Cats Working 2012 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 4, 2012

By Adele

I could pull a no-brainer and pick Virginia’s own Bodemeister as my favorite for the 138th Kentucky Derby on May 5. He’s the flavor of the day for the human odds-makers. But this year’s a real crapshoot, with no clear superstar emerging from all the prep races.

I’m not sure Bodemeister can do it. He’s only run 2 previous races, and he drew the No. 6 post position for the Derby, which puts him in the middle of everybody. His jockey is Mike Smith, former jockey of the freakishly fabulous Zenyatta.

In his first-ever race, Bodemeister came in 2nd. His next time out, on April 14 at the Arkansas Derby, he seized and maintained the lead, and then blew the competition away by 9 ½ lengths in the stretch. I’m afraid Bodemeister may be tired. Or he may blow us all away on Derby day.

Then there’s Hansen the white horse, and my kindred spirit. His record is most impressive, with 2 wins in 4 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November. He’s never come in less than 2nd.

But on April 14 in the Toyota Blue Grass, he had the lead all the way until Dullahan came from way behind and pulled off a stunning upset.

So what about Dullahan? He ran 4th behind Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His overall record is 2 wins for 5 races, placing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the others. He’s in Derby pp 5 with jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won the Derby in 2008 on Big Brown. Dullahan’s half-brother is Mine That Bird, who won the 2009 Derby. Hmmm…

A few weeks ago, I thought my favorite would be Union Rags (under Julien Leparoux). But on March 31 at the Florida Derby, Union Rags came in 3rd behind Take Charge Indy.

At the Derby, Take Charge Indy will be in pp 3 under Calvin Borel, who is notorious for his cunning navigation along the rail — and for winning Kentucky Derbys.

Decisions, decisions…

Here goes: I’m picking Dullahan to win, Take Charge Indy to place, and Bodemeister or Hansen to show.


Zenyatta’s Still the Queen

November 9, 2010

By Adele

On November 6, for the first time in her long racing career, Zenyatta traveled east to race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Big mistake. Watch the race:

I phoned Zenyatta when she got back to her digs at Hollywood Park, California, and she was ready to dish some dirt — literally.

Adele: Do you think trading your usual synthetic track for dirt affected your performance?

Zenyatta: The hooves don’t care, but I’ll tell ya, Kentucky dust leaves an awful aftertaste. And it took my groomers hours to get that crud off me.

A: I hope you flew home First Class so you could relax and unwind.

Z: They told the flight attendant to pour me a good stiff belt of carrot juice and keep ‘em coming. I just wanted to forget the sight of Blame’s Durante-like schnozzola sticking over the finish line.

A: Now the press is saying you lost by “a head.” Did you hear the race commentators calling you the “Aging Amazon?”

Z: I call them aging jock douchebags. They probably bet against me, too. Always did.

A: Mike Smith, your jockey, blames himself.

Z: Poor Mike. He’s probably right. If we’d kicked into gear just a few strides sooner, I would have been tickling Blame’s schnoz with my tail. The stone-cold fact is that I outran 10 of the best males racing today. Did you see how far behind I was when I started passing them? We just ran out of track a few steps too soon. So send me to the glue factory.

A: They’re saying Blame will probably be named Horse of the Year.

Z: He can have it. Horse of the Year is bullshit. If I can’t win it with 19 straight victories, it’s a joke.

A: I’m sorry to hear that you’re probably going to be retired soon, too. In Kentucky.

Z: So is Blame. I just hope they don’t try to hook us up. He’s got a reputation for pointing fingers. He’d never stop gloating. I may have finished behind him, but I never want to end up under him.

A: The day after the race, Kentucky fans came out in force to get see you off, but not Blame.

Z: What can I say? It was just one race. Star power is forever.

A: Now that you’ll have more free time, are you going to pursue your dancing?

Z: Absolutely! I’ve always want to learn Argentine tango.

A: If you start a family, colt or filly?

Z: Filly, definitely. I’ve even picked out her name. Zenyette.

There you have it. Zenyatta is pissed, but unbowed. Long live horse racing’s Queen!

BONUS: A tribute to the fabulous Zenyatta.


Zenyatta Beats the Equine Rodney Dangerfield

November 8, 2009

By Adele

Since winning the Kentucky Derby as a 50-1 long shot, Mine That Bird hasn’t caught a break. Having Zenyatta sail past him in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic yesterday with another one of his jockeys on her back must have been the icing on the cake.

Zenyatta-JaeCHong-AP-NYTimes

Zenyatta is No. 4 in yellow (Photo - Jae C. Hong/AP, NY Times)

Zenyatta, running on her home track at Santa Anita, was racing against boys for the first time — some of the best male horses in the world, including Mine and his brother, Belmont winner Summer Bird.

It was the longest race (1 ¼ miles) Zenyatta’s ever run, too. Her jockey was Mike Smith, who rode Mine in the Preakness when his Derby jockey, Calvin Borel, abandoned him to ride Rachel Alexandra, who beat him and crushed his Triple Crown dreams.

Walking to the gate, Mine was a dignified pro, but Zenyatta was, as usual, prancing and pawing for the crowd. Then she turned diva when they tried to load her.

But that was nothing compared to the fit Quality Road threw. He refused to be loaded, so they blindfolded him, which only made him madder. He scratched his legs bucking, so they scratched him from the race.

The scene rattled everybody, so the horses were all backed out, dismounted, and reloaded. The change in routine seemed to throw Zenyatta, and she was slow out of the gate, trailing the field with Mine, who probably experienced dreadful déjà vu when he saw his jockey riding Zenyatta.

With every other horse in front of her, Zenyatta regained her sense of purpose and flew in the final stretch to pass the lead horse, Gio Ponti, and win the race. The first female to win in its 26-year history. Her 14th straight victory, keeping her undefeated.

Summer Bird came in 4th. Mine That Bird came in 9th.

Watch the race.

Maybe Mine never intended to win, but to show Calvin Borel what happens to fair-weather jockeys.

They’re saying Zenyatta will probably retire. She’ll never race Rachel Alexandra, who skipped the Breeders’. But that’s probably for the best. One of them would have to lose.

They’re also saying Zenyatta deserves to be Horse of the Year. I don’t go that far. Rachel beat the boys 3 times this year to Zenyatta’s one. If anything, they should share the honor.


Mine That Bird’s Got Jock(ey) Itch

July 2, 2009

By Adele

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird has been unwittingly snared in two horsey love triangles. I caught him by phone at Churchill Downs, where he’s been stabled since placing third in the Belmont. His Triple Crown hopes had been dashed in the Preakness when his jockey, Calvin Borel, ditched him to ride Rachel Alexandra to a narrow victory.

Adele: Thanks for talking to me, Mine. Congratulations on the Derby. Sorry about the other 2 races, though. The Preakness was a squeaker, but what happened at Belmont when you had Borel back? Did you throw that race to spite him, as some (me) have speculated?

Mine: Adele, since betting’s involved, I have no comment, but let us say that we horses think little of jockeys who play us to win a Triple Crown for themselves. It’s supposed to be a horse honor.

A: That brings up your latest dilemma. Calvin Borel rode Rachel last Saturday to win the Mother Goose Stakes, and now he’s been dropped as your jockey in future races because he won’t commit to you through the Breeders’ Cup in November.

M: Me and Borel made a good team while it lasted, but the race is won by the horse, not the jockey. That guy let his head get turned by a fast filly. As far as I’m concerned, he can have her.

A: And now they’re trying to get Mike Smith, your jockey in the Preakness, to commit, but he’s hedging because he wants to ride Zenyatta, the mare he rode to win the Vanity Handicap last Saturday.

M: Zenyatta’s a freak with a thing for fat jockeys. She lets Smith pig out between races and still wins. Personally, I hope they find me a Munchkin jockey. They stay light without all the heaving.

A: I understand you’re running in the West Virginia Derby on August 1, at Saratoga on August 29, and maybe one more before the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on November 7. That’s a pretty heavy schedule.

M: Hey, that’s what I do, baby. Horses run.

A: Rachel Alexandra’s owners are saying she probably won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup because it’s artificial turf.

M: That’s their call. Me, I got no problem. That’s what hooves are for. But I’ll tell ya, win or lose, any race without Borel and that filly is a good race for me.

A: Good luck with your next jockey, Mine, whoever he is.

M: Don’t worry, Adele. Loyal fans like you, I don’t want to disappoint. No matter who’s on my back, I promise I’ll give it my best shot.


Horse Racing Hijacked by 2 Female Phenoms

June 29, 2009

By Adele

Rachel Alexandra, the freakish filly who won the Preakness, robbing Mine That Bird of his jockey and his shot at the Triple Crown, has done it again. On June 27 at Belmont in New York, she became the first filly ever to win her next race after beating boys, and broke 2 other records.

Rachel ran in the Mother Goose Stakes against only 2 other fillies for 1 1/8 mile, but her 1:46:33 time set a new stakes record. Rachel could have blown through Secretariat’s slightly faster record at Belmont, but since she was ahead by more than 19 lengths, jockey Calvin Borel let her ease up in the final stretch.

While racking up her 7th consecutive win, Rachel also beat Ruffian’s 13 ½-length margin of victory from 1975. But this was all in a day’s racing for Rachel.

In California, the amazing Zenyatta wiped the track at Hollywood Park with her 5 female competitors in the Vanity Handicap. Carrying Mike Smith at 129 pounds, which was 13-16 more pounds than the other horses (the “handicap”) and the heaviest weight of her career, the 5-year-old mare came from last on the 1 1/8 mile synthetic course to win by 2 ½ lengths for a time of 1:48:15.

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Zenyatta is unbeaten, and this was her 11th consecutive win.

The buzz now is all about when these two superstars will match up, but nobody knows. Zenyatta’s only left California once for a race, and Rachel’s owner isn’t eager to have her run on synthetic turf on the West Coast.

I’m kind of hoping the girls never meet. Otherwise, one of them will have to lose.


Mine That Bird Gets Revenge

June 7, 2009

By Adele

Faced with letting his on-again, off-again jockey win a personal Triple Crown without him, Mine That Bird struck a blow for thoroughbreds everywhere by throwing the Belmont Stakes to his half-brother, Summer Bird.

Jockey Calvin Borel had ridden Mine That Bird to an amazing Kentucky Derby victory. But in the Preakness, a filly named Rachel Alexandra was entered, whom Borel had ridden to 5 previous wins, so Borel defected.

His gallantry toward the lady would have been commendable except that Mine That Bird was a TRIPLE CROWN contender. For Rachel, it was just another day at the races.

Mine That Bird accepted a new jockey, Mike Smith, and kept his cool when nobody answered when he kept asking, “Where’s Cal?”

It was only during his last-minute dash to the Preakness finish line, overtaking that filly in the lead, when he glanced over and had a “What the…?” moment.

HIS jockey Cal was on HER back!

I think that split-second loss of focus cost the Bird the Preakness.

Yesterday’s Belmont was the third jewel in the Triple Crown. Mine That Bird had potential to become a soon-forgotten two-thirds winner. Big deal, he probably thought.

But Borel was set to become the first jockey ever to win the Triple Crown himself on different horses. AND, since Rachel Alexandra was a no-show, he was telling everybody Mine That Bird would win with him back on board.

You could see the Bird was up to something by how nervously he walked to the gate. Borel admitted the Bird “fought” him a little mid-race, but then he broke for the finish and even briefly took the lead, just to lull Cal into a false sense of victory.

THEN, Mine That Bird let Summer Bird and Dunkirk get past him, coming in third.

Sorry, Cal. No Triple Crown for you.

Summer Bird’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, was ecstatic. Last year, his Triple Crown hopes were dashed when his horse, Big Brown, who’d easily won the Derby and the Preakness, inexplicably decided to quit racing. Desormeaux pulled him up, and they walked across the Belmont finish line, dead last.

Mine That Bird’s brilliant revenge boosted his brother’s career, taught Borel a lesson about horse loyalty, and gave Desormeaux a belated victory he deserved for his kindness to Big Brown.


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