The 2015 Preakness Conundrum

May 15, 2015

By Adele

After watched the Kentucky Derby on May 2, my little kitty heart is in pieces — three to be exact — going into the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

I had rooted for Big Brown’s son, Dortmund, to continue his lifetime streak with a 7th win in the Derby, but he came in third, behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. Dortmund had outrun Firing Line in their previous two races, so the Line showed Dortmund what hell payback can be.

American Pharoah and Dortmund are both trained by Bob Baffert, and he has them stabled at Pimlico side-by-side, so they’re practically roomies.

Once any horse wins the Kentucky Derby, I believe it’s poor sportsmanship to wish him not to take the Triple Crown, so my fair side wants to see American Pharoah win the Preakness.

But deep down I still want Dortmund win it. Baffert says this may be Dortmund’s race because he’ll like the distance, shorter than the Derby by 1/16 mile.

And then we have poor Firing Line, who’s endured second-place finishes in his last three races against these two, yet he’s gamely trying to win for the fourth time.

All three have to be pooped, since the Derby was only two weeks ago. For the Preakness, American Pharoah and Dortmund forebodingly drew post positions 1 and 2 at the rail, respectively, while Firing Line got the far outside pp 8.

That’s the good news. Only 8 horses in the field this time. Mr. Z (pp 3) and Danzig Moon (pp 4) also ran in the Derby, placing 13th and 5th, respectively. The remaining 3 horses are new faces, and I’m not considering any of them.

All eyes will be on American Pharoah, Dortmund, and Firing Line in this year’s Triple Crown menage à trois. If American Pharoah can’t do it, then I want Dortmund and Firing line each to win the Preakness and Belmont and make it a team triumph.

As always, may the best horse win, and may they all cross the finish line safely.

A Cat’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 1, 2015

By Adele

I couldn’t be more excited about the Kentucky Derby May 2 because I have a special favorite at last. At 3-1 odds, it’s Dortmund, son of 2008 Derby and Preakness winner, Big Brown.

Like dear old dad, Dortmund comes to the Derby with an unbeaten record. He’s 6-0, after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 4 by 4 1/4 lengths. He’ll be in post position 8 under jockey Martin Garcia. Dortmund is the first of Big Brown’s progeny to show the potential to fill Brownie’s horseshoes.

Dortmund’s got a half-sister by Big Brown named Puca running in the morning in the Kentucky Oaks, the derby for fillies. She’s only won one of her 6 lifetimes starts, and starting on the outside in pp 14, but we’re rooting for Puca.

But I digress…

Dortmund is competing against two horses who each twice came close to winning in Dortmund’s last 4 races, if not for him. Ironically, all three are running side by side from the gate, with Bolo (30-1) in pp 9 and Firing Line (12-1) in pp 10. Will they be the most motivated to make Dortmund eat their dust?

The race also features a couple of other celebrity kids…

Materiality (12-1) in pp 3 under Javier Castellano also comes to the Derby with an unbeaten records, but he’s only run 3 previous races so far. His dad is Afleet Alex, the amazing horse who got clipped in the stretch and stumbled badly in the 2005 Preakness before winning it in record time, and then winning the Belmont. It was heart-stopping. If Materiality has half of his dad’s gumption, I’d say he has a shot to show.

And then there’s Keen Ice, son of Curlin, Big Brown’s old nemesis. Keen’s in pp 13 under Kent Desoremeaux. His odds are 50-1 because he’s only won one race in 7 so far. But I wouldn’t mind if he showed, too.

The people’s favorite is American Pharoah. For some reason, he’s considered the most talented horse, having won 4 of his 5 lifetime races, usually leaving the contenders far in his wake. He’s in pp 17 under Victor Espinoza with 5-2 odds.

Dortmund seems to like taking the lead, but when he can’t, he has this secret extra gear that kicks in as he’s heading for home. I expect this Derby to be dominated by Dortmund and American Pharoah, and I’ve got paws crossed that Dortmund’s winning streak will continue so he can make his dad Brownie proud and revive the Triple Crown dream.

May all the horses run safely across the finish line.

Nicanor Scratched from the Virginia Derby

July 18, 2009

By Adele

It’s a black day here at Cats Working. Nicanor, Barbaro’s younger brother and our favorite to win the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, has been scratched.

Nic pulled something in his left hind leg 2 days ago while training.

We know trainer Michael Matz will take the best care of Nicanor because he’ll have to answer to a grassroots group called the Friends of Barbaro (FOB) who are closely following Nic’s every move. Many of them were driving to Virginia from other states today to see Nic run his first stakes race.

Karen is still going to the Derby and leaving the TV on for us. Our new pick is Hold Me Back, who ran 12th in the Kentucky Derby. His jockey again is Kent Desormeaux, who rode Big Brown in every race for the Triple Crown.

FYI, Brownie’s former trainer, Rick Dutrow, dubbed “Ricky the Needle” by Big Brown himself in an exclusive interview with Fred after the Belmont, is currently under a 30-day suspension for… yup, you guessed it… giving some horse the wrong stuff.

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.

Tough Picking a Kentucky Derby Favorite

April 6, 2009

By Fred

The horses are auditioning for the May 2 Kentucky Derby, and I’m feeling conflicted.

As widely expected, I Want Revenge won the Wood Memorial in New York last weekend — even after faltering out of the gate and beginning the race dead-last. Once he hit his stride and tried to pull ahead, Revenge found a wall of tails in his face. It was amazing to watch his 19-year-old jockey, Joe Talamo, squeeze Revenge through an opening in the final stretch, winning the race by 1 ½ lengths.

Winning is the best Revenge. (Photo - Benoit & Associates)

Winning is the best Revenge. (Photo - Benoit & Associates)

Now the buzz is that I Want Revenge has a shot at succeeding Big Brown as king of the Derby, even though he’s only won 3 of his 7 races so far. Brownie’s owners, that wacky bunch at IEAH Stables, must think Revenge is sweet because they just bought a 50% piece of him.

So I was beginning to feel a new cat-on-horse crush coming on until I saw Pioneerof the Nile (no, the silly spacing is not a typo) win the Santa Anita Derby that same day.

Pioneer, are you my new idol? (Photo - AP)

Pioneer, are you my new idol? (Photo - AP)

Pioneer didn’t win his race as decisively as Revenge did, but he’s got 5 wins under his saddle out of 8 starts (including 2 wins against Revenge), and his jockey is the seasoned Garrett Gomez.

On the other hand, Pioneer may have caught a break at Santa Anita when his main rival, The Pamplemousse, got scratched after injuring his right front leg.

So right now, I’m feeling torn between 2 great horses and will have to see them run on Derby Day to make up my mind.

Curlin Finally Beats Big Brown

January 28, 2009

By Fred

Big Brown was recently recognized at the 38th annual Eclipse Awards in Miami — but the ultimate honor went to his nemesis.

Three horses were in contention for 2008 Horse of the Year — Big Brown, Curlin, and Zenyatta.

The champion Brownie never raced — Curlin — won the top honor — again. He was the first horse to win back-to-back since 1996, and it wasn’t even close. Curlin received 153 votes to Big Brown’s 13.

Now, that’s insulting.

To give Curlin his due, he did win 5 of his 7 races last year, and was the first North-American-based horse to top $10 million in earnings.

Big Brown’s only satisfaction came from winning in the 3-year-old male class over Colonel John, whom he beat in the Kentucky Derby, and Raven’s Pass, the horse who out-ran Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which Big Brown skipped after hurting his foot.

Zenyatta, undefeated in all her 7 races, was named top older female or mare.

Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, took honors as top trainer, besting Brownie’s trainer, Rick “Ricky the Needle” Dutrow, and one other contender.

Big Brown and Curlin are both adjusting to the good life as studs on different farms in Kentucky and probably don’t give a flying carrot about any this.

Big Brown on Curlin: “One of us had to lose.”

October 27, 2008

By Fred

I was honored to be the first cat to interview Big Brown. He spoke to me by phone from an undisclosed location where he’s recovering from an accidental self-inflicted wound he sustained on his right front foot during a workout. He was forced into early retirement, missing the climactic race of his life – the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25 – his matchup with 2007 Horse of the Year, Curlin.

Fred: Brownie, you’ve dropped out of sight. Your fans want to know how you’re doing.

Big Brown: I’ve never been better, Fred. I’m hanging out at the stable surrounded by big baskets from fans of apples, carrots, and lump sugar. I even smoke an occasional cigar since I’m not in training anymore.

F: Did you watch Curlin’s race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

BB: You call that a race? I could have outrun Curlin wearing loose shoes and one hoof tied behind my back. What a prima donna! He let artificial turf throw him so that Brit, Raven’s Pass, could beat him. He even let old Tiago get by. That never happened in any of my races.

And what was that braided mane all about? If Rick Dutrow had tried to tart me up like that before the Derby, I’d have kicked him into next Tuesday.

F: Speaking of your humans, did you hear your owner, Michael Iavarone, talking about the death threat he claims he got before the Belmont if anything happened to you?

BB: I think that guy will say anything for some ink. He must have been threatened by The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. I was a train wreck in the Belmont. What horse walks across the finish line? But Iavarone’s still in one piece, so what happened to that so-called threat? Why didn’t he go to the police?

F: I also heard that PETA wants Iavarone to take a pass on your $50 million stud deal and have you castrated so future generations of thoroughbreds won’t inherit your foot problems.

BB: Easy for PETA to say. I’m being put out to pasture while I’m still in my prime. What the hell am I supposed to do for the rest of my life if they don’t let me have some fun with the fillies? Take up knitting and Sudoku?

F: You’re a superstar. Even with a big name like Curlin, the Breeders’ Cup seemed a little flat without you.

BB: Thanks, kid. I am going to miss that adrenaline rush, the crowd cheering me on, and those blankets of flowers. But Smarty Jones tells me life’s good at Three Chimneys. I’ll miss my jockey Kent Desormeaux, but not Ricky the Needle. Around the stables, that’s what we horses nicknamed that dirt bag, Dutrow. He gave me a steroid habit, then made me quit cold-turkey right before my Triple Crown shot in the Belmont. I’m thrilled that some states are finally outlawing steroids, but I still pity Dutrow’s next protégée.

F: Do you think Curlin was relieved that you skipped the Breeders’ so you weren’t there to see him come in fourth, after all the hype?

BB: Personally, I’ve got nothing against Curlin. But the way the system works, one of us had to lose, and I’m glad it was him.

Big Brown Does it Again!

September 14, 2008

By Fred

I’ve got a major cat-on-horse crush on Big Brown, who charged to his 7th victory yesterday in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes in New Jersey.

(Photo - Bill Denver, EquiPhoto, AP)

(Photo - Bill Denver, EquiPhoto, AP)

Without steroids, in only his second race on turf, against 8 older, more experienced horses, Big Brown was a champion all the way.

He seized the lead almost right out of the gate. Soon, he and Get Serious left the rest of the pack in their dust. But Get Serious couldn’t sustain it, so Brownie showed him how it’s done. Near the finish line, the field tightened, and when Proudinsky came within a nose of pulling ahead, Big Brown shifted into high gear and refused to let any other horse get past him.

What else would you expect? Brownie has only muffed one race in his 8-race career – in that perfect storm of problems at Belmont. The word loser isn’t in his vocabulary.

After the race, Big Brown’s jockey Kent Desormeaux said, “He just doesn’t care what is under his feet. He is multitalented. He just loves to be a race horse. He doesn’t like getting beat. He showed that true grit and determination down the lane. For me, as a rider, it just felt like he had that horse tow-roped. He was just dragging him home.”

Unfortunately, Big Brown has only one more race in his future: The $5 million Breeders’ Cup on October 25 at Santa Anita in California.

They’re hoping Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, will show up to be Big Brown’s ultimate challenge, but Curlin’s owners haven’t committed yet. They’re worried the synthetic dirt track will be a big turn-off for Curlin.

If that match-up does materialize, I don’t know how I’ll watch it without spraying the TV!

Big Brown’s Back!

August 4, 2008

By Fred

They say whenever you suffer a major setback, you should get right back on the horse. But what do you do when you are the horse?

Big Brown triumphed at the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. But instead of making the other horses eat his dust with his usual ease, Brownie revealed the heart and soul of a champion.

Big Brown & Kent Desormeaux (SkySports)

Big Brown & Kent Desormeaux (SkySports)

He probably felt complacent after handily winning every previous race, especially the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. But it must have shattered his confidence when a perfect storm of misfortune at Belmont made him come in dead last.

Yesterday at Monmouth, Big Brown didn’t look cocky walking to the starting gate. He may have been pondering his options – risk another humiliation like Belmont, or play it safe and retire to Kentucky as a stud-muffin.

But jockey Kent Desormeaux was coming from a race he’d won minutes earlier on Silver Tree, so he had enough confidence for both of them.

Big Brown was well-rested and in better shape than ever. He’d even been training in bare front feet, his hooves were in such great shape.

But he didn’t command the field, and when he started drifting to the outside, I got déjà vu to Belmont. Then “At the eighth-pole, he kind of took off again,” Desormeaux said. “It was like he took a deep breath and kept going for more. That was courage I had never seen in him, courage I didn’t know about because he had always annihilated the competition. Today, he showed me he is a warrior.”

Sensing Brownie’s determination, Desormeaux used his whip for the first time and they passed Coal Play to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

I hope Big Brown is feeling himself again, now that he’s back in the winners’ circle.

What’s next? Maybe one more race like the MassCap on September 20 or the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup on September 27 before his ultimate challenge in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25.

Big Brown’s Back on Track

July 31, 2008

By Fred

Big Brown, that independent-thinking wonder horse, is ready to rumble again on August 3 at Monmouth Park, NJ, in the $1 million Haskell Invitational.

Brownie with his jockey Kent Desormeaux

After his stunning wins at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to come in last at Belmont and blow his shot at the Triple Crown, Big Brown has been resting up all summer. Unfortunately, his trainer is still Rick Dutrow, Jr., who seems to keep his head buried in kitty litter. He recently said, “…I know the horse went into the Belmont in good condition. I have no idea what happened in that race.”


Big Brown got hemmed in and bumped by a pack at the rail when he’s used to running free and clear on the outside, it was stifling hot that day, the dirt on the track was much deeper than he likes, and his right rear shoe was falling off.

Anyway, Dutrow says Big Brown today “looks amazing. He’s shiny. He’s happy. He looks as good as he always has.”

Dutrow, meanwhile, has been busy appealing a 15-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for doping another horse at Churchill Downs in May. As long as he drags it out, he can keep working with his horses.

We’ve all got our paws crossed at Cats Working that Big Brown, who has won 5 of his 6 races and earned $2.7 million so far, will again make the other horses at Monmouth look like they’re standing still – most notably, Atoned, who’s being ridden by the late Barbaro’s jockey, Edgar Prado.

Go, Brownie!!

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