For the Love of Thoroughbred Horse Racing!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Mother of All Handicapping Marathons

Think you've had long days of handicapping the races? Check this out ... Professional writer and horseplayer Pete Fornatale will attempt to establish a world record Friday, September 3rd in a day-long effort to wager on every race and every track around the world offered through, the sister site of

Starting with racing from Lingfield Park in Surrey, England at roughly 9:00 a.m. ET and ending with racing from Los Alamitos, Fornatale is scheduled to wager on 55 different race tracks and over 450 races. Fornatale will attempt to handicap and show a profit on as many races as possible. All net winnings will be donated to the horse racing charity, The Race for Education. The Daily Racing Form and have each pledged a minimum of $500 to the effort.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Fornatale said. “With TwinSpiresTV and the power of the internet, wagering on every race offered is now a possibility.” “I’m looking forward to the challenge and hopefully raising some money for The Race for Education.” will be hosting a live stream of the event via Ustream ( where viewers will be able watch Fornatale’s fast paced attempt, keep an eye on his bankroll and participate via chat. Fans wishing to participate should visit beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on September 3rd for access to the live event (signup not necessary).

“We are very excited to have Pete go after this achievement as it showcases the vast array of betting and racing options we have available at,” said Jeremy Clemons, Vice President of Marketing for “Hopefully the combination of racing information and wagering tools available at will assist Pete in his attempt to raise money for The Race for Education.

The Race For Education (RFE) enables children of low-income horse industry families, as well as children who want to pursue a horse-related career, to obtain a college degree by providing tuition support; financial literacy training to help students minimize their debt load; mentoring services to provide students with emotional support; and assistance in finding career-related internships during college and permanent jobs upon graduation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who Am I ???

*A Kentucky bred chestnut, my sire is in the Hall of Fame, although not the American version.

*I raced in two different countries, but all of my victories came in the United States.

*A stakes winner in six different states, I won more stakes in New Jersey than any other state.

*My conditioner won an Eclipse Award in my first season of racing.

*I never won a race at Arlington Park, despite being favored in each attempt there.

*Third time was a charm, as my most important victory came in a race where I had been unsuccessful twice before.

*I was true to my favorite surface, I never raced on anything else.

*Undefeated as a juvenile, I won four times in each season after that.

*I was ridden by the same jockey more than 20 times; the only time he did not ride me, I won a grade 1 in Kentucky.

*I went out a winner, as my final race was the greatest of my career.

*I currently enjoy life as a stallion, just outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Legend of Artax

by Jay Valter

The Never Ending Story was a 1984 film based on a fantasy novel by Michael Ende. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it is a good film, and holds up better than other similarly-themed movies of its era (Dark Crystal, Time Bandits, Dune). The story of the movie centers around Bastian Bux, a beleaguered lad who seeks solace in a book of the same title as the movie. Therein, Bastian learns of the fantasy world of Fantasia, and the threat against Fantasia from “The Nothing,” an evil void of darkness. Early in the film, the Empress of Fantasia summons the boy-warrior Atreyu to put an end to The Nothing. Atreyu is accompanied by trusted equine companion Artax, and the two set out for the dangerous Swamps of Sadness to seek the counsel of Morla, the wisest being in all of Fantasia. Cue one of the most gutwrenching movie scenes I can recall:

Fast forward to 1997, and the racing world was introduced to a real Artax. A good-looking colt from the first crop of Marquetry, Artax was a purchased as a weanling by pinhookers Buzz Chace and Bobby Barry on behalf of Ernie Paragallo. Artax sold for 16 times his sire’s stud fee. In November of 1997, Artax broke his maiden at second asking, in spectacular fashion, winning over the Hollywood oval by 9 lengths, going 1 1/6 mile. Trainer Randy Bradshaw was convinced he had a two-turn superstar on his hands, and a legitimate contender for the Kentucky Derby. At an OTB in New Orleans, I was convinced of the same thing. Artax finished his two-year old season with a hard-fought runner-up spot to Real Quiet in the Hollywood Futurity (G1); there was no reason to expect anything but great things for his three-year old season.

Artax got things going with a 5 ½ length romp over Souvenir Copy in the Santa Catalina Stakes (G3), setting up a rematch with Real Quiet in the San Felipe (G2):

It was brilliant front-running score for the 6-5 favorite, barely holding off Real Quiet, but doing so gamely. Following my love for Silver Charm from the previous year, I was once again in love with a gritty horse from the Left Coast, and was tabbing him as my Derby choice.

A couple of weeks later in the Santa Anita Derby, Artax got an odd trip from jockey Chris McCarron, and allowed Indian Charlie to settle much more comfortably towards the front, and run away with the win. Real Quiet finished second, and our hero settled for third. After the race, there were whispers that Artax wasn’t completely sound, but the connections stayed the course, and it was on to Louisville.

I did not stay the course, and switched my allegiances to the Rick Pitino-owned Halory Hunter. It didn’t matter; Halory Hunter didn’t hit the board, and Artax didn’t run a lick, and finished 13th, some 39 lengths behind the winner, his old California nemesis, Real Quiet.

After the Kentucky Derby, Artax’s injury problems were acknowledged, and he spent most of the rest of 1998 on the shelf, popping back late in the year to finish a strong second to Event Of The Year in the 7f Malibu (G1), giving some indication that his 4YO campaign may be best suited to sprints. Nevertheless, Bradshaw tried him in the San Fernando (G2) and Strub (G2) (both routes), and he finished non-threatening 7ths in both races. I was beginning to think that Artax would never come close to fulfilling the immense promise he had displayed early in his career. He had one more failure in the Bradshaw barn, a horrendous fifth-place finish in a one-mile optional claimer. The ownership decided a change was needed, and he was shifted to the East Coast-based barn of Louis Albertrani. One of the wildest rides of any season for any horse was about to take off.

Albertrani had a very different vision for Artax than had Bradshaw; based off the Malibu, he was convinced that Artax had what it took to be a top-notch sprinter. After a second-place finish in the Bold Ruler (G3), he was looking like he may be right. But nobody could have predicted what happened next:

Fourteen months after he had last won a race, Artax, with Jorge Chavez aboard, captured the Carter Handicap (G1), and, in doing so, broke broke Dr. Fager's 31-year-old track record for seven furlongs yesterday, taking the race in 1:20.04.

Artax’s next race was also noteworthy, but for a far different reason. The Maryland Breeder’s Cup Handicap (G2) was part of the Preakness undercard, and, as usual, the crowd was raucous. But never before (and never again) have we witnessed stupidity of this magnitude:

I wish there was a better video available than the one above, but some mental midget by the name of Lee Ferrell wandered onto the track during the race, and took a swing at Artax’s jockey, Jorge Chavez. It was one of the most bizarre incidents in horse racing history (for me, it’s one of those “I will always remember where I was when I saw this” moments), and, for a while at least, seemed to cast a pall over the rest of Artax’s season. Albertrani kept him busy throughout the summer and early fall, running in graded sprints at Belmont, Philadelphia, and Saratoga. He cracked the board in 4 of his next 5 starts, but failed to find the winner’s circle. That would change in late September with a powerful 3 ½ length triumph at 4-1 odds in the Vosburgh (G1). Three weeks later, Artax was back at it in the Forest Hills (G2), and history was once again made:

Another legendary track record fell, hs time of 1:07.60 was a fifth of a second better than the Belmont record for three-quarters of a mile, set by Groovy in 1987. I remember vividly watching in awe (and cashing a nice ticket), and predicting to my friend Adam that was a stone-cold lock to capture the Breeder’s Cup Sprint. It was the most juiced I had been for a sprinter in my lifetime. One last time to make history:

Artax and Chavez, in scintillating fashion, held off Kona Gold, and captured the Breeder’s Cup Sprint (G1). Once again, another track record was set, as the mighty one equaled Mr. Prospector's 27 year old track record of 1:07 4/5 for 6 furlongs. In one magical year, Artax had broke or tied track records set by three of the greatest sprinters of all-time: Dr. Fager, Groovy, and Mr. Prosepector. Based on the large number of losses, he was denied the overall championship, but he easily captured the sprint division title. It was, the best sprint season I’ve ever witnessed, and the level he was competing at in those final three races is as good a finish to a season as any horse EVER. His three big wins accorded him Beyer Speed Figures of 124, 123, & 123…three of the six highest sprint figures during the 1990s.

Artax was retired immediately after his Breeder’s Cup win, and was later diagnosed with a suspensory issue. Nevertheless, owner Ernie Paragallo ominously directed Artax back into training the next summer, with the hope of a repeat win in the Sprint. However, after suffering more setbacks during training, he was retired for good in August of 2000. Ten years later, Paragallo was headed to jail for cruelty to animals.

Artax had one of those racing careers we just don’t see much of these days, a true second act, a second chance. He is never going to be a Hall of Famer, his 7 for 25 lifetime record sees to that, but he will always be remembered by me as a magical sprinter, one of the best I ever saw.

As for the cinematic version of Artax? Well, as anybody who is familiar with film knows, Bastian saves the day, and Fantasia is restored to all its glory, and all that were destroyed by The Nothing return. One of the film’s final scenes is Atreyu happily riding Artax. A second act, a second chance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Race to Remember

by Dani Pugh

I haven’t been in the game for 30 some odd years. I’ve only heard stories of the greats of old. How stands shook when Secretariat opened up 31 lengths, in conclusion to one of the greatest Triple Crown victories of all time. I’ve only read of the dominance of the great and mighty Man o War. For many of the all-time greats, I have no recollection, except through my books, Youtube, or word of mouth. However, to say my short time as a fan of racing has been void of great horses or truly outstanding performances would be a lie.

I remember seeing Funny Cide beat my favorite, Empire Maker, in the Kentucky Derby. I also remember Empire Maker exacting his revenge, five weeks later, in the Belmont Stakes. I watched as Lawyer Ron, a talented three year old, blossomed into a monster as an older male. I remember Barbaro’s Derby, the Rags vs. Curlin Belmont, and Curlin’s 07’ Classic. Other horses I recall include the ever consistent Invasor and the brilliant Bernardini. Overall, I have seen a great deal in a short time, though only one performance will still draw a tear, and leave me breathless, and that was the 2009 Woodward.

In the beginning, I was not a huge fan of the wonder filly, Rachel Alexandra. I felt she was a nice filly who was facing hopelessly outclassed opponents. I kept that point of view all the way up until the fleet footed filly left the Kentucky Oaks field in her wake by a widening 20 ¼ lengths. The performance, was literally jaw dropping for me, and forever changed my perception of Rachel Alexandra.

I continued to watch her season, scraping up any news I could find on her. I watched captivated, as she defeated her male peers in the Preakness. In awe, I saw her again easily dispatch of two talented, but overmatched rivals in the Mother Goose, before blasting her way to a 6 length triumph over the Belmont Stakes winner, Summer Bird, in the Haskell Invitational. All these races, all of her victories, were beautiful, brilliant, practically perfect, but even they cannot touch her final victory of 2009.

Defeating older males was the only accomplishment that remained unlitted on Rachel Alexandra’s glittering 2009 resume. It was the one thing she needed to do, before she could be considered a true great, and her owner Jess Jackson knew that. After taking his time, carefully considering every possible option for his superstar, Jackson gave Rachel Alexandra her chance to make history, and make history she did.

Entered against a solid field that included the likes of Stephen Foster winner, Macho Again, Suburban victor, Dry Martini, Dubai World Cup runner-up Asiatic Boy, and Whitney winner, Bullsbay, the race figured to be Rachel Alexandra’s largest test that season.

It was a nail-biter right from the start. Rachel leaped out of the gates to grab the early lead with the speeding Da’Tara and Past the Point right in toe. The first quarter mile was a punishing one that went in 22.85 seconds. Shortly after a half in 46.41, Da’Tara, the 08 Belmont winner began to fade, but Past the Point was still there breathing down her neck. As the field flew past the 6 furlong marker, Past the Point was visibly being urged, but to no avail, he did not have enough to pass the classy filly.

As the field turned for home, Rachel was still in front, and I had begun to call out my encouragements, willing her to hold on just a little longer. After such a blistering pace, it still looked as though Rachel Alexandra would do the impossible, after scorching her foes early on. The battle, however, was far from over as Bullsbay launched a menacing rally early in the stretch. Again, the gallant filly dug in, repelling his charge, but after him came Macho Again, who was bearing down with alarming rapidity.

By now I was screaming, punching the arm of the couch I was hunched over. Macho Again was coming, and he wasn’t stopping. Time seemed to be moving all too slowly as the Stephan Foster winner cut into Rachel’s lead. Then, in the shadow of the wire, Rachel showed her class once more, digging in valiantly, and just holding off the charging gray by a head, as the pair flashed under the wire.

I was literally shaking with excitement, my heart beating as though it may come out of chest at any moment. She had done it. Rachel Alexandra had done the impossible. Digging in, repelling every challenger that came to her. It did not matter they drilled her into the ground the entire 9 furlongs. It did not matter that pace was so demandingly quick, and two grade one winners took dead aim on her in the stretch. Nothing mattered to her, except for getting to that wire first.

I saw my all time favorite horse Curlin, duke it out with Lawyer Ron and Rags to Riches in some of the most thrilling stretch drives I’ve ever witnessed. I saw Lawyer Ron’s brilliant scores in the Whintey Handicap and Woodward Stakes. I can recite Curlin’s campaign almost by heart, with each race giving me some sort of chills or goose bumps.

He was an amazing horse, and still remains my favorite. However, none of his races, not the ones where he demolished his foes, nor the ones where he showed every ounce of heart he possessed, can match what Rachel Alexandra did that day. She laid her body down, repelling every single challenge, and simply refusing to lose.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sexy Exhi

Can a thoroughbred racehorse be sexy? Sure, why not, and I am here to tell you of one such example. A three-year-old stallion by Maria‘s Mon, Exhi, pronounced [exy], neatly fits the descriptive nickname. Sexy Exhi rolls smoothly off the tongue, and the big boy has the goods to back up the moniker. This past Sunday, the attractive bay Kentucky homebred of owners Wertheimer and Frere, scored a stylish eight length victory in the Victoria Park as the big favorite in the short field. Out of the Polish Numbers mare Soldera, Sexy Exhi completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in a solid 1:50 and 3/5, over the Polytrack surface at Woodbine.

As the photos provided by Keith McCalmont, from Triple Dead Heat, will attest, Sexy Exhi, cast an imposing presence that overshadowed his competition. Carrying 124 pounds, the good looking Todd Pletcher trainee shot to the lead, and from there it was just a matter of what pose he would strike in the winner’s circle. Graded stakes winner Bear's Hard Ten, did make an attempt to disrupt the glamour boy on the far turn, but Sexy Exhi and confident rider, Robby Albarado, turned away his challenge with disdainful ease and widened their lead from there, with little or no urging. It was such an easy win that Exhi could not help but look good, but this is nothing new for the leggy bay. Since being dismissed by Odysseus in his first race of the year in February, Sexy Exhi has been on a major roll.

Exhi embarked on his sexy skein with a victory in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on March 27th. I got to see him up close at Turfway, and yes, I liked what I saw. The Grade 2 Lexington would be next, and Sexy Exhi would prove as beautiful as the picturesque surroundings at Keeneland that day with an impressive win over a strong field on April 17th. It was north of the border for the handsome colt next and things would only get better, as he knocked out some of the top Canadian three year-olds with a romping win in the Marine Stakes on May 29th. The Victoria Park thus became the fourth straight easy stakes win for Sexy Exhi.

What will be next? It may be time to bring his game back to dirt and test the best sophomore males in America. While many have labeled him a synthetic horse, as all four of his recent wins were on artificial surfaces, I am of the belief that Sexy Exhi is just getting better, much better. With each win, he looks more impressive. He is now a very good horse, and one that has been working well on dirt tracks. I say look out Saratoga. Beware Travers competitors. Exhi is on his way, and as you know, Exhi is Sexy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I won more than half of my starts and never once failed to finish in the money during my two-year racing career.

*Never let go at odds of higher than 4-1, those highest odds came in the victory that defined my career.

*I did not mind ending the controversy one little bit.

*After my retirement, I lived a happy life that lasted longer than most Thoroughbreds live.

*My stakes wins were separated in distance by a quarter mile from one win to the other.

*I was ridden by the same Panamanian born jockey in every single race.

*I was not the most famous runner for my trainer who was an Ivy League graduate and a member of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

*My racing career was confined to three racetracks and only one state.

*I was retired in the midst of a five race winning streak .

*My biggest stakes win was also the most important victory of my lifelong buddy.

*As a very successful sire, I was known for my offspring excelling at a distance and on the turf.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???