Blog Entries
Belmont Stakes: Rags To Riches
Category: Member Blogs


Part One:  Rags To Riches
The Belmont Stakes, the race posed to punish any horse not worthy of its distance, lays claim to final nail in the coffin for the Triple Crown trail.  This arduous mile and a half trek over an unforgiving sandy surface has been touted as the true test of champions. The dramas witnessed in the Belmont Stakes throughout its one hundred forty-two year history are the life-blood moments that have kept horseracing fans mesmerized with this incredible sport. 
Spotlighting a few stellar performances of the past will be a nice prelude to the upcoming clash between Animal Kingdom, Shackelford and Nehro.  Secretariat, of course, is deserving of the highest recognition with his stunning Triple Crown finale. However, with the national attention brought to his victory by the recent Disney movie. I am not confident that I could top Disney’s depiction of Secretariat parting the Red Sea as he ran down the homestretch, anyway. 
Despite outrage from my Secretariat and Curlin loving friend, I must forge onward to grant appreciation for other top performers! Rags To Riches is one who is praiseworthy of her historic win in the Belmont Stakes.
After Rags To Riches’ impressive 4 ¼ length win in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks, many wondered why this daunting chestnut filly did not run in the Derby.  Her owners chose another contender to run in the Derby feeling that the Belmont would offer an opportunity for her to face the colts, knowing that her pedigree was ideally suited for longer races.
Rags To Riches is a perfect example of high-caliber racehorses bred to run at great distances.  The Belmont Stakes is embedded into her pedigree, being a half-sister to Jazil, who won the race in 2006 with a time of 2:27.81.  It was smart of Skara Glen Stables (the filly’s breeder)  to select A.P. Indy to cross with Better Than Honour, because he was the 1992 Belmont Stakes winner, and is by 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, and has Secretariat as a broodmare sire.  One could say that Rags to Riches is the Belmont Stakes.
Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister, is not only a successful broodmare, but also performed quite remarkably on the racetrack, being a Grade II winner as a juvenile, and placing in the GI Acorn, and GIII Comely Stakes; and finishing third in the Mother Goose at Belmont Park. 
Rags to Riches’ second dam, Blush With Pride, brings in more black-type consistency by winning the Kentucky Oaks, Ashland Stakes, and coming in third in the Mother Goose as her daughter did in1999.  Blush With Pride had an outstanding pedigree in her own right, being out of 1982 Broodmare of the Year, Best In Show, who won the GIII Comely Stakes as a three year old.
I am impressed by the breeding of Best In Show, who is by Mr. Busher, whose sire is 1938 Triple Crown winner, War Admiral-something that is uncommonly found in pedigrees.  There is interesting inbreeding of imported stallion, Rock Sand, in Best In Show’s pedigree.  Rock Sand is the broodmare sire of War Admiral’s sire, Man O’ War, while another trace of Rock Sand can be found three generations back in Best In Show.
Notably, all five generations of Rags To Riches’ female family have finished in the top three of multiple Stakes Races.   I also find it intriguing that Late Date, the dam of Best In Show, is by undefeated legend, Colin, who was not able to have much of a stud career due to his untimely death in 1932.
Two weeks out from the Belmont Stakes, jockey Garrett Gomez found himself at a fork in the road, having the mount on two of the strongest contenders in the big race.  One was a bay colt named Hard Spun, who had finished in the money in the two previous Triple Crown races, and was not showing any signs of fatigue from the grueling Triple Crown trail.  His other mount was the salient and spirited Kentucky Oaks victor who was looking forward to a strong Belmont Stakes performance.
The choice was made by Gomez and his jockey agent to keep the mount on Hard Spun for the entire Triple Crown, because Hard Spun was confirmed to run in the Belmont, while Rags To Riches was not yet a definite starter. 
The week of the Belmont Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher, owner Mike Tabor, and partner, Derrick Smith finally determined that Rags To Riches had the highest possibility of winning between the twosome of her and their other colt, Circular Quay.
Knowing Rags To Riches was left without a rider, New York-based jockey, John Velazquez saw the opportunity from the back of Belmont Stakes contender Slew’s Tizzy, who he was already committed to ride. After receiving the green light from Greg Fox (trainer of Slew’s Tizzy), it was announced that he would be in the irons on Rags To Riches on Belmont Stakes Day.  Rafael Bejarano would replace John Velazquez on Slew’s Tizzy.
Post draw did not affect the Belmont Stakes considerably due to the relatively small field of seven horses.  Despite its size and absence of Derby winner, Street Sense, the superiority of this group of young racehorses was extraordinary.  A case could be made for each contender.  Jerry and Anne Moss’s Tiago was improving, Hard Spun was dangerously consistent, and 6-5 morning line favorite, Curlin, demanded to be regarded as a top contender after his strong Preakness win.  Of course, Rags To Riches, breaking from post position seven, was a force that could not go overlooked.
Out of the gates in the 139th edition of the Belmont Stakes, the only filly in the race stumbled badly, but recuperated quickly to run nearby the sluggish pace made by C.P. West.  John Velazquez pulled back on Rags To Riches firmly into the first turn, where she traveled approximately seven wide.  No doubt, the filly was confused by this new racing strategy, due to her tendency to stay on the pace. 
After the quarter mile run in :24.74, Rags To Riches settled into sixth, not far off Curlin to the inside, and Hard Spun just before the chestnut filly.  John Velazquez, probably sensed the leisurely pace, and allowed Rags To Riches to run into Hard Spun’s place once he moved up to third.
Rags To Riches remained cool and collected down the backstretch, even after running behind an outrageously dawdling half mile in :50.14, going six paths wide.  For the most of the running, it was a match race between her and Curlin, staying on even terms for almost the entire race. 
After three-fourths of a mile was run, John Velazquez saw Robby Albarado guide Curlin through the inside, and knew it was time to request an authoritative rush from his behemoth filly mount.
Curlin boldly pushed through a small opening between Hard Spun (who he brushed while executing this move), and C.P. West, who had held the lead for the entire race.  Rags To Riches was game for a fight, vying for the lead forcefully on the outside, partnering with Curlin, virtually making a ‘Hard Spun Sandwich’. 
Rags To Riches and Curlin entered the homestretch with a sweeping move out of the final turn, and taking over the pace with nuclear power.  At that precise moment, it was made clear that Belmont Stakes 139 was to be a fight for the ages as they pulled away from the horses now posing as supporting actors.  When the only two chestnuts reached mid-stretch, it seemed that the filly was going to pull away in this battle of the sexes.  But a resilient Curlin retorted with a blast of oomph that put him in an advantageous position.  Rags To Riches equaled that burst of authority, gaining a nose on Curlin.  The Belmont Stakes wire had not seen a filly’s nose cross first in 102 years.
Rags To Riches became part of an exclusively small cast of fillies to accomplish this monumental achievement.  Prior to Rags To Riches epic victory, only two other fillies had won the title of “Belmont Stakes Winner”.  Nineteen fillies started in the Belmont Stakes before 2007.  Out of these fillies, Ruthless and Tanya were the only girls to hold off the boys.  In the inaugural running of the Belmont Stakes in 1867, Ruthless denied the colts a win, and in 1905, Tanya was the final filly to win the race before an unbelievably extensive drought lasting over a century.
Animal Kingdom's Preakness Stakes
Category: Member Blogs


The attempt to quench history’s thirst during this thirty-three year Triple Crown drought once again has left the record book dry.  Nonetheless, Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom left our hearts full with a top notch performance.  This horse is the real deal.  His willingness to “leave it all on the mat” down to the wire is inspirational.  Animal Kingdom’s run from the gate to the wire are what Disney movies are made from (of course, Disney would have him win by a nose!).       

After a slow start from post position eleven, Animal Kingdom was mildly brushed by Dialed In, coming out of the ten hole.  As the two favorites settled about fifteen lengths back from the pacemakers, Flashpoint and Shackelford, Animal Kingdom was irritated by the dirt getting kicked in his face and did not want to push forward.  Animal Kingdom and the tailgating Dialed In, were anchoring the field, while the two leaders set a scorching first quarter of 22:4.

Following the quarter mile, the pacesetters would alter the outcome of the race by slowing down the whole field, giving everyone a chance to catch their breath.  This strategy would add difficulty for the come from behind horses.  Typically, pacemakers burn themselves out as they continue to expend energy, pushing hard.  Consequently, giving come from behind horses an opportunity to press on the gas and finish strong.                   

Into the final turn, Animal Kingdom began moving up efficiently through the field with Dialed In, continuing his tailgating strategy following close behind.  

Coming into the stretch, Animal Kingdom found himself trapped behind a wall of horses.  Jockey John Velazquez saw a streak of daylight to the front, and courageously pushed his mount for the open lane. To squeeze through barely enough space going at top speed takes a special racehorse to make the move that Animal Kingdom did as they turned for home.

When Animal Kingdom pressed through to the open path ahead, Norman Asbjornson, the colt to his outside, reacted like a piece of dry skin being peeled off, with Dialed In finishing the job.

As pacemaker, Shackelford, held off horses gunning for the lead, Animal Kingdom gained with powerful strides down the homestretch.  The Kentucky Derby winner shifted to a higher gear, passing horses with one goal in mind- nose to the wire first. 

It ended in a brilliant duel between two outstanding, but opposite efforts.  In a nail biting finish, Shackelford hit the wire ahead of Animal Kingdom by ½ a length, in the time of 1:56.47.

The finishing time will be recorded as a slow time for fast track conditions.  This is an instance where numbers have no place defining this race.  Animal Kingdom and his connections, offered horseracing fans an opportunity to appreciate what should define the industry; impeccable breeding and great training, which led to extraordinary performances from this great colt, Animal Kingdom.  


There is an evolution happening in horseracing over the past few years that leaves me optimistic about the sport’s future.

The ripple effect of Animal Kingdom winning the Kentucky Derby put a national spotlight on trainer Graham Motion.  Having a trainer in the forefront of thoroughbred horseracing who stands as a pillar of moral excellence is just what this industry needs to draw fans back to horseracing.  This individual has been training independently for nineteen years and never had one infraction with the Jockey Club rule book.  In a time where it is easier for trainers to choose the quick, easy, (sometimes illegal) road, Graham Motion has elected to stay on the right course, that is no doubt, the sometimes harder course.

Media outlets and racing pundits are constantly posing the question, “How can the horseracing industry build its fan base?”

Simple!  Strictly enforce the rules of horseracing and make it desirable for trainers to operate in the manner that Graham Motion has demonstrated. 

So let it be written; so let it be done!”  -Yul Brynner as Ramses in The Ten Commandments


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Shackelford Wins Preakness 136
Category: Member Blogs


The Preakness Stakes once again proved to be the Kentucky Derby’s twisted sister.  High hopes of Triple Crown glory dashed in under two minutes.  Must be the same feeling as having a winning lottery ticket, then when you look again, you are one digit off.  Ecstasy followed by devastation; they call it ‘The Preakness’.

With my attention glued to the Triple Crown hopeful, Animal Kingdom, throughout the race, I was of course, disappointed by the outcome.  Replaying the race again and again, I began to feel uplifted by so many things about this race.  Realizing that I just witnessed a fantastic race run by great horses, my appreciation grew quickly for the outcome of the 136th running of the Preakness. 

Shackelford’s recovery following his fourth place finish in the Kentucky Derby was astounding.  You could call it less of a recovery and more of a continuation of his training.  His notable high energy level and spunkiness didn’t skip a beat post Derby. 

During the post parade, the Dale Romans trainee was quite rank, bucking and kicking, working up a considerable sweat.  Normally, this type of behavior results in a poor outcome in the race for that horse, and reporters commented that he looked “spent”.  Even as they loaded the sweaty colt into the gates, I didn’t see a “spent” horse, only a sweaty horse that was ready to explode on the track.  Shackelford clearly was going to set quick early fractions.  From post position five, Shackelford was so frantic that he stumbled out badly at the break, but rebounded quickly to challenge Flashpoint for the pace, hanging just off of the grey colt.

Around the first turn and after a blazing quarter of :22.3, Shackelford went three wide and maintained a clear path ahead.  Into the backstretch, Flashpoint’s leading margin increased up to ½ length.  After the half in :46.4, Shackelford was battling Flashpoint for the lead.  When the two were three furlongs out from the wire, Flashpoint gave in as Shackelford pulled away. 

An easy victory did not lay in Shackelford’s future. He held off an attempt for the lead from Dance City to the outside and Astrology to the inside.  As Shackelford pulled away from the two challengers in the final furlong, one last adversary rivaled the blazed colt for the win.  From the outside, Animal Kingdom was quickly closing on the leader.  With the finish line approaching rapidly, the two equine warriors shifted to a higher gear for the final push to the end.  Shackelford would deny us all a 2011 Triple Crown winner by a stunning ½ length. 

A race to remember throughout my lifetime.  The internal drive exhibited by Shackelford to finish the race so strongly, matched with his physical ability, was thrilling to watch.  The Preakness Stakes 136 will be remembered as a great race because of this son of Forestry.   

Shackelford has an outstanding pedigree, being by the fifteen year old powerhouse, Forestry, and out of Oatsee, by Unbridled.  I really do love this sound breeding brought to life by Mike Lauffer, and Bill Cubbedge, who also own Shackelford. 

Forestry, by Storm Cat, and out of Shared Interest, by Pleasant Colony; was obviously a very striking colt from the beginning, selling for $1.5 million at the 1997 Keeneland July Sale for yearlings as the sales topper.  Only running as a three year old, he had a remarkable racing career.  Forestry finished in the money in all but one of his eleven lifetime starts, including the GI King’s Bishop, and GII Dwyer, both won by this special bay colt who found his greatest success at relatively shorter distances.

Going into his stud career, he showed great promise, with not only a distinguished racing record, but also substantial conformation and pedigree.  He resembles a brick house, with his thick neck, and amazing shoulder.  I can easily see where Shackelford inherited those massive hind legs, powerful hindquarters, and depth through the heart girth.  Wow, what a horse.


Forestry does not fall short with his bloodlines.  Being by Storm Cat alone is almost irresistible, but there is more to this proven sire.  Not only is his dam, Shared Interest, a GI winner, but she is also a GI winning producer aside from Forestry, being the dam of Cash Run, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and also went on to be a Graded Stakes producer.

Consistency seems to run in the family, because Forestry’s second dam, Surgery, is also a Graded Stakes producer aside from Shared Interest.   A solid pedigree also backs up this proven broodmare, being not only by the legendary Dr. Fager, but also being a ¾ sister to the dam of Mr. Prospector.  Surgery’s broodmare sire is Bold Ruler, most famous for siring 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.  This was a smart mating by Robert Evans, because Terlingua (dam of Storm Cat) is by Secretariat.

Oatsee brings in more success to add to Shackelford’s bloodlines.  She is also a GI Stakes producing broodmare, being the dam of Bagharia, and Alabama Stakes winner, Lady Joanne.  At the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale of 2008, Oatsee, in foal to pensioned sire, A.P. Indy; sold for $1.55 million to My Meadowview Farm. 

This striking chestnut colt is a result of seamless line breeding by Mike Lauffer, and Bill Cubbedge.  When selecting a sire, they obviously kept in mind how well horses by Forestry and out of Unbridled mares performed on the racetrack.  Forestry and Unbridled cross so well because Unbridled is by Fappiano, who is by Mr. Prospector, and out of a Dr. Fager mare.  Though there is no In Reality on Forestry’s side, I love to see a mare with two crosses of that great sire bred to Forestry, because I believe the stallions are so similar.

I began researching Shackelford following his second place in the Florida Derby.  He was growing more impressive to me, between his pedigree and strong performances leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  I discovered a picture of him as a yearling in the 2009 Keeneland Association September Yearling Sale.  Upon seeing this picture, I literally fell out of my seat!  Look at those legs, legs, legs!

What a fantastic looking yearling! I wonder how this colt didn’t manage to sell for top price, instead having to be bought back because the reserve of $275,000 was not met.  Shocking. 

The more I know of this horse, the more I become convinced that he is not just a great performer, but will also become one of thoroughbred racing’s top sires given his pedigree and outstanding physical assets.  I feel fortunate to be able to watch this horse and his get over the years to come.     

There is a quality about Shackelford that I gravitate to, that for any other horse, I would consider it a negative. It’s that boundless energy and spirit during the minutes before the race seemingly charging him up, like football players before they run onto the field, or the Rebel Yell as the Confederates charged towards the Union soldiers.  I believe Shackelford without his pre-race Rebel Yell would be less of a Shackelford.      

To see Shackelford's yearling photo, refer to Shackelford's Facebook page.

For more on Forestry, refer to:



Bunny's Preakness Picks
Category: Member Blogs


With the post draw for Preakness Stakes 136 in the books, and the race itself just days away, I am anxiously anticipating the race that will hopefully result with Animal Kingdom going onto the Belmont in search of the first Triple Crown victory in over thirty years.  The positive impact on horseracing would be significant, continuing the high the country felt following Zenyatta last year.  I know it’s important to stay focused on the job in front of you, but it is fun to imagine Animal Kingdom becoming ‘the big horse’.

Obviously, Animal Kingdom is worthy of the favoritism he is receiving at odds of 2-1.  He gave nothing short of an excellent performance in the Derby, which he won by nearly three lengths in a quick time of 2:02.04.  Graham Motion’s decision to ship him to Pimlico on the morning of the Preakness Stakes is a smart move.  Being just a stone’s throw away from the Maryland racetrack, this chestnut colt will likely be more rested than the opposing horses that competed in the Derby, not having the luxury of relaxing at the more tranquil atmosphere of a training center.  I also agree with the decision to keep Kentucky Derby jockey, John Velazquez, in the saddle.

With many graded stakes races, I sometimes find that I am conflicted between my professional favorite (best stats), and my emotional favorite (trainers, owners, stories, etc…).  In this instance, Animal Kingdom sits at the top of both hills for me.  I look forward to watching him shoot for the second leg of the Triple Crown

Florida Derby winner, Dialed In, cannot be denied as a strong challenger to Animal Kingdom.  Despite his disappointing eighth place finish in the Kentucky Derby, he gave a remarkable effort in the final half of the race.  Dialed In passed twelve horses before hitting the wire, having a last half mile time that is the fastest since Secretariat, in 1973.  Highly respected trainer, Nick Zito, no doubt has been making adjustments and fine tuning Dialed In since his Derby performance.  I am expecting the colt to show up on Preakness Day ready to rumble.

Lest we forget the horses who fell short in the Derby, only to go on to sweep the last two legs of the Triple Crown:  Hansel (1991), Tabasco Cat (1994), Point Given (2001), and Afleet Alex (2005).  Then there is Summer Bird (2009), who won the Belmont and Travers Stakes after finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby.   Dialed In may experience the same destiny.

Shackelford, the fourth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is a horse that should not go overlooked.  Throughout the year, he has run consistently, finishing a close second to Dialed In in the Florida Derby.  While his pacemaking running style keeps him safe from trouble, it also slowly eats away at the energy needed to hold off the field in the final furlongs of the races he runs. If this handsome colt by Forestry can be held back in the early fractions of the race, he will be one of the strongest horses in the Preakness.

Standing ready to run in the Kentucky Derby, it was unfortunate that Sway Away was not allowed to race in Uncle Mo’s place when the leading contender was scratched.  This colt, named for his notorious conformation fault, is coming off an out of the money finish in the Arkansas Derby, his highest placing of the year was in the form of an impressive second to The Factor in the San Vicente Stakes. 

In the Arkansas Derby, he was very rank around the first turn, going wide, and settled fifth on the backstretch.  Jockey Patrick Venezuela asked Sway Away to run just before he had run ¾ of a mile, which I believe was too early.  Into the stretch, he had the lead, but lost plenty of ground by severely swerving to the inside and outside.  Had he run straight, he may have won.

It would be interesting to see Sway Away run without his blinkers and shadowroll.  Knowing that the shadowroll is used on horses who carry their head low, I do not understand the strategy behind using this equipment on such a high headed horse. Maybe new jockey Garret Gomez can keep the colt running straight and hopefully we will see a better finish from Sway Away, who is my longshot selection, going off at odds of 15-1.

Each stakes race seems to have its own personality; The Kentucky Derby gives me the “hope springs eternal” feeling, maybe this will be THE year.  

Then, year after year, we all head to the Preakness Stakes, with its split personality. Our Derby winner carries the hopes and dreams of racing fans everywhere that maybe this will be THE year.  That is, of course, until we as a nation, sigh collectively as the Derby winner is not the first nose to the wire. 

Then there is the Belmont Stakes; The Christmas Day of horseracing, that is if the Derby and Preakness is won by the same horse.  What a feeling it must be to watch the Belmont Stakes, and witness that same nose crossing that third wire to make history.  I would like to know what that feels like in my lifetime.     

So the answer is YES, I would love to see Animal Kingdom win the Preakness.    

Watching Wilburn
Category: Member Blogs

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As everyone’s eyes are turned towards Maryland for the upcoming Preakness Stakes, I looked back at Churchill Downs this past Saturday for the unassuming ninth race on the card, an Allowance Optional Claimer run at one and a sixteenth.  This particular race featured a colt who I was hoping to see in the Kentucky Derby and I spotlighted him in my ‘Bunny’s Derby Darlings’ series.  Disappointed that he was unable to qualify in time, I am still looking forward to following this horse that I chose back from the 2010 April Two Year Olds In Training Sale.   

Wilburn, a son of Bernardini, was racing in his third career start against a twelve horse field at Churchill Downs, coming off an out of the money finish in an Allowance Optional Claimer at Santa Anita. The loss seemed more of a strategy error more than horse error. Thus, remains my confidence in this horse.

With a sloppy Churchill Downs surface underfoot, this Steve Assmussen trainee loaded into the eighth gate with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard.  Wilburn stood relaxed, but when he broke, jumped onto the inside horse.  After recovering quickly, Wilburn settled behind the pacemaker, establishing fractions of :23.78, and :47.64.  On the muddy dirt surface, Wilburn challenged the pace into the homestretch, and as he took the lead, he began to pull away.  Wilburn would hold off a strong finishing kick from Infrattini to win by ¾ of a length.

Wilburn displayed an efficient stride, and appears to be moving in the right direction.  Now proven on both fast and sloppy tracks, this bay colt is becoming an all-around solid racehorse. Never having raced as a two year old, he has a racing record of 3-2-0-0.

This colt has always impressed me with his overall pedigree and soundness of conformation.  I will happily continue to keep my eyes on Wilburn.    

For a more in-depth look at Wilburn, please refer to my article dated March 6, 2011, Bunny’s Derby Darlings: Wilburn at:

Sharing Shared Account
Category: Member Blogs


This article accompanies the previous article: Connecting Past to Present, dated May 16, 2011

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The Preakness Stakes will be garnering most of the attention this Saturday, but I will also be focused on the Gallorrette Handicap to watch Sagamore Farm’s mare, Shared Account. 

This bay mare foaled in 2006 is by Pleasantly Perfect, and out of Silk N’ Sapphire, by champion sire, Smart Strike.  It is not surprising this William Carl-bred horse is a talented horse on Turf, because her broodmare sire’s offspring find great success on Turf and all-weather tracks.

It was shortly after her Lake Placid Stakes victory, in July 2009, when she defeated Keertana, that I discovered the then three year old filly.  Disappointed that I missed her victory by only a few days, I awaited her next start in the Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park, facing a strong field including Gozzip Girl, Don’t Forget Gil, and common ‘rival’, Keertana.

My eyes filled with tears when Shared Account appeared in the post parade, with her jockey donning the Sagamore hot pink diamonds. (Not unlike my birthday cake from the year before decorated with hot pink diamond icing and my Native Dancer Breyer Stablemate!) 

Shared Account broke from the sixth gate out of this eight horse field, and immediately showed me she was something special.  Right away, she settled into her fluid, relaxed stride that eats up a vast amount of the Turf below.  Out of the first turn, she moved up from second to set the early fractions of :26.24, and :52.36 for the half.  Jockey Edgar Prado placed her in a position on the rail, where I could easily see her throughout the entire running of the race.  I was mesmerized by those strides of hers that seemed to come with utmost simplicity. 

Without urging from her rider, she conspicuously picked up the pace when Don’t Forget Gil came onto her hip, into the final turn.  With the rest of the field now under urging from their riders, Edgar Prado waited to go to the whip with Shared Account, whose lead did not decrease around that sweeping turn.  It was only when she reached the top of the stretch that he asked her for all she had.  Hanging on to the edge of my sofa, in my hot pink outfit, I cheered for “my girl”, who was now neck and neck with Keertana for the lead as they neared the wire.

Shared Account won her stretch-battle over Keertana, pulling away, but Miss World was passing with an impact that could not be held off. 

Despite coming in second by nearly three lengths, I was ecstatic, and proud of this promising filly.  She showed absolute excellence during the running of the Garden City Stakes, and I knew she was going to be the new Sagamore Farm’s first great racehorse.  Crying tears of joy and yelling, “She came in second!”  She might as well have won by twenty lengths.

Next time out, at Keeneland, she placed in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup to Hot Cha Cha, and got even with Miss World, who placed fourth, but was moved up to third due to the disqualification of Gozzip Girl.  I was not deterred by her second straight loss, anticipating all the great wins in this filly’s future.

Her first start of 2010 in the Gallorette Handicap on Preakness day resulted in a disappointing fourth place behind Rainbow View. No excuses to be found.

A short time following her defeat, Shared Account rebounded with a solid victory in the All Along Stakes. Graham Motion then shipped her to Saratoga, where Native Dancer first made his name famous.  It seemed like a dream; everything I enjoyed about horseracing was crammed into her next start, the Diana Stakes:  Saratoga and Sagamore Farm! It doesn’t get any better than that!

She was facing the strongest field possible, made up of leading Breeders’ Cup contenders, Proviso (GB), Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner, Forever Together, Dynaslew, who Shared Account had beaten last time out; Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Maram, Phola, and My Princess Jess.

Despite her surprisingly high odds of 11-1, I saw no indication that she was outclassed in this race.  I was confident in her ability to keep up with any horse in this field, and was hoping she could prove so to everyone else.  Before the race, I sensed the nervousness that is usually felt before a more important race such as the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  I could only imagine how glorious a win for Shared Account would be at Saratoga, in a way, bringing Native Dancer back to life.

She ran like a total pro, breaking cleanly from gate six, and immediately settling into her perfect stride.  Shared Account was placed fourth behind Proviso (GB) positioned in third by jockey Mike Smith.  On the backstretch, Shared Account fell back two lengths from Proviso (GB) in a tranquil manner.  She ran onward smoothly, but turned it on when Forever Together and another horse ran up on both sides.  Without urging from Edgar Prado, Shared Account began clipping off horses, and my heart leapt as she went four wide around the final turn, right up there with the Breeders’ Cup winners, and the big Grade One winners-right where she should be!

In mid-stretch, Forever Together drifted wide at Shared Account, but the bay filly resiliently powered on, gaining on Proviso (GB) with every behemoth stride she took, falling a neck short at the wire, but beating out Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner, Forever Together by a nose.  I never once looked at her second place in the Diana Stakes as a defeat, but looked at the race with a great amount of excitement and joy to see this outstanding filly perform well among the top in the world.

Following her strong performance in the Diana Stakes, she placed fifth in the Flower Bowl Invitational.  Shortly after, it was announced she was to race against the world’s top female Turf horses in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.  Sagamore Farm’s history at Churchill Downs for the “big” races, many have claimed a ‘curse’ lay upon the Maryland farm, for they have never had a horse win under the twin spires. Superstition seeped to the morning line odds for the mare, going off at 40-1.

Heavily disagreeing with the lack of respect given to Shared Account, I couldn’t shake the feeling this was a quality contender for winning the Filly and Mare Turf. There was a brief moment when I had to question if I was watching this mare through rose-colored glasses.  Was she truly just an average stakes performer as the odds implied? Any slight doubt disappeared the brief moment I caught a glimpse of her in the paddock.  She was my winner.  No doubts.

In the Filly and Mare Turf, she was strong and professional from her first step out of the gates.  Jockey Edgar Prado smartly placed her in a good fourth position on the rail, led by Plumania (GB), and neck and neck for third with Harmonious to the distant outside.  The fractions were slow, dooming the horses off the pace.  After three-fourths of a mile was run, riders began urging their mounts to pick up the pace.  With the surrounding horses quickening, Shared Account maintained her fourth place without asking.

Straightening into the homestretch below the twin spires, Shared Account was surrounded by horses running for the lead, being shoved around by the mares to the inside and outside.  Edgar Prado waited for a small opening to the front, and gunned his mount through.  As Midday (GB) matched Shared Account’s surge down the stretch, both mares pulled away from the field by a length. It was clear this was to be a fight to the wire.  Shared Account was sustaining a neck lead over her rival, the favorite Midday (GB).  As she held off the European invader, Keertana came with a bold, late closing kick.  However, Shared Account prevailed at the wire, with Midday (GB) a neck behind in second, and Keertana finished a neck short in third.

As Shared Account galloped out triumphantly over the greatest Turf mares in the world, I stood and raised my arms to the sky, jumping and yelling with tears of joy. Shared Account had reached the apogee of the racing world; she had run that elusive perfect race for which I had been patiently awaiting. As the night sky dropped behind the illuminated twin spires, Shared Account broke the Sagamore Farm curse, hopefully opening up the door for future Sagamore greats.

Connecting Past to Present
Category: Member Blogs


On Saturday, May 21st millions of people around the world will turn their attention to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland.  I am feeling particularly eager to see the racing on that special day.  Of course, with the anticipation of hoping that Animal Kingdom will gain his second leg towards having a Triple Crown victory, I am truly giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing my dear Shared Account run in the Gallorrette Handicap on the Preakness undercard.

In my short horseracing fan existence (did I mention, I am 14 years old), I have spent years burying myself in thoroughbred racing history. I am especially attached to any history that involves Native Dancer, the great-great grandsire of my own beloved Polka.  Learning about Native Dancer opened up multiple avenues that lead to this year’s Preakness day.

Shared Account is that link from past to present.  She represents the first breath taken by Sagamore Farm since its resurrection. Alfred Vanderbilt, Jr., owner of Sagamore Farm and the great Native Dancer, was president and owner of Pimlico for a short time during the 1930’s. In that time, Pimlico flourished, hosting the now infamous match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

During the 1980’s, Vanderbilt experienced financial hardship, coupled with disappointment in the direction that thoroughbred horseracing was heading. He sold Sagamore Farm to a housing developer. The farm then passed through several hands before landing in the glorious palms of Kevin Plank in 2007.

Kevin Plank, Founder and CEO of Under Armor, is dedicated to restoring Sagamore Farm so it may be part of the firm foundation that horseracing needs for its future.  A few years ago, I spent much of my time searching for anything “current-day” Sagamore.  I thought, if I could discover what color silks they had, I may be able to spot one of their horses in a race.  Looking through endless amounts of pictures on Google Images, I finally came across a picture of Shared Account, which indicated she was trained by Graham Motion. (The computer is a wonderful thing!)  Now, in my lifetime, I was able to follow a living Sagamore Farm horse!  Thus, began my education absorbing facts about Shared Account and her trainer, Graham Motion.         

Graham Motion’s Herringswell Stables website has been receiving a daily visit from me for nearly two years. Plank was putting several horses under Graham Motion’s training and I stayed diligent on devouring everything about the outstanding Turf mare, Shared Account.

Throughout my homeschooling, my parents have been adamant about the importance of learning history in order to experience the present and future with deeper understanding.  History is not my favorite subject in school, but I completely embrace this concept, for it brings such depth to my appreciation and enjoyment of thoroughbred horseracing that I know I would never have otherwise.

Consequently, Shared Account and Graham Motion, are now a part of a rich tapestry of horseracing history that ultimately connects to me, and my beautiful, 29 year old, Native Dancer, descendant.        


I will be sharing an article on Shared Account so you can follow along in her journey.

Read more at:



The Dancer: 1953 Preakness Stakes
Category: Member Blogs

This series spotlights Native Dancer's life as a horse, and as a professional athlete.

Part Two:  1953 Preakness Stakes

After Native Dancer came off a heartbreaking loss in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bill Winfrey and owner, Alfred Vanderbilt Jr. focused their energy on the Preakness.
Contrary to the hero’s welcome Native Dancer received heading to the Kentucky Derby, he got the cold shoulder from the press and fans as he boarded his train car heading to Belmont Park, New York for the Withers Stakes. Disappointed media and fans abandoned support of their “national hero” due to his loss in the Derby. Arriving to a “ghost-town” like atmosphere, consisting of a few photographers who showed up only to record the event.
Most horses went on to Pimlico for the Preakness as their next start. Trainer Winfrey decided to run him in the Withers Stakes, feeling uncomfortable about waiting three weeks until The Dancer’s next start. The Withers fell one week after the Derby, and two prior to the Preakness Stakes.
Bill Winfrey saw the ambivalence of the media and fans as a positive. He took this opportunity to sharpen Native Dancer for the Preakness without the stress of all the attention.
The Withers had been run at one mile since 1874, with past winners including Count Fleet and Man O‘ War. Native Dancer faced two other young colts: Invigorator, coming off a third place in the Kentucky Derby; and longshot Real Brother. Social Outcast, a stablemate of both Invigorator, and The Dancer; was scratched due to rain that made the track conditions sloppy.
Despite Chuck Comors’ words written in the Morning Telegraph, that the field was reduced “to the quality of a soggy pretzel at a brew master’s picnic.” thirty-eight thousand people crammed into the Belmont grandstand and paddock. Being the only racehorse to be touted as “The horse in the living room”, Native Dancer was being viewed by millions on national television for the fourth time in only twenty-eight days.
Betting was limited to win wagers for the Withers, obviously due to the incredibly small field, and all but $27,168 of $154,909 was put on The Dancer, lowering his odds to 1-20, which is the legal minimum. William Boniface of the Baltimore Sun remembered, “That 1-20 wasn’t just coming from all the women who said, ‘Ooh, look at the pretty grey,’ Died-in-the-wool horsemen were betting on him too. And 1-20 said people really had dismissed the loss to racing luck.”
When the jockeys came out to the paddock, Eric Guerin received boos from the New York railbirds, undoubtedly fuming about his ride in the Kentucky Derby. Known for his professionalism, Guerin did not respond to their negative gestures. Winfrey and Vanderbilt did not question The Dancer’s rider, as many had after the Derby. Giving Guerin a leg up onto the big grey, Winfrey gave the jockey no advice. He was aware that The Dancer and Guerin were the perfect horse-jockey match.
A frisky Native Dancer loaded into the gates, and all broke cleanly except for the crowd favorite. The Dancer tried to rush out of the gates, which resulted in a stumble. Immediately, Real Brother ran to the rail to make the pace ahead of the two Bill Winfrey trainees. The Kentucky Derby third placer, Invigorator, settled in behind the leader and Native Dancer rounded the end of the field. Down the backstretch, Real Brother’s lead increased to two lengths, and Guerin placed Native Dancer just to the outside of Invigorator, restraining his mount until he knew it was time.
When Invigorator’s jockey asked his colt to run at Real Brother, Eric let The Dancer loose, and Real Brother’s moment leading Native Dancer was about to become a distant memory. Around the turn, all three were neck and neck, but by the final eighth, The Dancer had pulled away from the two challengers. Native Dancer was never pushed hard by his jockey, who only waved his whip before the big grey at the sixteenth pole. From there, he dramatically pulled away for the win by four lengths, in front of a huge crowd erupting with cheers.
Evan Shipman, another writer from the Morning Telegraph, praised The Dancer by saying, “What a pleasure it is to watch a really good Thoroughbred! So sure is The Dancer’s attack, so deadly is the execution. The decision, when it comes, is the matter of a few strides at the most.”
After the race, Vanderbilt announced The Dancer would work lightly at Belmont the following Monday, then ship to Pimlico on the next day-only four days before the Preakness.
After settling into his stall at Pimlico on Tuesday, Native Dancer was easily galloped around the dirt oval twice in order to stretch his muscles for the big race just days away. Overnight rain made for a muddy surface, but The Dancer still managed to impress. Royal Bay Gem’s trainer, Clyde Troutt saw the big grey on the track, and exclaimed, “Look at that big horse! There oughta be a law making a horse like that give weight to my little one.” He shook his head. “It was a shame for a horse like that to be beaten…But he looks fitter now than at the Derby. He appeared a little drawn in Louisville.”
On Thursday, Native Dancer, and Jamie K., another Preakness contender; worked on the racetrack. The Dancer continued to impose the field by working an amazing 1:11 3/5 for a loping six furlongs.

 Sunny weather brought thirty thousand spectators to the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Oddly, eight thousand additional spectators showed up at the Withers to see The Dancer face two other horses on a muddy track under a cloudy sky. Despite the low attendance, betting records were smashed.
Long lines weaved under the grandstand, as the fans’ favorites dominated the early races. $2.28 million was gambled on Preakness day, shattering the earlier record. Even to this day, there is yet to be a large enough amount of money placed on horses to break this record at Pimlico. The earlier mark of $200,000 bet on the Preakness alone was broke by half of one million dollars. Seventy-eight percent of that was used to purchase winning tickets on Native Dancer. He also garnered over half of the win bets, and approximately two thirds of the show bets. So much money was put on The Dancer that the tote board had no room to show the betting totals.
By post time, Native Dancer went off at 1-9, and Dark Star obviously got plenty of respect by being at 2-1 when he stepped into the gates.

 The track was very deep from overnight rain, but it was listed as “fast” before post time. At five forty-six, post time for the Preakness, the horses loaded into the gates. Royal Bay Gem was the first to load without any hesitation, next was Jamie K., now ridden by Eddie Arcaro (kicked off Correspondent because the trainer believed he was too focused on Native Dancer during the Derby), Dark Star was third, fourth was Native Dancer, then Ram O’ War, Correspondent, and last was Tahitian King.
All had a clean start, and, as expected, Dark Star took the lead with Tahitian King second, Correspondent fourth, and Royal Bay Gem sixteen lengths off the pace. Guerin had placed The Dancer closer to pace in third behind the leading Dark Star, who ran a quarter mile in :22 4/5. Knowing Native Dancer was about to make his move around the far turn, jockey Jack Headley-Woodhouse reacted quickly when Tahitian King drifted wide, attempting to shut the hole on the rail, knowing Guerin would react tactfully, urging Native Dancer on the rail. Headley-Woodhouse was too late, and he knew it was to be a fight for second.
Running into the homestretch, the spectators were on their toes, screaming for The Dancer to catch Dark Star who was maintaining the lead powerfully as he had done in the Derby. With bounding, twenty-nine foot strides, Native Dancer was gaining with every step he took, but was there enough left in Dark Star’s tank to hold off Native Dancer’s assault? The crowd gasped as Dark Star went from full to empty with one stride, dramatically fading back into the field.
The Dancer was the type of horse who ran his hardest when fighting off another for the win. Now without a competitor, he immediately slowed, and put his ears up to enjoy the final furlongs of a Preakness victory.
Alarmed to have the lead earlier than anticipated, Guerin went to the whip vigorously when he saw Eddie Arcaro coming with Jamie K., going for his fifth Preakness victory. As rivals on the racetrack, Arcaro always seemed to get an edge over the much younger Guerin, but not this time, not with The Dancer. Jockeys shouting at their mounts, the horses were neck and neck by mid-stretch, and it seemed that Arcaro and his longshot mount would serve Native Dancer his second straight loss. At the wire, Native Dancer prevailed by a head, with his final eighth of a mile at a remarkable :12 4/5.

 Coming back before the grandstand in victory, Murray snapped the shank on Native Dancer’s bridle, and Harold Walker paraded the grey colt into the winner’s circle where the horse was awarded a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans. A joyous Vanderbilt rushed into the winner’s circle, excitedly shouting to the reporters, “He cut it a little close there, didn’t he?”
Aside from the shouting, and hordes of people in the winner’s circle, Native Dancer stood calmly amongst the fans and police. A relieved Guerin displayed a broad smile on his face as he dismounted.
After the Woodlawn Vase was presented to Vanderbilt, Red Smith of CBS interviewed the winning jockey. “When did you hear Jamie K. coming?” asked the reporter.
“I heard him coming soon enough.” answered Guerin only after greeting his young son, Ronnie, who was watching the race from home. The fan-favorite rider had made it custom to do so before any post-race interview aired on television.
Smith inquired. “Were you worried?”
“I wasn’t.” Eric answered. “We went to the front a little sooner than I wanted. Dark Star stopped, and I found myself on the lead. But he was holding Jamie K. safe at the end. He responded when I asked.”
When the winner’s circle celebration was over, and the cameras were off, Eric Guerin proceeded to the jockeys’ room, where Eddie Arcaro, who had heard the CBS interview, waited for Guerin at the doorway. Leering, he clamored flamboyantly enough for reporters to hear, “Don’t try to tell me I didn’t have you worried!”
“Yes, you had me plenty worried.” Eric answered unflappably. “But my horse didn’t run his best race. He was doing his best, but I had to get into him with the whip. It was only the second time I’ve had to do that.”
Coming off the win healthy, The Dancer was loaded back on the train heading to Belmont Park just one day after the race. Having such an impressive Kentucky Derby run, and Preakness win, the fans were still skeptical of Native Dancer’s ability to go the distance in the Belmont Stakes. There is no doubt that the Grey Ghost was going to have to convince the masses of his legendary talent.  

The Honorable Kentucky Derby Finishers
Category: Member Blogs


This year’s Kentucky Derby was rich with wonderful personal stories of triumph and disappointment: Trainer Kathy Ritvo, a heart transplant recipient; Rosie Napravnik, who was the best placing female jockey in Derby history; John Velazquez, who lost top Derby mounts, two years in a row, Eskendereya, then Uncle Mo; John Velazquez, then received the phone call of his life from trainer, Graham Motion to ride aboard Animal Kingdom; Robby Albarado, who lost his Derby winning mount due to facial injuries; trainer,Graham Motion scratched top contender Toby’s Corner from the field, only going on to win with Animal Kingdom.

Of course, the biggest story happens once all the three year olds burst from the gates and will be recorded in horseracing history books for the ages.  There is only one winner to be heralded with the blanket of roses, but there were worthy competitors following behind.   

A strong second place finishing time of approximately 2:02.49, 2 ¼ lengths behind Animal Kingdom, placed the dark bay brown colt, Nehro.  Normally, this colt has a come-from-behind racing strategy, but a brilliant last minute game change by jockey, Corey Nakitani, to keep him closer to the pace, offered Nehro a great chance at winning the Kentucky Derby. With a surge coming out of the final turn, he was in a position to challenge the pace.  Tiring in the final furlong, Nakitani began to strongly urge the colt to the finish as Animal Kingdom moved past him for the lead.  Nehro was able to hold off the oncoming Mucho Macho Man.  As impressed as I was by Nehro’s finishing time and expert ride by Corey Nakitani, I have doubts about his ability to handle the distance of the Belmont Stakes. 

Third placing Mucho Macho Man came on strong in the final furlong to finish behind Nehro by a neck. Jockey, Rajiv Maragh, had positioned the colt well from the break, maintaining a spot in the lead pack near the pace.  Coming out of the final turn, Animal Kingdom began to pass Mucho Macho Man on the outside, seeming to “game-up” the tall colt. Gaining on Nehro, Maragh made the decision to pull to the outside for a clear path past Nehro.  He ran out of track before he had the opportunity to finish in second place.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mucho Macho Man finish so strongly.  Even though I believe this colt is talented, I have reservations regarding his size, which is my reasoning for not including him in my ‘Derby Darlings’.  You can argue that his over 17 H stature is a positive in his favor, but I am always cautious about such young horses, (this one not being even three years old) that are exceptionally tall, being prone to injury or worse.  Lest we forget the most recent memory of the equally tall Eight Belles’ Kentucky Derby disaster.  A fine example of “young-tall-horse” management would be Zenyatta.  Imagine erasing Zenyatta’s historical career for a few average racing moments as a youngster.           

Shackelford, with his movie star quality good looks, ran an exceptional race in the Kentucky Derby.  Not ever pulling on his rider, he made the pace with a powerful, relaxed stride throughout the entire running.  His jockey, Jesus Castanon did not harness that energy, and burned gas which could have been used to place higher.  If Shackelford’s rider is able to conserve this powerful drive in future races, this horse should not go unnoticed.  This fourth place finisher was commendable against this field.  

The betting favorite, Dialed In ran two different races.  Hard to explain why he ran so far behind the pace, that by the ½ mile, trainer Nick Zito, was already shaking his head at the loss. When jockey, Julien Leparoux finally realized this was the Kentucky Derby (hello?), he began to engage the colt in the race.  He managed to pass 12 horses and finish a disappointing 8th place. The quality of his run from the middle of the final turn to the wire was impressive.  Dialed In ran the EXACT same speed (according to my mom’s oven timer) as the Derby winner Animal Kingdom, 33 seconds. I have yet to hear why the first half of this race went the way it did.  There is no question this horse is capable of performing well.  Maybe we will see a more memorable finish by Dialed In in the Preakness.       

Now is the time for all to lick their wounds, pick up their heads and go to Maryland for the Preakness.  A new day, another battle to be fought.



Animal Kingdom Wins Kentucky Derby 137
Category: Member Blogs


Hail to the “surviving” nineteen three year old thoroughbred colts and jockeys that emerged from underneath the twin spires at Churchill Downs for the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby.  One hundred sixty thousand racing fanatics to hat divas joined in on the great tradition of singing “My Old Kentucky Home” as these beautiful horses paraded past the grandstand in all their glory.  The significance of this great American race was displayed on the rider’s faces as they absorbed this moment passing by the crowds:  Veteran Derby winner, Calvin Borel, wiped away tears of, no doubt, pride and great appreciation, maiden Derby rider, Rosie Napravnik, showing obvious pure joy with a contagious smile that reached all the way to my living room.

Animal Kingdom and Shackelford impressed me most during the post parade by looking well-conditioned, seeming physically more mature than the rest of the field.  I felt confident the rider change for Animal Kingdom was a positive decision on Graham Motion’s part.  Robby Albarado, the colt’s regular rider, was removed from the mount at the last moment because of facial injuries.  As a result of Uncle Mo scratching on Friday morning, jockey John Velazquez was hired to take Albarado’s place in the saddle of Animal Kingdom.  Understanding Albarado’s disappointment, I agree with Graham Motion’s decision. 

All nineteen horses loaded smoothly into the gates.  Animal Kingdom broke slowly from the sixteenth gate, but managed to find a comfortable spot tucked behind the front two-thirds of the field.  In a position to get a lot of dirt in his face, he received it well, despite the unwarranted concerns by commentators regarding his ability to handle kickback, even after handling what looked like a wall of dirt in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (which he won). 

Having horses to his right and left, John Velazquez guided the colt forward through the pack, eventually claiming a lane of his own on the outside coming around the final turn.  Animal Kingdom ran with confidence as he moved down the homestretch, passing leaders, Nehro and Shackelford, in the last hundred yards to win by 2 ¼ lengths. What was most notable was how strong he remained following the wire, even when Velazquez stood in the irons.  This is a testament to Graham Motion and his team for the spot-on training and management of this colt.  If the connections decide to run him in the Belmont Stakes, it looks as if distance will not be an issue for Animal Kingdom.      

Animal Kingdom finishing with a competitive time of 2:02.04, proving that he is a legitimate Triple Crown contender.  Animal Kingdom personally validated my assessment of him going off at high odds of 20-1 which was clearly inappropriate.  In my ‘Bunny’s Morning Line’ post, I listed him at 6-1 and as one of my top selections.    

I felt personally proud of the horseracing industry this weekend.  Watching the impeccable sportsmanship exhibited by John Velazquez following his victory was a true teachable moment.  His humble, gracious demeanor towards Robby Albarado’s disappointing situation was a class act.  His previous losses of Kentucky Derby mounts, favorite Eskendereya and this year’s Uncle Mo, made for a particularly sweet victory for the jockey.

In contrast to the first Kentucky Derby I watched in 2008, which sported Big Brown on steroids, trained by Rick Dutrow, who is now permanently suspended from racing in Kentucky; to the highly respected trainer Graham Motion, who scratched one of this year’s favorites in order to protect the horse’s well-being, and producing another solid contender with Animal Kingdom. As a teenager who loves this sport, I hope that trainers like Graham Motion will be the trend of the future.  If so, I look forward to being a devoted fan and a lifetime of enjoying thoroughbred horseracing.    


If you would like to know more about Animal Kingdom, read

Part Ten of Bunny's Derby Darlings:  Animal Kingdom at:

Plum Pretty Wins KY Oaks; No Surprise to Me!
Category: Member Blogs


This was certainly the strongest Kentucky Oaks field I have seen in my lifetime. For every one of the thirteen horses, a great case could be made.  The field attracted fourteen horses, and would have been complete without the scratch of R Heat Lightning.  It was full of great racemares fighting other great fillies, with my favorite, Plum Pretty, winning. 

The weather was flawless at Churchill Downs on Friday, and 110,122 spectators came out to see the fillies run for the lilies.  The betters made Zazu the favorite at 3.60-1 by post time, while Plum Pretty was the third choice at 6.30-1.

She broke from the twelfth post with regular rider, Martin Garcia aboard.  Plum Pretty lost her footing, but quickly recovered to settle second off the pace, while Summer Soiree pulled away by a couple lengths.  Without much urging around the final turn, Plum Pretty pulled up to the lead, while jockeys not far behind went to the whip.  It wasn’t until they straightened down heartbreak alley when Garcia began to urge his first Oaks winning mount.

Plum Pretty began to gain a slight lead on the field, and it appeared that she was a sure thing as she entered the final furlong.  St. John’s River, with up and coming Rosie Napravnik aboard, had other ideas, attempting to become the first female jockey to win the Oaks.  The Medaglia d’Oro filly would deny the brilliantly ridden St. John’s River’s jockey this history making moment.

It shouldn’t go without appreciation that the young Napravnik rode her mount flawlessly given struggles right from the gate.  From the break, Napravnik already at a disadvantage behind the field, smartly took the opportunity to pull her filly over to the rail, saving tons of ground in the process.  She then let St. John’s River calmly settle in, and methodically worked her way up the rail. Only to find (oh, did I mention my favorite) Plum Pretty reaching the wire first.  

I was surprised to see such a consistent horse go off at relatively high odds, and was disappointed about the minimal media coverage she received prior to the race.  I am proud to have featured Plum Pretty on my Bits N’ Bunny blog as the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. 

I was overjoyed to see this outstanding filly lead this quality field to the wire.  Plum Pretty proved that she is a solidly bred, trained, managed and owned filly.  I was always impressed by trainer, Bob Baffert’s decision to run her in the Sunland Park Oaks prior to the Kentucky Oaks. Between experienced owner, John Fort, and Bob Baffert, this filly has a great future ahead. 



Bunny's Derby Darlings: Bunny's Morning Line
Category: Member Blogs

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Derby contenders

Read more at:

Part Eleven:  Bunny's Morning Line




The road to the Kentucky Derby has been full of unwelcome surprises, starting off with the promising Tapizar’s injury; followed by To Honor And Serve, Jaycito, and Premier Pegasus who left the Derby trail for similar causes.  Throat surgery benched The Factor, and then, most recently, came the news of scratching Toby’s Corner.  Now we are faced with the possibility of losing Uncle Mo to gastro-intestinal issues.

The year began with such high hopes of having a Kentucky Derby field deep with talent.  As a racing fan, my objective is not only to see my favorite horse win, but to watch talented horses matched up against each other for great competitive moments that make racing history.  The Kentucky Derby, draped in tradition, is a once a year, once in a lifetime opportunity to witness such moments. 

As some of the top three year olds got “picked-off” the Derby trail, I felt a sense of loss that the Derby was slowly diminishing before my eyes.  I wondered if it was just me being fourteen years old, wanting that “perfect” race, with hopes of a Triple Crown winner.  In an interview today, Toby’s Corner’s trainer, Graham Motion, was asked how he felt about scratching the colt.  His response made it very clear that it wasn’t just me being fourteen, but that he was profoundly disappointed that this horse, “That brought him (Graham Motion) to the Derby” was not able to participate, and left him feeling “devastated”. Oddly enough, I felt the very same way!

Disappointment aside, I feel strongly that the utmost care and consideration for the horse should always take precedent over competing.  I commend all the trainers and owners of the horses who have been pulled out of contention for the Triple Crown, knowing what a hard decision that must be, given what is at stake.  That being said, bravo to all the horses who will make it into the gates this Saturday!

Following the post draw, Mike Battaglia released his morning line odds for the Kentucky Derby.  He put seventeen horses at or above 10-1 with twelve of those being installed at or above 20-1.  I would like to offer my own morning line odds to tighten up the field a little bit.

Post Position, Horse, Real M/L, Bunny’s M/L

1:   Archarcharch, 10-1, 15-1

2:   Brilliant Speed, 30-1, 10-1

3:   Twice The Appeal, 20-1, 25-1

4:   Stay Thirsty, 20-1, 15-1

5:   Decisive Moment, 30-1, 20-1

6:   Comma To The Top, 30-1, 8-1

7:   Pants On Fire, 20-1, 20-1

8:   Dialed In, 4-1, 3-1

9:   Derby Kitten, 30-1, 12-1

10:  Twinspired, 30-1, 10-1

11:  Master Of Hounds, 30-1, 25-1

12:  Santiva, 30-1, 50-1

13:  Mucho Macho Man, 12-1, 20-1

14:  Shackelford, 12-1, 5-1

15:  Midnight Interlude, 10-1, 8-1

16:  Animal Kingdom, 30-1, 6-1

17:  Soldat, 12-1, 30-1

18:  Uncle Mo, 9-2, 6-1

19:  Nehro, 6-1, 25-1

20:  Watch Me Go, 50-1, 50-1


The winner’s circle at Churchill Downs is truly open to any horse in this field.  Many of these horses have run on an off-track, which is highly possible, with a sixty percent chance of showers in the forecast for Louisville, Kentucky.

What makes this Kentucky Derby so special is that it is the first Kentucky Derby since starting “Bits N’ Bunny”!  Being able to share my thoughts and opinions with other people who love horseracing has been such a fun experience for me. 

Thanks for listening and Happy Derby Day to all!   


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