Tag Archives: Sire Stakes

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.


Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course

Mata wins three in Michigan Sire Stakes

The following Sire Stakes recaps are presented without shots of the winning horse and rider courtesy of Sunlight Photography, Pinnacle’s track photographers who threatened to have my camera taken away if I photographed anything except the races themselves, which I was “allowed” to do. All of this happened despite having obtained a media photo credential from track management.

But enough about my day, let’s talk about some races…

Bipolar Express wins stretch battle in Classic

Bipolar Express (4) duels to the wire with Demagoguery (7) and Hot Chili (1, inside) to win the Michigan Sires Classic at Pinnacle Race Course.

The streak is dead. Long live the streak.

After four years of Sire Stakes consistency by Meadow Vespers, Bipolar Express began a run of his own by winning his second straight October Classic race in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Sires Classic at Pinnacle Race Course.

The four-year-old Equality gelding broke with the front pack and battled for the early lead with Hot Chili and Mt. Factor before cooling off and taking a stalking position as the field headed into the first turn. Hot Chili dueled from the rail with Mt. Factor, who maintained a small advantage through the turn and across the first half of the backstretch. Bipolar Express sat two lengths behind the lead duo and began to make his move to on the outside with about five furlongs to go.

Bipolar Express gained the advantage heading into the final turn as Mt. Factor began to fall off the pace. As Bipolar Express and Hot Chili battled into the stretch, Demegoguery also began to gain ground. The lead pair traded bobs of the head throughout the stretch with Demagogurey chipping away on the outside. In the final strides, Bipolar Express put a head in front to prevail under jockey T.D. Houghton. Hot Chili finished a neck ahead of Demagoguery  for the runner-up money.

Bipolar Express stopped the clock in the 1 1/8 mile race with a time of 1:54.21 on a fast track. He left the gates as the second choice of 1.60-to-one. Post time favorite Meadow Vespers had his usual ground saving trip, but came up empty in the stretch.

Bred in Michigan by Gene and Phyllis Gilmore, Bipolar Express is owned by Winning Stables, Inc. and trained by Gerald Bennett. The Sire Stakes victory completes a successful re-claim by Bennett, who lost Bipolar Express to trainer Scott Lake for a $25,000 tag two races ago at Presque Isle Downs. Bennett claimed his charge back in the next race for $35,000

With the win, Bipolar Express improved his career record to seven wins from 27 starts. The race was also his second stakes win, after winning last year’s three-year-old Sire Stakes at Pinnacle. His career earnings now total $209,069.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

4 – Bipolar Express (T.D. Houghton) 5.20 / 3.60 / 3.20
1 – Hot Chili (Federico Mata) 6.80 / 5.60
7 – Demagoguery (Godofredo Laurente) 5.60

1 1/8 Miles
Time: 1:54.21

To view the rest of the day’s Sire Stakes action, click the link below.

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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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Sire Stakes Preview: Sophomores

Meadow Wise looks to clinch honors in Three-Year-Old Males division

Meadow Wise will try to put a stamp on his 2009 campaign in the Sophomore Males division of the Sire Stakes.

Meadow Wise will try to put a stamp on his 2009 campaign in the Sophomore Males division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

In a fairly deep sophomore male crop where each stakes race appeared to produce an entirely different field, Meadow Wise has been the one horse to show up to every dance and come out at or near the top.

Meadow Wise will try to secure his position at the top of the class with a win in the $50,000 Sire Stakes for three-year-old males at Pinnacle Race Course. A win in Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile race could go a long way in locking up Horse of the Year honors, as well.

Meadow Wise has yet to finish worse than second during the 2009 Pinnacle meet, including a win in the July 25 Dowling Stakes and runner-up finishes in the June 13 Lansing Stakes and his most recent effort, the Sep. 5 Mackinac Handicap. The Meadow Prayer gelding will have a different rider in the saddle for the Sire Stakes in Jeffrey Skerret, replacing regular rider Angel Stanley, who has the mount on Jangle. In his lone start aboard Meadow Wise, Skerrett won a July 4 maiden special weight race at Pinnacle. Meadow Wise is owned by Mast Thoroughbreds LLC and trained by Bob Gorham.

Romeo Again has been knocking on the door for a first stakes win both for himself and his sire throughout his sophomore campaign. The Secret Romeo gelding finished second behind Meadow Wise in the July 25 Dowling Stakes at Pinnacle and ran third in the Sep. 5 Mackinac Handicap. He enters the Sire Stakes off a 7 1/4 length victory in a Sep. 21 allowance race at Pinnacle. Federico Mata will have the assignment for owners Lisa Campbell and II B’s Thoroughbreds. Ronnie Allen, Sr. conditions Romeo Again.

Coming off an impressive maiden win is Notaquitter. The Meadow Prayer gelding was never headed on his way to a 9 3/4 length victory in a Sep. 12 maiden special weight contest at Pinnacle. Notaquitter will make his first try at stakes competition in his third career start. Al Talsma trains Notaquitter for Wanda Talsma. Godofredo Laurente will be in the irons.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. The K Factor / T D Houghton / G S Bennett / 10-1
2. Notaquitter / G Laurente / A Talsma / 15-1
3. Meadow Wise / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 6-5
4. Romeo Again / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 5-2
5. Native Power / L J Frazzitta, Jr. / M A Barron / 12-1
6. Elusive Furrari / A Ortiz / S M Adkins / 5-1
7. Jangle / A O Stanley / D R Barron / 20-1

In other news from Michigan’s three-year-old male division, Mackinac Handicap winner Perfect Start is entered in Saturday’s Ohio Derby (G2) at Thistledown. The Jump Start colt will be ridden by Mountaineer mainstay DeShawn Parker and was one of three horses assigned the longest morning line odds in the field at 30-1. To see the past performances for the Ohio Derby field, click here.

Baba Booyah, Hakuna Matata battle for supremacy in Sire Stakes Sophomore Fillies division

Baba Booyah will likely be the post-time favorite in the Three-Year-Old Fillies division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Baba Booyah will likely be the post-time favorite in the Three-Year-Old Fillies division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

This year’s crop of Michigan-bred three-year-old fillies has been largely dominated by the trio of Baba Booyah, Hakuna Matata and Moon Charmer. Each has their own marquee win and they never finish far apart from each other.

With Kentucky-sired Moon Charmer ineligible for Saturday’s $50,000 Sire Stakes for three-year-old fillies, Baba Booyah and Hakuna Matata will be left to settle their rivalry in the 1 1/16 mile contest at Pinnacle Race Course.

Baba Booyah brings a two-race winning streak into Saturday’s race. Her most recent victory came in the Sep. 5 Michigan Oaks at Pinnacle, where she prevailed by a half-length in a front-running fashion. The Daylight Savings filly is owned by Marion Gotham and trained by Bob Gorham. Jeffrey Skerrett will be in the irons on Saturday.

Hakuna Matata’s big win came as the beneficiary of a disqualification in the Aug. 1 Ann Arbor Stakes, where the first place finisher, Moon Charmer, was disqualified to third after knocking Baba Booyah off stride in the stretch drive. The Meadow Prayer filly enters the Sire Stakes off a third place finish in the Michigan Oaks. Hakuna Matata is trained by Larry Uelmen for owner White Lake Farms Inc.. Regular rider Angel Stanley will again have the mount for the Sire Stakes.

Also entered is Susie’s Prayer, who defeated both Baba Booyah and Hakuna Matata in a July 20 allowance race at Pinnacle. The Meadow Prayer filly did not fare as well against the pair in the Ann Arbor, her most recent start, where she finished fifth after a troubled trip. Susie’s Prayer will be ridden by J.J. Delgado for owners Valorie and Richard Powers and trainer Karl Waters.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Jig Is Up Now / T D Houghton / R M Gorham / 20-1
2. Secret Candy / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 12-1
3. Lexus Red / A Ortiz / D Cluley / 10-1
4. Hakuna Matata / A O Stanley / L R Uelmen / 2-1
5. Baba Booyah / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 9-5
6. City Tour / A A Marin / S M Spiess / 20-1
7. Stride To The Sky / G Laurente / D Cluley / 8-1
8. Susie’s Prayer / J J Delgado / K S Waters / 6-1


Filed under Pinnacle Race Course, Stakes Races

Sire Stakes Preview: Juveniles

Prince of Paulie goes for consecutive stakes wins in Juvenile Colts & Geldings division

Prince of Paulie heads up a field of **** in the juvenile males division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

Prince of Paulie heads up a field of ten in the juvenile males division of the Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

After his victory in the Sep. 12 Patrick Wood Stakes, Prince of Paulie established himself as the leader of Michigan’s juvenile male division.

On Saturday, Prince of Paulie will face a new set of challengers to his title in the $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes, a six furlong race for two-year-old colts and geldings at Pinnacle Race Course.

Prince of Paulie set the bar for the state’s two-year-old males with his one length victory in the Patrick Wood, his most recent start. The Meadow Prayer gelding has won two of his three career starts, all at Pinnacle. J.J. Delgado will ride Prince of Paulie for owner J Mack Enterprise Inc. and trainer Richard Rettele.

The late moving runner-up in the Patrick Wood, Power of Titus, will return for another shot at Prince of Paulie in the Sire Stakes. The Secret Romeo colt took the rail from seven lengths back to finish a length behind the winner in his most recent start. Power of Titus is owned and trained by Del Waite and will be ridden by Alexis Ortiz.

The entrant with the most stakes experience is Kid Kearny Gabe. The West Virginia-bred by The Deputy (Ire) finished second in the Aug. 1 Mountaineer Juvenile at Mountaineer. He enters the Sire Stakes off a sixth place finish in the Aug. 22 Henry P. Mercer Memorial Stakes at Charles Town Races and Slots. Kid Kearny Gabe is owned by Joseph Testa and trained by Ollie Figgins III. Regular rider Joel Hiraldo will have the mount on Saturday.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Quick Carnage / J Skerrett / J R Jackson / 12-1
2. Meadow Magic / T D Houghton / J R Jackson / 10-1
3. Power of Titus / A Ortiz / D D Waite / 6-1
4. Prince of Paulie / J J Delgado / R J Rettele / 2-1
5. Blazin Factor / R L Knott / R P Inman / 12-1
6. Kid Kearny Gabe / J Hiraldo / O L Figgins III / 3-1
7. Electric Island / G Laurente / R M Gorham / 20-1
8. Hour By Hour / F Mata / J R Jackson / 8-1
9. Bentley Red / A O Stanley / D Cluley / 20-1
10. Kid Klare / A A Marin / D R Barron / 20-1

Hustle Now headlines Juvenile Fillies division

Hustle Now brings the field's only stakes win into the Juvenile Fillies' Sire Stakes.

Hustle Now brings the field's lone stakes win into the Juvenile Fillies' Sire Stakes.

Michigan’s two-year-old fillies division began to sort itself out when Hustle Now outdueled Top Touch in the Sep. 12 Sickle’s Image Stakes.

The division will take another step toward deciding its top runners in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes for two-year-old fillies at Pinnacle Race Course.

Hustle Now enters the six furlong Sire Stakes off her 1 1/4 length victory in the Sickle’s Image. The Creative filly brings a two race winning streak into the Sire Stakes, as well as its only stakes victory. Angel Stanley will have the mount aboard Hustle Now for owner Sheffield Farms an trainer Larry Uelmen.

Creative Lite finished third in the Sickle’s Image, well behind the race’s top two finishers. The Creative filly is still a maiden, but hitting the board in the Sickle’s Image gives Creative Lite the second most successful stakes resume in the field. Creative Lite is owned by Sharon Valley Thoroughbreds and trained by James Jackson. Alexis Oritz will be in the saddle.

Also entered is maiden winner De La Crem. The Island Storm filly enters the race off a Sep. 8 maiden special weight victory at Pinnacle after multiple seconds and thirds against the upper echelon of the division. De La Crem is trained by Bob Gorham for owner Mast Throughbreds LLC. Jeffrey Skerrett will have the assignment for Saturday’s race.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Blitz It Again / No Rider / R D Allen, Sr. / 30-1
2. Hustle Now / A O Stanley / L R Uelmen / 8-5
3. Q Ginger Snap / T D Houghton / S M Adkins / 6-1
4. Fortune In Gold / J J Delgado / D Kueffner / 10-1
5. Q Elegant Storm / W Barnett / J T White / 9-2
6. De La Crem / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 4-1
7. Tramore Bay / G Laurente / J R Jackson / 30-1
8. Rulers Elusive / A A Marin / J R Jackson / 15-1
9. Creative Lite / A Ortiz / J R Jackson / 8-1
10. Shes A Blitz / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 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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Notes from Lexington

Hey gang. I’m in Lexington, Kentucky right now and will be at River Downs on Thursday before making the long drive back to Michigan, so I don’t have the free time to recap my weekend at Ellis Park just yet.

Until things calm down, be sure to check out the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance’s rededicated new site.

Aside from featuring bloggers from all different aspects of the industry who are way better at this than I am, the TBA’s new site offers…

132 Blogs (TBA and otherwise).
123 Twitter feeds from TBA-ers and other members of the racing industry. 
– 38 Horse racing news feeds (Blood Horse, Thoroughbred Times, NTRA, Internet pubs, etc.).
Loads of Youtube videos.
A Free Past Performance search engine (My personal favorite part of the TBA site. Cheapskates unite!)
The “Karma Corner” – A page for donating to various horse-related charities.

The site is full of good material, so be sure to give it a look and see what’s new (just be sure to come back here when you’re done. I get lonely). With such a wide variety of views, it shouldn’t be hard to find something you’ll love.

If you haven’t already headed over to the TBA website, here is some Michigan-centric reading material to tide you over until I get home…

– My future Alma Mater’s student paper, Central Michigan Life, put out a story about Mount Pleasant Meadows in today’s paper. I was pleasantly surprised to see the story got most of its facts right and was written competently. Good on them, even if they never let me write anything about the track during my time at CM Life (Not that I’m bitter or anything…). I wish I could have been there myself to help them out. 

– The Daily Racing Form posted a story about Pinnacle Race Course’s restructured stakes schedule following negotiations to restore race dates slashed earlier this year. The meet will now run until Oct. 19 and four of the track’s 16 state-bred stakes races will have smaller purses.

The article did not specify which races would get chopped down, but they will go from $50,000 to $20,000. Purses for the six Sire Stakes races are estimated at $50,000 each. Though the Sire Stakes purses were already estimated at that level at the beginning of the meet, the story notes it will be a significant drop from previous years.

If I catch word of which stakes are getting slimmed down, you’ll see it here.

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Michigan Notebook: April 30, 2009

Lots of goings on in Michigan racing this week…

– From the Michigan HBPA:

HEARING SCHEDULED: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing is scheduled for May 7th at 10:30am in room 426 of Capitol Bldg and will focus on horse racing. This committee is the conterpart to the Senate Committee that restored a large portion of Ag. Equine Funds the Governor took out of the 2009-10 Budget.

Please plan to attend, more the better, to show a large support group to restore the funding. If you cannot attend, please contact the Committee members* listed below. This is not a time to be inactive, we all know the industry is facing very serious challenges.

* I inserted the link to my post listing the contact information of the House Ag Appropriations Committee members. If you want to send along the form letters or write your own personal message, there is still time, but be quick abut it.

Also, the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association is organizing a “Horseman’s Rally” prior to the hearing. Interested parties should be at the State Capitol building on the corner of Capitol and Allegan in Lansing at 9 a.m. Here is the information from the MHHA website.


If everything goes to plan, I intend to be at this hearing and will report back if anything significant comes from it. Also, be sure to keep an eye on my Twitter feed or check out the Claim Box on the right side of the page next Thursday for live updates.

– Pinnacle Race Course recently released its stakes schedule for the 2009 meet. For a pdf of the schedule, click here.

Here’s what I like and don’t like about what I see…

What I like is Pinnacle’s decision to package several of its stakes races together to give itself some marketable days of racing. If Pinnacle follows through and properly advertises these days and/or gives them killer promotions, it could lead to a nice boost in attendance and handle. One of the popular ideas to revive public interest in the racing product is to put out more “big race days.” With this, Pinnacle is taking a step in the right direction.

What I don’t like are the estimated purses for the Michigan Sire Stakes, the state’s marquee series of races for Michigan-sired horses. Two years ago, the Sire Stakes races were good for $120,000 a piece for each of the six divisions. This year, they’re slated to offer $50,000, blacktype races by the skin of their teeth and no bigger than any other race on the stakes calendar. 

Because the Sire Stakes purses are partially funded by the state, the final purses could fluctuate depending on how things go with the budget situation. Either way, the fact that purses this low are even in the discussion is an unsettling notion.

As I have noted several times in the past, the worst thing a new track can do is give people a reason to leave, be it fans or horsemen. Indiana’s purses are going to grow. Pennsylvania’s are already massive. It was already getting harder and harder to justify sticking around before the potential cut in the state’s biggest races. This could make it that much harder. While the dire status of the Sire Stakes purses is not entirely the fault of Pinnacle Race Course, it will be the track that suffers because of it.

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Five burning questions for Michigan racing in 2009

   Hubel Farms' The Deputy (Ire) is poised for a big year in 2009.

Hubel Farms' The Deputy (Ire) is poised for a big year in 2009.

First order of business: This is your last chance to vote in the “day racing vs. night racing” poll before I close the ballot box. If you have not already let your voice be heard, you still have time.

Now on to the matter at hand…

Last year was one of finding answers to important questions in Michigan racing.

Some of the more important ones, such as “where are we going to race this year” were answered, while questions about the sport’s long-term health in the state still linger. 

Every new year brings a new set of questions that must be answered, and this one is no exception. Here are five to ponder while you await the June 5 opening of Pinnacle Race Course…

1. Who will be this year’s breakout sire?

Every year, there seems to be one new or unheralded Michigan stallion whose progeny come up big and draw lots of mares to his breeding shed the following season.

In 2008, Elusive Hour’s second crop produced the top two finishers in the Michigan Futurity, including two-year-old male of the year, Mr. Conclusive. In previous years, Equality’s multiple stakes-winning freshman crop and Island Storm’s success with Weatherstorm generated similar buzz.

With a large juvenile crop ready to hit the track, the stallion with the best chance of claiming the unofficial title in 2009 could be The Deputy (Ire).

Purchased by Hubel Farms in 2005, The Deputy will send his first two-year-olds as a Michigan sire to the track this year. The 11-year-old Petardia horse began his stallion career at Kentucky’s Margaux Farm where he saw moderate, if underwhelming, success, siring Panamanian champion Happy Buy and stakes winners at Hawthorne Race Course, Retama Park and Portland Meadows.

Though success at the highest levels of Kentucky racing may have eluded him, the achievements of his foals at tracks of comparative class to Pinnacle could bode well for The Deputy.

Further aiding The Deputy’s chances for success will be that he should have the most tries at siring this year’s juvenile standout. In his first year as a Michigan sire, The Deputy covered 55 mares, producing 30 foals, both state-leading totals.

However, strength in numbers means little if none of his foals can live up to the hype on the racetrack.

Because none of The Deputy’s foals from his stint in Kentucky have ventured into Michigan for any kind of serious competition (there may have been a few odd ones appear in the claiming ranks, but none immediately come to mind), the only measuring stick available is the sight test.

Though I was exposed to only a small sampling of his foals, the ones sent through the ring at last September’s Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association yearling sale were among the best looking in the barn. In particular, a gray filly named Dance in Delight looked well-developed and could be one to watch in the coming years.

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Campbell Stables, Arnold Farm clean up at MTOBA year-end awards

After three years of success on the racetrack, the only question that remains surrounding Campbell Stables’ prized filly Valley Loot is where to go from here.

The four-year-old Demaloot Demashoot filly threw two more awards, including another Michigan Horse of the Year nod, onto her already impressive heap of honors at Sunday’s Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards banquet and silent auction.

I always enjoy going to the MTOBA banquet. It gives me an opportunity to talk to people in the business and acquire some memorabilia and reading material for the coming year in the silent auction.

However, being a quasi-broke college student in a room full of people with money (I know a lot of horsemen are hurting financially right now, but if you can afford to feed a double-digit herd for more than 15 minutes, you probably have more in the bank than I do) makes going home with the big-ticket items tough.

This year’s marquee item(s) was a set of paintings, one of Barbaro and one of Secretariat, signed by each horse’s owner and jockey. I do not recall how much the set sold for, but the last time I checked on it, the high bid was somewhere in the $500 range.

I was disappointed to see some of the higher-end items I had my eye on (an A.P. Indy halter and a print of a Keeneland painting) go for more than I was willing to spend, but I still managed to leave with $120 worth of books for me and Christmas gifts for the family.  

One more thing about the auction. It was surprising to see most of the stallion seasons go completely untouched.

Though I did not watch the bids that closely, the only stallion I saw getting any action at all was Service Stripe, who will make his return to Michigan in 2009 after standing in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.Unless someone placed some bids after I last checked their sheets, proven sires like Demaloot Demashoot and promising ones like Elusive Hour and Monetary Star did not receive a single bid. 

If I had a broodmare, I could have done quite well for myself, snagging up breedings to some decent Michigan stallions for less than half their posted stud fees. Of course, the breeding and sales industries are hurting so badly, both locally and nationally, that it seems no one is looking to breed, and rightfully so. From that standpoint, I can understand the lack of bids, but from the perspective of someone constantly looking for that good deal, I was left scratching my head.

But you’re not here to read about my fortunes in the silent auction, are you?

Let’s have a look at this year’s award nominees and see who took home the prizes…

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