Jr. will have the assignment for owner John Mack and trainer Richard Rettele.

Also entered is 2009 co-champion three-year-old male Meadow Wise. The four-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding’s most recent effort was a front-running fourth place finish, where he finished only 3/4 lengths behind the leaders. Owned by Mast Thoroughbreds, LLC, Meadow Wise will reunite with jockey Angel Stanley for Saturday’s race. Trainer Robert Gorham will give Stanley the leg-up.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Meadow Wise / A O Stanley / R M Gorham / 9-5
2. Elusive Furrari / J Cruz / S M Adkins / 20-1
3. Out With A Bang / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 10-1
4. Red Bow Tie / T Molina / D W Myers / 15-1
5. Romeo Again / F Mata / P L White / 2-1
6. Meadow Vespers / R D Allen, Jr. / R J Rettele / 5-2
7. Hot Chili / R Barrios / J R Jackson / 12-1

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Dream Victory wins Frontier Handicap

Dream Victory did not let the bullying of Michigan’s older males deter him from his goal, as he pulled the upset in Saturday’s $50,000 Frontier Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

The three-year-old Victory Gallop gelding took his time out of the gate as Hot Chili assumed the early lead on the rail, followed closely by Meadow Wise. That pair battled for the lead as the field made its first trip down the stretch and headed into the turn, followed about a length behind by post time favorite Perfect Start and Bipolar Express. Hot Chili put a length on Meadow Wise through the first bend, but that margin was quickly made up entering the backstretch. The leader was soon out of run and Meadow Wise took the lead, a length over a dueling Perfect Start and Bipolar Express, after a half mile of :49.67.

As the field headed into the final turn, Meadow Wise was in front by a length and a half over Bipolar Express, Perfect Start and Romeo Again, who had come into contention on the outside. Romeo Again led the charge as the trio tried to swallow up the leader, but Meadow Wise repelled them through the turn and still held a length’s advantage coming into the home stretch.

Meanwhile, a swarm of late closers, who had been a double-digit number of lengths behind heading into the turn, began to mount their charge together on the outside. That group, consisting of Dream Victory, Meadow Vespers and Power of Titus moved neck-and-neck several paths off the rail and picked off the early challengers. With about an eighth of a mile to go, the closers approached the leaders. As they came down the stretch, Romeo Again lugged out into Power of Titus. This, in turn pinched Dream Victory into Meadow Vespers on the outside. Despite the interference, Dream Victory managed to stay on course and surged to the lead with under a hundred yards to go.

Dream Victory emerged at the wire a half length ahead under urging from jockey Jose Delgado. Behind him was a tightly bunched group of four horses led by Meadow Vespers, who took the runner-up spot by a nose over Power of Titus. Meadow Wise was a neck behind in fourth.

Dream Victory stopped the clock in the mile and one eighth race in 1:54.61 over a sealed muddy surface. He rewarded his backers with the field’s third biggest price at 18.60-to-one.

James Jackson saddled Dream Victory for owners Gene and Phyllis Gilmore. With the win in the Frontier, Dream Victory improved his lifetime record to five wins from 21 career starts and his first score in stakes company. His career earnings now total $87,330.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

9 – Dream Victory (Jose Delgado) 39.20 / 20.60 / 11.20
11 – Meadow Vespers (Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez) 6.00 / 4.80
10 – Power of Titus (Octavio Bernal) 8.60

One mile and one eighth
Time: 1:54.61

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Perfect Start aims to improve in Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap

Perfect Start will try to improve on his runner-up finish in the July 3 Wolverine Stakes in Saturday’s $20,000 Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

The field of six older Michigan-bred males going a mile features four stakes winners from last year’s meet at Pinnacle. The purse for Saturday’s race has been decreased from its normal value of $50,000 in order to over the increased cost of regulation from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Perfect Start was one of the more buzz-worthy three-year-olds at Pinnacle in 2009, on the strength of his victory in the Mackinac Handicap and entry in the Ohio Derby (G2). The Jump Start colt ran second to Fiery Lake in the Wolverine and enters Saturday’s race off a third place in a Aug. 3 allowance contest at Thistledown. Alexis Ortiz will be in the irons for owner Charlie Williams and trainer Sandra Adkins.

Last year’s co-champion three-year-old male Meadow Wise will try for his first win in the handicap ranks in the Michigan Breeder’s Cup. The Meadow Prayer gelding won last year’s Dowling Stakes at Pinnacle and never missed the board in 2009. He enters the race off an Aug. 31 allowance victory at Pinnacle, where he won by 5 3/4 lengths. Meadow Wise is trained by Bob Gorham for owner Mast Thoroughbreds, LLC. Jeffrey Skerrett will get the leg up on Saturday.

Meadow Vespers returns to defend his title after winning last year’s installment of the Michigan Breeders’ Cup. The Meadow Prayer gelding is best known for his four straight victories in his division of the Sire Stakes from 2005 to 2008. Meadow Vespers comes in off an unplaced finish in the Wolverine Stakes. He is owned by J. Mack Enterprise, Inc. and trained by Richard Rettele. Jose Delgado will be the rider.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Bishop Casey / T Molina / R M Gorham / 8-5
1A. Meadow Wise / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 8-5
2. Romeo Again / F Mata / P L White / 3-1
3. Perfect Start / A Ortiz / S M Adkins / 5-2
4. Meadow Vespers / J J Delgado / R J Rettele / 7-2
5. Out With A Bang / O Bernal / R M Gorham / 10-1

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Answers to the five burning questions of 2009

The success of Romeo Again helped his sire, Secret Romeo, establish himself as Michigan's breakout sire of 2009.

At the beginning of the year, I posed five questions about racing in Michigan to consider for the following year. Now that the year is almost over, it is time to look back at those questions and see how they were answered.

#1 – Who will be the breakout sire of 2009?

The Answer: In the original post, I singled out The Deputy (Ire) as a sire who could make some noise when his first crop as a Michigan-based stallion hit the track. As it turns out, I was right and wrong. The Deputy was the leading national earner among all Michigan sires who fit my criteria as a breakout candidate – sires considered “new”, “unproven” or in The Deputy’s case “new to Michigan”. However, he made most of his money in West Virginia.

The Petardia (GB) stallion ranked eighth in West Virginia by juvenile earnings with $62,178, highlighted by Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes runner-up Kid Kearny Gabe. The Deputy only sent three juvenile starters to the gates in Michigan to finish 29th in juvenile earnings, with no Michigan-bred stakes starters. However, the West Virginia contingent did show up to represent The Deputy in the Sire Stakes. Kid Kearny Gabe stepped up once again to finish second in the two-year-old males division of the fall classic.

When considering Michigan sires with success in Michigan, the label “breakout sire of ’09″ would probably best fit Secret Romeo. The Service Stripe horse sired his first stakes winner when Romeo Again won the three-year-old males division of the Sire Stakes on his way to earning a share of the division’s top honors.

Secret Romeo ranked seventh in general earnings for Michigan-breds in 2009 with $159,612. His second crop hit the track in 2009.

#2 – How will Mr. Conclusive follow up on his dominant 2008 campaign?

The Answer: Not so hot. After a tumultuous winter and a long layoff, Mr. Conclusive missed the board in three starts during his 2009 campaign. Hopefully he can get it turned around for 2010.

#3 – Whose Sire Stakes streak will stay alive – Valley Loot or Meadow Vespers?

The Answer: At the beginning of the year, I predicted that Valley Loot would have a smoother road to a third consecutive Sire Stakes win based on the strength of her division and the quality of graduating three-year-olds she would face in 2009.

After an amazing four year streak that spanned two racetracks and two divisions, Meadow Vespers’ signature closing kick came up empty in the older males division to snap his run. Meadow Vespers, a seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding, finished fifth in that race to Bipolar Express, one of the previously mentioned newcomers to the division.

Valley Loot, on the other hand, kept her streak alive with a 1 1/2 length score in the older mares division. The five-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare also tallied her third straight Michigan Horse of the Year honors in 2009. Can she keep that streak going? That will be a question for 2010.

#4 – What will be new at Pinnacle Race Course?

The Answer: In terms of planned Phase Two developments, nothing much. The economic situation of the state, the track and the racing industry understandably made it difficult to expand at this time.

However, the track did make a small, but significant addition that made a day at the races much more enjoyable. The festival tent in in the grandstand area was a big step up from the temporary bleachers that occupied the space in 2008. Aside from providing some much-needed shade and protection from the elements, the additional tables, TV screens and mutuel windows it provided made it much more worthwhile to watch the races from that end of the track. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea.

#5 – How much of a difference will a few extra weeks of pre-meet training make?

The Answer: One of the issues many attributed to the field sizes in 2008 was that Pinnacle did not open up for training until a few days before opening day. A constant stream of heavy rains kept Pinnacle from opening the track, which lowered the number of race-ready horses when the meet began. This year, there were no delays.

The effect this extra time had on the field sizes at Pinnacle is hard to determine. In 2008, it seemed as though the fields were either really big or really small. In 2009, the number was more consistent, but it meant more six or seven horse fields – enough to play most exotics, but not enough to give them the kind of payoffs that make them lucrative. We’ll call this one a push.

Look for the Burning Questions for 2010 in the coming weeks.

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Sire Stakes Preview: Older Horses

Meadow Vespers goes for fifth straight Sire Stakes win in Older Male division

Meadow Vespers will try to continue his run of success in the Sire Stakes Older Male division at Pinnacle Race Course.

Meadow Vespers will try to continue his run of success in the Sire Stakes Older Male division at Pinnacle Race Course.

Through all the uncertainty and changes Michigan’s racing industry has faced over the last four years, one thing has remained consistent – Meadow Vespers is money in the Sire Stakes.

Beginning with the 2005 three-year-old Sire Stakes at Great Lakes Downs, Meadow Vespers has found the winner’s circle a perfect four straight years. He will attempt to cap a half decade of dominance in Saturday’s $50,000 Sire Stakes for older males at Pinnacle Race Course.

Meadow Vespers enters the 1 1/8 mile Sire Stakes off a third place finish in the Sep. 12 Frontier Handicap at Pinnacle, where his usual last-to-first theatrics were stalled by traffic problems. The seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding has not finished off the board during his 2009 campaign, including a win in the Aug. 15 Michigan Breeders Cup Handicap. Meadow Vespers is owned by J. Mack Enterprise Inc. and trained by Richard Rettele. J.J. Delgado will have the assignment on Saturday.

The older males division features another winner from last year’s Sire Stakes, three-year-old division champion Bipolar Express. The four-year-old Equality gelding has spent most of his 2009 campaign at Presque Isle Downs, most recently coming off a fourth place finish  in a Sep. 3 claiming race at the Erie, Pennsylvania track. Bipolar Express is owned Winning Stables, Inc and trained by Gerald Bennett, who claimed the horse back in his last start for $35,000 after losing his charge in the preceding race for a $25,000 tag. T.D. Houghton will have the mount in Saturday’s race.

Another road-tested Michigan-bred returning home for the Sire Stakes is Demagoguery. The seven-year-old Demaloot Demashoot gelding has entered the gates at four different tracks during his 2009 campaign, including Tampa Bay Downs, Thistledown, Presque Isle Downs and a runner-up finish in the July 4 Wolverine Handicap in his lone start at Pinnacle Race Course. He comes into the Sire Stakes off a second place finish in a Sep. 12 allowance race at Thistledown. Demagoguery is owned by Mary Mazur and trained by Gerald Bennett. Godofredo Laurente will get the leg up.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Hot Chili / F Mata / J R Jackson / 6-1
2. Mt. Factor / A Ortiz / R J Rettele / 20-1
3. Meadow Vespers / J J Delgado / R J Rettele / 8-5
4. Bipolar Express / T D Houghton / G S Bennett / 2-1
5. Buscando Fortuna / A O Stanley / R M Gorham / 15-1
6. My First Buck / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 15-1
7. Demagoguery / G Laurente / G S Bennett / 8-1
8. Rhythm In Motion / A A Marin / J R Jackson / 20-1

Valley Loot aims at third consecutive Sire Stakes win in Older Female division

Valley Loot will make a bid for her third straight Horse of the Year honors in the Older Females division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Valley Loot will make a bid for her third straight Horse of the Year honors in the Older Females division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Not to be outdone by Meadow Vespers’ streak, Valley Loot has staged her own run of two Sire Stakes wins. While she has a long way to go to catch up to her rival, Valley Loot has a big streak of her own, as the two-time defending Horse of the Year.

Valley Loot will look to extend both streaks to a third year in Saturday’s $50,000 Sire Stakes, a 1 1/8 mile race for older females at Pinnacle Race Course.

Though Valley Loot notched a stakes win in the June 16 Golden Sylvia Handicap at Mountaineer and ran a respectable third in the July 25 Winward Stakes at Presque Isle Downs, she has yet to show her usual dominant form at Pinnacle. The five-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare enters the Sire Stakes off a heartbreaking loss to three-year-old Moon Charmer in the final strides of the Sep. 12 Farer Belle Lee Handicap, and has yet to win a race at the Detroit racetrack this year. Federico Mata will ride Valley Loot for owner Lisa Campbell and trainer Ronald Allen, Sr.

Campbell and Allen will also send Wave Pool, another Sire Stakes winner, to the post on Saturday. The four-year-old Sea Legs filly won the sophomore fillies division of the Sire Stakes in 2008. She enters this year’s older females contest off a fourth place finish in the Farer Belle Lee Handicap. Wave Pool will be ridden by Jeffrey Skerrett.

The wild card in the race will be Clever Idea, who makes her first start since Nov. 1 of last year. The four-year-old Matchlite filly finished second that day to fellow Sire Stakes entrant Nell’s Enjoyment in an allowance race at Pinnacle. During her three-year-old campaign, Clever Idea was one of the top fillies in her class, with a win in the Michigan Oaks and a runner-up effort in the Sire Stakes. Dave Kueffner trains Clever Idea for owner Steve Prain. J.J. Delgado will have the assignment on Saturday.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Glory Bea / W Ortiz / J A Lewis / 20-1
2. She Could Be Good / T D Houghton / R M Gorham / 12-1
3. Valley Loot / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 6-5
4. Half A Glance / M E Doser / S Sowle / 15-1
5. Guns and Giggles / A Ortiz / J C Rupert / 10-1
6. Wave Pool / J Skerrett / R D Allen, Sr. / 9-2
7. Clever Idea / J J Delgado / D Kueffner / 4-1
8. Nell’s Enjoyment / A A Marin / S M Spiess / 20-1
9.  Stellar Star / A O Stanley / D Cluley / 20-1

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Bubble Watch

Will Meadow Wise be Michigan's THoroughbred of the Year in 2009? He's as live as any.

Will Meadow Wise be Michigan's Thoroughbred of the Year in 2009? He's as live as any.

The Sire Stakes has a way of sorting things out when it comes to year-end awards.

In 2008, the winners of the marquee race’s six divisions accounted for all seven of the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s awards (one for each division and horse of the year) and six of the seven awards from Pinnacle Race Course, as decided by the track’s announcer, Matt Hook. Though the purses for this year’s installment will likely be no higher than the average stakes prize of $50,000, the races will no doubt still hold a special weight with voters.

With the Sire Stakes a week away, most of the division honors are still very much up for grabs. This Saturday will give the horses on the bubble a chance for a statement win to pad their resume.

With that in mind, let us take a look at each of the divisions and see who is in the driver’s seat heading into the Sire Stakes, who has some work to do, and who is grasping at straws.

In my forecasting of the divisions and their awards, I operated under the assumption that the Pinnacle awards are based solely on performance at the Detroit racetrack, while the MTOBA awards took into consideration the entire campaign of Michigan-breds in and out-of-state. If I am wrong in my assumptions don’t hesitate to correct me.

While reading these projections, keep in mind this analysis is strictly the opinion of this blogger. The views, rankings and projections do not necessarily represent those of the people actually deciding the year-end awards. These predictions are based on the horses’ projected paths through the end of the Pinnacle meet. If one of these horses goes crazy and takes down a graded race in Kentucky or something along those lines, these predictions will obviously change.

Now touch gloves and fight clean…

Two-Year-Old Male: With only one of the three stakes races for juvenile males complete, Prince of Paulie is the clubhouse leader by virtue of his win in the Sep. 12 Patrick Wood Stakes. Finishing first in either the Sire Stakes or the Michigan Futurity ought to be enough for the Meadow Prayer gelding to lock the award down with both groups. The horse with best chance of moving up should Prince of Paulie falter could be the runner-up in the Patrick Wood, Power of Titus. A win in the Sire Stakes would go a long way in grabbing the voters’ attention, especially if Prince of Paulie finishes off the board. The two-year-old season is just getting started in Michigan, so much is left to shake out.

Two-Year-Old Female: Similar to their male counterparts, Hustle Now holds the top spot in both jurisdictions on the strength of her victory in the Sep. 12 Sickle’s Image Stakes, the division’s only blacktype race to date. One more stakes win would give her two out of three, which ought to be enough. Second place finisher Top Touch showed a lot of grit during her stretch battle with Hustle Now in the Sickle’s Image. However she will be hard-pressed to shake her rival from her post because Top Touch is not eligible for the Sire Stakes. Her sire, Touch Gold, stands in Kentucky. A win in the Michigan Juvenile Fillies and some help might get the job done, though. All things considered, it is much too soon to declare solid favorites in this division. The picture for both juvenile classes will be much clearer after the Sire Stakes.

Three-Year-Old Male: Meadow Wise has shown up to every dance and has yet to turn in a clunker. A finish in the top two next Saturday will put him in the driver’s seat for year-end honors. Juggle and Perfect Start both have stakes wins to their credit, but would need a win in their next race (and for Juggle, probably some help) to overthrow Meadow Wise in either poll. Perfect Start’s out-of-state sire will likely keep him out of the discussion for the Pinnacle honors because he can not compete in the Sire Stakes. However, the Jump Start colt could have a date elsewhere on Sire Stakes day, as he is nominated for the Oct. 3 Ohio Derby (G2) at Thistledown. Regardless of what Meadow Wise does at Pinnacle, a graded stakes win might be enough to persuade MTOBA’s voters.

Three-Year-Old Female: This division has been a game of musical chairs between Moon Charmer, Hakuna Matata, and Baba Booyah. Each has finished in the top three in the last two sophomore filly stakes races and the orders have been shuffled each time, once even further by a disqualification. Heading into the Sire Stakes though, Moon Charmer holds the upper hand based on her win against older company, including 2008 Horse of the Year Valley Loot, in the Sep. 12 Farer Belle Lee Handicap. That win will need to leave a lasting impression, because the Indian Charlie filly will not be eligible for the Sire Stakes. Her two rivals need to win the Sire Stakes by a serious margin to offset a win against older company. A second place finish or worse by Hakuna Matata or Baba Booyah will likely dash their hopes for the sophomore filly honors.

Older Male: Meadow Vespers controls his own destiny in this division. A fifth straight Sire Stakes win, or maybe even a strong second or third, will clinch the older male title in both jurisdictions. His closest rivals, All I Can Get and Fiery Lake, will not be in the gates for next Saturday’s race and have not shown enough this year to pass the defending champion, which works even further to Meadow Vespers’ advantage. If Meadow Vespers should come up empty in the Sire Stakes, a dominant victory (at least five lengths and visually impressive) could vault perennial runners-up Hot Chili or Demagoguery into the discussion, but they would both face an uphill battle.

Older Female: Valley Loot has had a pretty good year by most standards, with a stakes win at Mountaineer and a third place finish in a $100,000 race at Presque Isle Downs. She just hasn’t done much winning at Pinnacle. Still, a first place finish on Saturday would clinch the MTOBA award and give her the inside track in the Pinnacle race. Having the name recognition as the defending Horse of the year doesn’t hurt either. Yawm Estoora is the only horse on the grounds to have won two stakes races at Pinnacle this year, but her disappointing performance in the Farer Belle Lee and ineligibility in the Sire Stakes leaves her closing argument lacking. Her resume may be strong enough to win the Pinnacle award though, especially if Valley Loot runs poorly or skips the Sire Stakes for greener pastures.

Horse of the Year: If Meadow Wise wins his Sire Stakes race, he’ll hold all the cards for Horse of the Year in both polls. No one else will have run as consistently and successfully at Pinnacle throughout the meet. If he has an off day, the door is open for Meadow Vespers and Valley Loot, assuming they win their division’s races. Meadow Vespers would likely hold the advantage in the Pinnacle poll because he already has a stakes win at the track under his belt. Valley Loot’s complete body of work in 2009 would probably give her an advantage in the MTOBA awards. The wild card in this equation is Perfect Start. Michigan does not get too many graded stakes winners, so if he pulls the upset in the Ohio Derby, all bets are off, at least for the MTOBA award.

Those are my thoughts. Who do you think sits at the head of the class going into the Sire Stakes? Who has some work left to do? I invite your discussion on Michigan’s six divisions and Horse of the Year honors.

Look for previews of the Sire Stakes races throughout the upcoming week.

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Michigan Breeders’ Championships Preview: Older Horses

Key divisional matchup in Farer Belle Lee Handicap

Wave Pool is one of two horses entered by trainer Ronnie Allen, Sr. and owner Lisa Campbell in Saturday's Farer Belle Lee Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

Wave Pool is one of two horses entered by trainer Ronnie Allen, Sr. and owner Lisa Campbell in Saturday's Farer Belle Lee Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

Heading into this year, it looked like Michigan’s older females division would be a fairly safe bet for last year’s champion, Valley Loot to repeat. Though Valley Loot has had stakes success elsewhere in 2009, Yawm Estoora has staked her own claim to the title by taking both three-year-old and up stakes races for fillies and mares at Pinnacle Race Course.

The pair will face off for what will likely be the last time this year in Saturday’s $50,000 Farer Belle Lee Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

The defending champion older female, as well as Michigan Thoroughbred of the Year, Valley Loot has earned most of her credentials this year outside of Michigan. The five-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare’s lone start at Pinnacle in 2009, the June 27 Larkspur Handicap, saw her get hung wide the entire race on her way to a third place finish behind Yawm Estoora. Elsewhere, Valley Loot won the June 16 Golden Sylvia Handicap at Mountaineer and finished third in the July 25 Windward Stakes at Presque Isle Downs. Last year, Valley Loot won the Farer Belle Lee by a convincing 7 1/2 length margin. She enters this year’s installment off a fifth place finish in a Sep. 2 optional claimer at Presque Isle. Valley Loot is owned by Lisa Campbell and trained by Ronnie Allen, Sr.. Federico Mata will be in the irons on Saturday.

Valley Loot’s primary challenger to the title is Yawm Estoora. The six-year-old Dayjur mare holds a one-to-nothing head-to-head advantage against Valley Loot at Pinnacle this year, after beating her by 2 1/2 lengths in the Larkspur. Because Dayjur is not a Michigan-based sire, Yawm Estoora is not eligible for October’s Sire Stakes. This will be the last opportunity she will get for stakes competition at Pinnacle this year, and a chance to sweep the defending champion in Michigan stakes races for 2009. Yawm Estoora enters the race off a dominant 4 1/4 length victory in the Aug. 8 Moonbeam Handicap at Pinnacle. Angel Stanley will be in the saddle for owner Twin Cedars Farm and trainer Ron Inman.

Also entered is Valley Loot’s stablemate Wave Pool. The four-year-old Sea Legs filly, one of last year’s leading three-year-old females, enters Saturday’s race off a runner-up finish in an Aug. 22 Allowance race at Pinnacle. Wave Pool is trained by Ronnie Allen, Sr. for owner Lisa Campbell. Rick Knott will pick up the mount for the race.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Wave Pool / R L Knott / R D Allen, Sr. / 6-1
2. Glory Bea / A A Marin / J A Lewis / 20-1
3. Moon Charmer / G Laurente / R M Gorham / 10-1
4. Twilighted Thistle / A Ortiz / R Spiess / 20-1
5. Nell’s Enjoyment / JJ Delgado / S M Spiess / 8-1
6. Valley Loot / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 8-5
7. She Could Be Good / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 5-1
8. Yawm Estoora / A O Stanley / R P Inman / 3-1

Meadow Vespers looks to begin stakes streak in Frontier Handicap

Michigan's defending champion older male, Meadow Vespers, will try for a second straight stakes victory in Saturday's Frontier Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

Michigan's defending champion older male, Meadow Vespers, will try for a second straight stakes victory in Saturday's Frontier Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

Like his running style, Meadow Vespers’ typical campaign through any given year is a slow burn, with respectable finishes working their way toward a big victory in the Sire Stakes. So far, that method has netted him four consecutive Sire Stakes wins.

That is why it is so surprising to see last year’s champion older male in a position to enter October’s major contest riding a two-race stakes wining streak, should he prevail in Saturday’s $50,000 Frontier Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course.

As previously mentioned, Meadow Vespers enters the Frontier off a deep-closing 1/2 length victory in the Aug. 15 Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Pinnacle. The seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding missed by a nose to Rockem Sockem in last year’s installment of the Frontier. Richard Rettele trains Meadow Prayer for owner J Mack Enterprise Inc. JJ Delgado will be in the saddle for Saturday’s race.

Fiery Lake surprised the field and the bettors when he pulled a 17.60-to-one upset in the July 4 Wolverine Stakes at Pinnacle. The four-year-old Devil His Due gelding drove off to a 4 3/4 length victory in that race, five lengths ahead of Meadow Vespers, who finished third. The rivals are tied in their head-to head matchup for 2009 with a win each. Fiery Lake enters the Frontier off a fourth place finish in the Michigan Breeders’ Cup to Meadow Vespers. Evelyn Griffin trains Fiery Lake for owner Samaron Stable. Ricardo Barrios will have the assignment.

Also entered is Michigan Breeders’ Cup runner-up All I Can Get. The five-year-old Slew City Slew gelding returns to Pinnacle after a road trip to Thistledown, where he finished second by a neck to Hot Chili in an Aug. 29 allowance race. Hot Chili is also entered in Saturday’s race. Federico Mata will ride All I Can Get for owner Michael McQuade and trainer Gerald Bennett.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Bishop Casey / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 6-1
2. Fiery Lake / R Barrios / E Griffin / 4-1
3. Born to Tango / A Ortiz / J R Jackson / 20-1
4. Al’s Best Man / L R Frazzitta, Jr. / R J Richardson / 20-1
5. Meadow Vespers / J J Delgado / R J Rettele / 2-1
6. Candid Image / M Ccamaque / L E Boggess / 15-1
7. All I Can Get / F Mata / G S Bennett / 5-1
8. Hot Chili / A O Stanley / J R Jackson / 9-2
9. Hooched Express / L Wade / C Dorris / 12-1

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Meadow Vespers closes from way back to win Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap

Meadow Vespers executed his signature ground saving trip and screaming stretch drive to prevail in Saturday’s $20,000 Michigan Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Pinnacle Race Course by a half length.

The seven-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding broke without urgency as All I Can Get and Hot Chili dueled for the early lead heading into the first turn. All I Can Get pulled clear of his foes across the backstretch as Meadow Vespers sat as far back as 14 1/2 lengths behind in last. The leader was pressured heading into the final turn by Fiery Lake, Hooched Express and Hot Chili as Meadow Vespers began to mount his charge.

About two lengths separated All I Can Get and Meadow Vespers at the top of the stretch, with the latter staging a rally five wide as Hot Chili came into contention on the rail. The three battled down the stretch, but Meadow Vespers’ momentum carried him across the wire first, a half length ahead of All I Can Get. Hot Chili finished a length behind All I Can Get to take the third place money.

Meadow Vespers completed the mile and one sixteenth race in 1:47.03 under regular jockey Ivan Gonzalez on a fast surface.

Meadow Vespers is owned by J Mack Enterprise Inc. and trained by Richard Rettele. He was bred in Michigan by James Arnold, Marcia Arnold and Deborah Miley. The Michigan Breeders’ Cup win improved Meadow Vespers’ career record to 13 wins from 32 starts, including five stakes victories. His career earnings increased to $465,368.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

7 – Meadow Vespers (Ivan Gonzalez) 5.60 / 5.20 / 2.80
3 – All I Can Get (Jareth Loveberry) 10.20 / 4.40
2 – Hot Chili (Alexis Ortiz) 5.20

1 1/16 Miles
Time:  1:47.03

Photobucket
Your winner, Meadow Vespers; Ivan Gonzalez, up. (Photo from a previous race)

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