Archives for July 2022


On May 6, 2022, Nest placed second to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies but turned the tables on Saturday and ran away from Secret Oath in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.  This was not surprising after Secret Oath struggled in the Preakness, finishing fourth, whereas Nest ran a huge race in the Belmont Stakes, placing second to Mo Donegal. Mo Donegal and Nest are partly owned by Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher trains both horses. 

After Nest’s impressive performance in the Belmont Stakes and her overpowering effort in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks, her owners must decide whether to run her against fillies in the Alabama Stakes on August 20 or in the Travers Stakes a week later. 

The day after the Coaching Club American Oaks, the 4-year-old fillies Clairiere and Malathaat had a rematch in the Grade II Shuvee for older fillies and mares. This was the third time they have met, with Malathaat winning the 2021 Alabama Stakes and Clairiere defeating Malathaat in the 2022 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park and then again in the Shuvee Stakes.

Barring a setback, Nest, Secret Oath, Clairiere, and Malathaat will be in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland.  That may prove to be the most intriguing race on the Breeders’ Cup card.

If Nest’s connections were to run her in the Travers instead of the Alabama, Secret Oath would likely be the favorite in the Alabama.  Should she win that race, coupled with her defeat of Nest in the Kentucky Oaks, she would seem to be a strong candidate for 3-year-old filly of the year.  However, that is unlikely unless she is able to beat Nest in at least one additional race, preferably in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The thinking here is that Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher will not run Nest in the Travers but will put her in the Alabama. In that case, Secret Oath’s owners will have a difficult decision to make about running her back in the Alabama after Nest’s dominance in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Based on Nest’s strong and ever-improving outings in the Belmont Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks, she will be hard for any filly or mare to beat, especially with her having three more months to mature before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

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I was perusing the entries in the catalogue for the upcoming Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale and the adage “breed the best to the best and hope for the best” came to mind.  The sale is full of blue-blooded yearlings with accomplished sires and dams.

As I looked through the catalogue, I thought about a $26,400 Maiden Special Weight race for fillies and mares at Thistledown on July 18, 2022. One of the entries was a 5-year-old by Tapit and another was a 3-year-old by Into Mischief, whose stud fees are, respectively, $185,000 and $250,000.  The pedigrees say the mare and the filly belong at Saratoga or Del Mar, athleticism says otherwise. (The Tapit mare was auctioned as a yearling for $350,000 at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga and the Into Mischief filly brought $25,000 at Keeneland.)

Another thought pertained to one of the truly great American racehorses of all time, Zenyatta.  Of her five living foals, not one of them has ever won a race, though there is promise that her 2-year-old filly named Zilkha may do so.  Two of Zenyatta’s foals are now hunter/jumper sport horses.

When the auctioneer’s hammer falls on the colts and fillies in the 2022 Saratoga sale, some for 7-figure prices, the new owners will leave with plenty of optimism.  Only a small number of owners will be correct in their assessment. The statistical axiom of regression to the mean is the enemy of buyers of the highest priced yearlings with patrician pedigrees.

Racehorse ownership at the top level appeals to people willing to take a big chance, as many of them did in their personal lives…and, in so doing, accumulated sufficient wealth to gamble on buying a baby racehorse that could win a Grade 1 race or end up as a hunter/jumper. 

Hope springs eternal for high-rolling buyers at Saratoga and Keeneland. The same can be said for bargain-hunters, the Warren Buffett-like buyers in bloodstock markets who look for intrinsic value. Breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best does not preclude a future version of Mine That Bird or Rich Strike from winning the Kentucky Derby.

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After 159 years, Saratoga Race Course has not changed in one important respect: It is a brief escape from societal turmoil and the concerns of everyday living.

The inaugural flat-racing meet at Saratoga Race Course in early August 1863 came in the wake of the most violent July in U. S. history, when the country was split north vs. south. On the first three days of July, the Union and Confederate Armies had clashed in the Battle of Gettysburg, named for the Pennsylvania town where the epic struggle took place.  Between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties were incurred, or the equivalent of about a third of the troops engaged.  Then, draft riots broke out in New York City from July 11 to July 16, leaving 663 people dead.

Only weeks later in upstate New York, on the third of August, bare-knuckles boxing champion, gambler, politician, and entrepreneur John “Old Smoke” Morrisey launched Thoroughbred racing on a track for trotters. One can imagine how the 1863 race meet was a welcome if temporary respite for attendees in a country consumed by strife and bloodshed. 

Today, Americans are experiencing extraordinary political discord, recurring gun homicides, inflation rates not seen in decades, merchandise shortages, unfettered illegal immigration, and Covid fatigue—creating a sense that things have spiraled out of control, albeit not close to the horrors and deprivations Americans of 1863 endured.  But, as in 1863, Saratoga Race Course remains a sanctuary of sorts, where people of vastly varied backgrounds and viewpoints can gather and enjoy life away from the real world, at least for half a day or so.  It’s a place where differences of opinion benignly focus on horse racing and are reflected on the tote board. 

Saratoga Race Course, aka “the Spa,” is the oldest continually operating racetrack in the United States. From July 13 through Labor Day 2022, Saratoga offers horse racing at its best, five days a week.

Copyright © 2022 Horse Racing Business