Monthly Archives: July 2010

Ship-ins invade Don Boyd Memorial Challenge Handicap

Fearles Fred will shoot for his sixth win in seven starts at Mount Pleasant Meadows in Sunday's Don Boyd Memorial Challenge Handicap.

A combination of new shippers, regulars and horses making a homecoming to Mount Pleasant Meadows will try to win the final race of the track’s 2010 meet in Sunday’s $15,000 Don Boyd Memorial Challenge Handicap.

Four of the seven Quarter Horses entered in the 350 yard race for three-year-olds and up will make their first start at Mount Pleasant for 2010. Many of those horses will race in Michigan for the first time.

The platoon of newcomers is led by Ethics Aside, who comes to Michigan from the Louisiana circuit after a brief stop at Indiana Downs. The four-year-old Mr Jess Perry horse enters the race off an unplaced finish in a June 25 allowance race at Indiana, hampered by a stumbled start. Before heading north, Ethics Aside finished sixth by just a length and a half in the May 22 Bank Of America East Championship Challenge at Delta Downs. Rolando Almanza trains Ethics Aside for owner Jorge Luis Gonzalez. Oscar Delgado will be in the irons for Sunday’s race.

Heading up the Mount Pleasant-based contingent is Fearles Fred. The three-year-old Fredricksburg gelding has defended his home turf well, sporting a five-for-six record at Mount Pleasant, in addition to a victory in last October’s All American Quarter Horse Congress Futurity at Beulah Park. Fearles Fred enters Sunday’s race off a runner-up finish in the July 3 Indiana Live Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana Derby at Indiana Downs. Regular rider Richard Rettele will have the mount aboard Fearles Fred for owner Walter Harrison and trainer Carol Rettele.

A former Rettele charge making his return to Mount Pleasant is Hez Fastforthecash. The four-year-old Heza Fast Man gelding won or hit the board in stakes races at Mount Pleasant, Beulah Park and Hialeah Park in his last three starts. Most recently, he finished third in the Jan. 17 Sawgrass Stakes at Hialeah. Lee Gates will have the assignment aboard Hez Fastforthecash for owner Rogelio Martinez and trainer Rolando Almanza.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Ethics Aside / O Delgado / R Almanza / 1-1
2. Eight Below 123 / N Alcala / J Hall / 3-1
3. Royal Wicked / G Garrido / R Almanza / 15-1
4. Alley Rose 123 / A Keller / J Hall / 6-1
5. Hez Fastforthecash / L Gates / R Almanza / 2-1
6. Zoom N Crash / J F Delgado / A F Cunningham / 9-1
7. Fearles Fred / R Rettele / C Rettele / 2-5

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Holst, Fritz send many entries in Michigan Arabian Juvenile Stakes

Get R Done's convincing score in his maiden race helped make him the co-morning line favorite in the Michigan Arabian Juvenile Stakes.

Owner Tom Fritz and trainer Nicole Holst will account for a combined seven of the eight entries in Sunday’s $6,000 Michigan Arabian Juvenile Stakes at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

The marquee race in Michigan for three-year-old Arabians was won last year by eventual Michigan Arabian of the Year Catch Me Ridin Dirty. Sunday’s race will be the first start at five furlongs for each horse in the field.

Like Larry The Cable Guy opening the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Get R Done made a strong first impression on the strength of his six-length debut win on July 11. The Virgule Al Maury gelding quickly took a commanding lead in the maiden special weight race and cantered down the stretch unchallenged under jockey Juan Delgado, who retains the mount. Mario Fritz trains Get R Done for owner Tom Fritz.

First Kiss HLF opened her career with an impressive score of her own, notching a 4 1/4 length win on July 18. The daughter of Chndaka took a similar path to the winner’s circle as her stablemate, Get R Done, with a forwardly placed trip followed by an un-pressured lope down the stretch. Julie Post trains First Kiss HLF for owner Tom Fritz. Jose Beltran will be in the irons for Sunday’s race.

The other part of the Tom Fritz-owned entry is Hot Lava, who is trained by Mario Fritz and did not have a rider at the time final entries were published. Of the remaining riders available in Mount Pleasant’s regular jockey colony, Josh Ritschard is the most likely one to fill the opening.

Also entered is the Nicole Holst-trained Three T Peacock. The TTT Freedom gelding won on July 4 with a 3 1/4 victory, and enters the race off a third place finish on July 18. Tricia Schibik owns Three T Peacock, who will be ridden by Gerardo Garrido.

Holst will send three others to the post in Sunday’s race. Oddsmaker is owned by Lapco Arabians and will be ridden by Nate Alcala. Amanda Keller will ride Holst-owned Wicked Breeze, and Lee Gates will ride Triple Play SA for Tricia Schibik.

Pipers Prime Time is also entered in the Michigan Arabian Juvenile. Julie Post trains the Pipers Pinosh gelding for owner Leon Silber. Oscar Delgado will get the leg up.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. First Kiss HLF / J A Beltran / J Post / 3-5
1A. Get R Done / J F Delgado / M Fritz / 3-5
1C. Hot Lava / No Rider / M Fritz / 3-5
2. Oddsmaker / N Alcala / N Holst / 1-1
2B. Wicked Breeze / A Keller / N Holst / 1-1
2D. Triple Play SA / L Gates / N Holst / 1-1
2X. Three T Peacock / G Garrido  / N Holst / 1-1
3. Pipers Prime Time / O Delgado / J Post / 15-1

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Montis Grand Concept leads loaded Stallion Service Sale Futurity field

Montis Grand Concept is one of three horses entered by trainer Dave Gates in Sunday's GLQHA Stallion Service Sale Futurity.

A full field of ten will compete Sunday for the biggest purse of Mount Pleasant Meadows’ 2010 meet in the $25,000 Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association Stallion Service Sale Futurity Finals.

The 350 yard race for two-year-old Quarter Horses and Paints headlines the closing day card at the central Michigan mixed breed track. Last year’s rendition of the Futurity was won by Happenedindamoonlite.

After a disqualification moved her up to first, Montis Grand Concept registered the fastest time during the race’s July 18 trials, checking in at :18.301 seconds. The daughter of Monti’s Lad missed by a head in her division of the trials, but was placed first after Mr. Corona To You was disqualified for interfering with a rival. Montis Grand Concept established herself as one of the state’s top juveniles with a win in the June 27 Michigan Bred Futurity at Mount Pleasant. Nate Alcala will be in the saddle for trainer Dave Gates and owner Lawrence Belden.

Uno Machine found the winner’s circle in the other trial for the Stallion Service Sale Futurity, with a 1 3/4 length triumph in :18.342 seconds. The undefeated Dos Poruno paint filly entered the trials off a convincing 1 1/2 length victory in the June 20 Michigan Paint Horse Futurity at Mount Pleasant. Owned and trained by Dave Gates, and also owned by Shirley Gates, Uno Machine will be ridden by Lee Gates. Uno Machine is part of a three-horse Gates entry with Montis Grand Concept and Justa Struttin, who is owned by Dave and Shirley Gates and will be ridden by Eric Forgar.

Mr Corona To You qualified for the final despite being taken down from first to fifth in his heat. Had the Corona For Me gelding remained on top, his time would have been fastest among the trials at :18.278 seconds. Prior to the Futurity trials, Mr. Corona To You earned his diploma in a June 27 maiden race at Mount Pleasant. He will be ridden by Richard Rettele for owner Walter Harrison and trainer Carol Rettele.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. An You An Eye / J F Delgado / A F Cunningham / 2-1
1A. Out An About / G Garrido / A F Cunningham / 2-1
1C. Dials Jumpn / J A Beltran / A F Cunningham / 2-1
2. Montis Grand Concept / N Alcala / D N Gates / 3-5
2B. Justa Struttin / E Forgar / D N Gates / 3-5
2X. Uno Machine / L Gates / D N Gates / 3-5
3. Mr Corona To You / R Rettele / C Rettele / 1-1
4. Hillbilly Cruiser / J Ritschard / N Funnell / 8-1
5. Earth Shaken Talent / O Delgado / C Rettele / 6-1
6. Shake It Twice / A Keller / R Cliff / 4-1

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Hour By Hour stretches out in Dowling Stakes

After a gate to wire victory in the June 26 Lansing Stakes, Hour By Hour will try to continue his run of success in Saturday’s $20,000 Dowling Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Hour By Hour will face eight foes in the Dowling, including several rivals from the Lansing. Last year’s installment of the one mile race for Michigan-bred three-year-olds was won by Meadow Wise.

For the second straight year, the purse for the Dowling has been decreased from its regular size of $50,000 to cover the cost of regulation from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Hour By Hour pulled away in the Lansing to win by 2 3/4 lengths with a front-running trip. The Elusive Hour colt earned a share of last year’s Michigan-bred two-year-old male title following a score in his division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle last October. Saturday’s race will be Hour By Hour’s first start longer than six furlongs since missing the board in last October’s Michigan Futurity at Pinnacle. James Jackson will saddle Hour By Hour for owners Valerie Irvine and Laura Jackson. Regular rider Federico Mata retains the assignment in the saddle. Hour By Hour will share the entry with Meadow Magic, ridden by Ricardo Barrios and owned by Laura Jackson and Red Riding Hood Stables LLC.

Secrets Only earned a runner-up finish to Hour By Hour in the Lansing, after trailing him in second for the entire race. The Secret Romeo gelding enters the Dowling off a pair of second place finishes at Pinnacle to Hour By Hour and Meadow Magic. Trainer Bob Gorham will give Jeffrey Skerrett the leg up for owner Mast Thoroughbreds, LLC. Secrets Only will be part of a two-horse Gorham/Mast entry in the Dowling along with Watchin The Vix, who will be ridden by Tommy Molina.

After finishing fourth in the Lansing, Power Of Titus shipped down to Mountaineer Park and finished second in a July 16 allowance race. The Secret Romeo gelding also finished second in last September’s Patrick Wood Stakes at Pinnacle. Alexis Ortiz will have the mount for owner and trainer Del Waite.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Meadow Magic / R Barrios / J R Jackson / 9-5
1A. Hour By Hour / F Mata / J R Jackson / 9-5
2. Watchin The Vix / T Molina / R M Gorham / 2-1
2B. Secrets Only / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 2-1
3. Prince Of Paulie / J J Delgado / R J Rettele / 6-1
4. Mission Achieved / J E Collazo, Jr. / R D Allen, Sr. / 15-1
5. Power Of Titus / A Ortiz / D D Waite / 5-1
6. Generalyitsamemory / C Garcia / D Cluley / 10-1
7. Ready To Tango / O Bernal / L R Uelmen / 12-1

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Sanford Stakes preview for Thorofan

Once again, I have been called into service to handicap one of the weekend’s feature races for horse racing fan site Thorofan.com.

Currently, my record stands at a perfect two-for-two in picking the winner of my assigned race for Thorofan’s Handicapper’s Corner, including 19.90-to-one shot Exhi in the Lexington Stakes (I’m going to brag about that one for a long time). This time around, my mission was to break down Sunday’s Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

The Sanford is one of the first graded stakes tests in the country for two-year-olds, so I did not have much to go by in terms of on-track performance. The only horse in the field I had any real prior knowledge on was Kentucky Juvenile winner Lou Brissie. In all honesty, when it comes to two-year-olds, I’m probably a more useful handicapper with Quarter Horses.

With that said, the Sanford should be an entertaining race and I look forward to seeing if I can keep my run of good fortune going on Sunday.

To see my analysis of the Sanford on Thorofan, click here.

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Michigan Notebook: July 23, 2010

– David Belknap, a placing judge at Pinnacle Race Course and former Thoroughbred trainer, died Wednesday at his farm near Pinckney, Michigan. The Daily Racing Form reports he was found in the paddock after apparently being kicked by one of his horses. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

– The 2010 meet at Mount Pleasant Meadows has been shortened by a week. The final day of racing at the central Michigan mixed breed track is now scheduled to be Aug. 1.

The Detroit News wrote a feature about Pinnacle Race Course on Thursday outlining the challenges the New Boston track has faced this year. Topics discussed in the article include the severe cut in race dates following racing’s transfer to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the rising cost of regulation, and the possibility of Thoroughbred racing returning to Hazel Park for the first time since 1984.

Mount Pleasant Meadows is holding a contest on its Facebook page, with the winner receiving a set of goggles signed by the track’s jockey colony. To enter, become a “Fan” of Mount Pleasant Meadows on Facebook, then this Monday between 6-6:30 p.m., a prompt will go up on the page’s wall asking who won the seventh race on the preceding day’s card. The first person to answer correctly wins the prize.

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Arlington Park raises the bar

Arlington Park rightfully earns its reputation as one of America's best venues for fans and handicappers. Holy Thursday returns to unsaddle from a race with Inez Karlsson aboard.

With so much negativity surrounding the state of racing in North America, sometimes it’s refreshing to see a track that just gets it right.

After a weekend at Arlington Park, I found the track did so many things right that my bar for what makes a good racetrack has been set at a new level.

The trip to Arlington came to be after I landed some box seats on the cheap in last December’s Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association year-end silent auction.

After a bit of planning and schedule aligning, I got to cash in those tickets a few weeks ago. It was a day of racing and fancy dress (not going to lie, I suited up) with assistant trainer Emilie, superstar freelancer Claire Novak and some of her friends, followed by a night on the town in Chicago.

Arlington’s grandstand was a massive, silver-colored structure with a lean-to roof that hangs out over the grandstand. For some reason, I found the roof fascinating. I repeatedly pondered how much more fun watching the races would be if the fire sprinklers that were dotted across the roof went off at random intervals, climaxing with all of them going off at once for the duration of the day’s final race. Ideas like this are what will keep racing alive in the 21st century.

I was raised on the philosophy that if one can not say something nice, he or she should not say anything at all. With that in mind, I will refrain from comment about the tape recorded version of the national anthem played before the races.

After a few races, Claire, being at her home track and having connections everywhere, got our group into the paddock area. The structure itself was a tall, solid-looking wood building offering enough cover to walk a horse around in a rainstorm without feeling a drop. The walking ring and surrounding area were verdant and well landscaped, punctuated by the gorgeous Jessica Pacheco wandering about the ring and breaking down the field for the upcoming race. Between Pacheco and the cute bugler who played crowd-pleasing tunes (Little Spanish Flea!) and waved to the camera after each call to post, Arlington was not lacking for talent that was easy on the eyes.

On the way back to our box, we ran into Eclipse Award-winning trainer Wayne Catalano. Catalano was once a regular rider on the Detroit Race Course/Hazel Park circuit, so I was excited to meet him, but for different reasons than most. Unfortunately, our introduction was fleeting, so I did not get the chance to talk to him about his time in Detroit. As if I needed another reason to go back to this track…

My betting ventures on the weekend were largely forgettable. Over two days’ worth of racing, I cashed one ticket for about 20 bucks. My toughest beat came in the nightcap of our day in the box seats. While perusing the program, I noticed a gelding named Doublefour who ventured out to Will Rogers Downs for a start in April…and missed the board. Badly. He recovered with a decent second at Arlington in his next start, but that Will Rogers debacle and the considerable class jump he was attempting stuck in my mind. Despite Claire’s goading to support my small track roots and play the Will Rogers horse, I looked elsewhere. Doublefour ran away with it. Contrary to popular logic, I should never trust my instincts.

While my day in the not-so-cheap seats was unquestionably awesome, I knew I had not consumed the full Arlington experience. I had to return the following day and take everything in from the ground floor.

For attendees whose tickets were not awarded to them in a silent auction, a general admission ticket commanded eight dollars. While this is the most I have ever paid for a admission into a racetrack (remember, I had a media pass for Kentucky Derby weekend), the sticker shock was eased by the fact that a $3 program was included in the cost.

The plant’s ground floor was anchored by its mall-style center food court. There were no brand-name booths, but plenty of variety. After trying the requisite cheeseburger on Saturday (pretty good, but not quite Ellis Park good), I came across an item called Loaded Mac n’ Cheese that combined two of my favorite items – BBQ pulled pork and good old cheesy mac. Right in my wheelhouse. Did it usurp the third spot on my still-developing Holy Trinity of racetrack concession food (alongside the Ellis Park burger and Turfway Park grilled cheese)? Not quite. Was it still among the better meals I have had at a track? Yeah, probably.

Venturing outward from the food court on either side will lead to rows of mutuel tellers and self-service terminals. The track seemed to rely heavily on the self-service machines, which could be found just about anywhere on the grounds, and because they can be rather intimidating to a novice bettor, this meant the lines to place a bet rarely ran more than one or two deep, if that. I didn’t get shut out once, although with my lousy handicapping, I probably would have benefitted from missing the cut a few times.

The apron was multi-tiered with benches on every level. Not only did this ensure there were no bad sight-lines for people in the cheap seats, it also provided plenty of angles for photographers and tourists who think they are photographers like myself.

As one ventures from the grandstands toward the quarter pole, he or she will find a picnic area similar to Ellis Park’s, but on a grander scale. The grassy area hosted rows of shaded picnic tables, pavilions, food stands, and most importantly, gazebos with multiple self-service betting machines. A good racetrack gives its patrons an opportunity to bet around every corner. Arlington Park is a very good racetrack.

Among the various activities in the picnic area was a table sporting the logo of the Major League Soccer franchise Chicago Fire. Seated behind the table were three gentlemen who could easily pass for professional soccer players. Considering the fact that any United States-based player with any kind of name recognition was busy packing after squandering a golden opportunity against Ghana the previous day, the sparse attendance around the table was not unexpected.

At the end of the picnic area set a pair of festival tents teeming with children. One offered pony rides, complete with numbered saddlecloths on the miniature steeds. In the other was a petting zoo. I’ve seen a lot of awesome things at the races, but “petting zoo” is a new one. If taking pictures of strangers’ children didn’t make me feel really creepy, I’d show you myself.

The one thing I kept noticing as I walked around Arlington was how much fun everyone seemed to be having. Tables lined the apron with birthday and graduation parties. Kids rushed over to the tunnel between the paddock and the winner’s circle in hopes of snagging a pair of signed goggles from the winning jockey (which is a great idea for everyone involved from a marketing perspective) or enjoyed something in the picnic area. The racing was of good quality, but the experience of being there, “the show” if you will, is what put the track in a class of its own. Putting horses in a starting gate and letting them go will draw some gamblers, but it’s “the show”, the racetrack experience, that puts butts in the seats and keeps them coming back for generations. From what I have seen, no track has grasped this concept better than Arlington Park.

When I told my friends in the racing business I was going to visit Arlington, those who had been there unanimously gave it glowing reviews. They almost made it sound too good to be true. However, after seeing what the track had to offer from the box seats and the apron benches, Arlington absolutely lived up to the hype. The streak of glowing testimonials lives on.

Photos of my weekend at Arlington Park can be found behind the jump.

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