For the Love of Thoroughbred Horse Racing!!!

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 ???

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I was a Kentucky bred son of a stallion who has sired more than one Breeders’ Cup winner.

*I raced at six different racetracks in my three year racing career, but only in two different states.

*I raced against five other champions in my career, and I defeated four of them.

*I won exactly half of my races, although all of my wins came in only two seasons.

*I raced less, and won less races in each successive year.

*My Hall of Fame trainer is unfortunately no longer with us.

*My losses had a five furlong spread in distance, but my wins only had a 5/16 mile spread between the shortest and the longest.

*In my most important victory, I was not preferred by the bettors and paid more than $20 for the win.

*What‘s in a name?

*Four of my stakes wins came in one state, but both of my grade 1 wins came in another state.

*I was ridden by five different jockeys and three of them are in the Hall of Fame.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dr. Fager, Lady Love, and Handicapping Lessons

by Dr. William Quirin

Back in the days when I was a regular player, I never lost sight of the fact that Thoroughbred Racing was a sport. As such, I had my favorites, none more so than the great Dr. Fager.

Although Secretariat galloped across the racing landscape under my watch, I never wavered in my belief that the good doctor was the greatest horse I ever saw. I once wrote a series of articles that utilized speed figures -- my kind of speed figures -- to prove that he was the fastest horse of that era. His 4-year-old Horse of the Year season was unprecedented. Carrying highweights throughout the year, he won honors as the Handicap, Turf, and Sprint champion of the season, an unprecedented sweep of major honors. After shattering Aqueduct’s seven-furlong record under 139 pounds in the Vosburgh, Brian’s dad, Phil Zipse, and I knew we had been watching a race horse for the ages that year.

Phil Zipse, by the way, was the person who introduced me to Thoroughred handicapping, and taught me my early lessons. He was the most talented and gifted handicapper I ever knew.

As a fan, I naturally followed the Dr. Fager's offspring, and actually drove to Delaware Park to watch (and bet) Plastic Surgeon become his first stakes winner. I had great success with Fager’s two-year-olds early in their careers. But I also suffered the worst defeat of my career with one of his daughters.

I happened to be at the Acorn, then the first jewel in New York’s Triple Tiara for three-year-old fillies, in 1973 to watch Lady Love make her first start in major New York stakes company. When she made a strong bid around the turn, only to run out of gas, I knew a special day was on the horizon when she returned for the Mother Goose a few weeks later.

The old “bid and hung” was one of my favorite angles back then, often the precursor of a better performance in the horse’s next race. If that move happened to come in the horse’s first or second race after a layoff, all the better. Sad to say, with horses racing far less often today, the bid and hung and second race off a layoff angles are far less significant now. Most horses are coming off a month’s layoff every time they race nowadays.

I carried a lot of friends’ money with me the day of the Mother Goose, all of it destined for one filly in the feature. It was a rainy day, and the track was sloppy, something that normally would favor the front-running favorite, Windy’s Daughter. I didn’t believe Windy would stay a mile and aneighth, and at 17-1, Lady Love was a delicious overlay.

I am certain Lady Love would have beaten her on a dry track. Actually,all she would have had to do to beat her on the wet track was stay off the rail.Any decent trip handicapper would tell you that the rail at Belmont was usually not the place to be, especially when the surface was damp. But trip handicappers don’t get to talk to jockeys before the race.

True to form, Windy’s Daughter set the pace and came into the stretchwide, and seemed to be bearing out into the middle of the track as she desperately searched for the finish line. And Lady Love, as expected, was the only one in pursuit. As they came through the stretch, I wasn’t so much encouraging the horse as yelling at the jockey (whose name I shall withhold) to get off the rail. But he persisted, and Lady Love persisted too, and the two horses, seemingly miles apart, hit the finish line together. The photo-finish camera favored the chalk, and I learned an expensive lesson -- never bet that jockey on a wet Belmont track.

Knowing which jockeys ride well on the lead, and which have a knack for coming from behind helps, but knowing which can read the racetrack as well as the past performances can be the key to a gold mine. Whenever I‘m at the track with Anton Hemm, who was one of our group back in the good old days, he tells me that “Ramon Dominguez on a front runner is like money in the bank,” but Dominguez on a horse who figures to come from behind is another matter.

One thing I remember from my early days at the races was that Phil Zipse had a favorite trainer at Monmouth. He always said, “E.I. Kelly’s horses are always ready,” and usually worth betting. Back in those days, we didn’thave the trainer stats so readily available today, so when we did the investigative work ourselves, we had a valuable edge over the less enlightened in the betting lines.

My favorite handicapping angle of all was the turf sire. Horses sired by Stage Door Johnny, Little Current, or Exclusive Native, to name just three,were automatic bets when racing on grass for the first time … no matter how bad their form on dirt. Some of them proved to be duds, but enough took to the grass at big prices to make the whole venture highly profitable.

I don’t go to the races very much anymore, but when I do go I often wonder who the turf sires of the twenty-first century might be. I don’t know what to think about dirt versus synthetic versus grass. I don’t have my speed and pace figures anymore, and some of my favorite angles are now irrelevant. It seems like a much more difficult game these day, and I feel fortunate to have played when I did, when I had so many weapons to use, and to have witnessed three Triple Crowns … and Dr. Fager.