Cat Picks for the Virginia Derby

July 20, 2012

By Adele

RACE DAY UPDATE: The forecast is rainy, which has caused Summer Front to be scratched. That leaves Silver Max to contend with 2 Triple Crown runners, Optimizer and Finnegans Wake. I stand by my initial picks, but move Easy Crossin up to be Max’s biggest threat. And now, my original post…

For the first time, I get to see the 15th annual Virginia Derby, a turf race at Colonial Downs in New Kent. It’s on HRTV Saturday night at about 8:45 p.m. (EDST). Only 9 horses are running in this $600,000 Grade II event.

My pick to win (and the track favorite) is Silver Max in post position 7, ridden by Robbie Albarado. He’s already won 5 turf races this year, most recently on June 13 at Indiana Downs, where he set a new track speed record, and his style is to pop out strong and lead from start to finish.

Max will be challenged in Virginia because the 1 1/4-mile track is 3/16 of a mile longer than he’s ever run before. He’ll also have Summer Front (pp 5), who has won all 4 of his previous turf races, and ridden by Ramon Dominguez, on his tail.

To place, I pick Mr. Handsome (pp 9) with Sheldon Russell, although he’s considered a 20-1 long shot.

My pick to show is Optimizer (pp 1). He tried his best in all 3 Triple Crown races, so his glory day is due. He starts in post position 1 under Horacio Karamanos, the track’s all-time winningest jockey.

I have a wildcard up my sleeve with Easy Crossin (pp 5) under Julien Leparoux, who has never run worse than second in his life.

May all the horses finish safely, and may Silver Max triumph again to keep his winning streak going.

PS: Our own Silly Max is leaping around the office while I write this, doing paw pumps.

Cats Had Best Virginia Derby Seats

July 19, 2009

By Karen

Adele was right about watching the Virginia Derby on TV. As things turned out, I watched most of the race on TV myself, and I was at the track.

Interstate 64 was gridlocked much of the way to Colonial Downs, a drive that should have taken about 45 minutes but lasted 2 ¼ hours. The only obstacle seemed to be one state trooper car with flashing lights sitting beside this sign:

Virginia Derby

Use Caution

Expect Delays

Thoughtfully placed at the END of the bottleneck. After that, clear sailing, but my parents and I missed the first 5 races.

Then our reserved tickets were screwed up, so we got a complimentary bump “up” to the Jockey Club, which meant air-conditioned comfort and TVs everywhere, but no seat outside close to the action. We slipped outdoors for one race, but got caught inadvertently stealing somebody’s seats, so we slunk back indoors.

Jockey Julien Leparoux (who rode Fred’s favorite, General Quarters, in the Kentucky Derby) was on fire in Virginia. We watched him win 3 races in a row before Kent Desormeaux and Edgar Prado started riding to give him some competition.

Then Desormeaux seized the spotlight, winning 2 stakes races in a row. I felt very confident he’d ride Adele’s pick, Hold Me Back, to victory in the Virginia Derby. So did the crowd, because Hold Me Back became the favorite.

Adele was right about Straight Story’s Derby performance. He held the lead until Battle of Hastings came up from behind in the final paces and beat Straight by a nose — again.

Battle of Hastings beat Straight Story by a cat's whisker. (Photo - Joe Mahoney, Richmond times-Dispatch)

Battle of Hastings beat Straight Story by a cat's whisker. (Photo - Joe Mahoney, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Hold Me Back came in a disappointing fifth.

Leaving Colonial Downs was painless in spite of the crowd, but the track needs to fix that sign saying, “Richmond, Center Lane.” It sends cars directly into a subdivision. We took Route 60 for half the trip home and hit no traffic.

So now I’ve visited Colonial Downs twice, getting trapped on I-64 both times. Being track-side is nice, but unless you watch the TV monitors instead of the horses themselves, you can never see all the exciting “jockeying” for position that goes on during the race. Just watching the horses streak across the finish line through a window is the pits.

The cats and I will be watching the next big race together.

Barbaro’s Brother is Coming to Town

July 15, 2009

By Adele

On July 18, Barbaro’s younger brother, Nicanor, is running in the $750,000 Virginia Derby — AND KAREN’S GOING TO SEE HIM!

Nicanor, are you our next hero? (Photo - Yetta Feltner)

Nicanor, are you our next hero? (Photo - Yetta Feltner)

Colonial Downs discriminates by prohibiting cats from attending races, and Cats Working briefly considered staging a poop-in all over the front lawn. But the race will be shown on TVG, the horse racing channel, and Karen promised to leave the TV on for us, so we can’t complain because we’ll probably see the race better than she will.

Nicanor’s odds are 7-2 in a 10-horse field, and considered the wild card who could beat the favorite, a British horse named Battle of Hastings, who won the Colonial Turf Cup at the Downs earlier this year.

Another horse in the race, Straight Story, lost the Turf Cup by just a head to Battle of Hastings, so he may be out for revenge and make things really interesting.

Nicanor ran his first race on dirt in January and it wasn’t good. He came in 10th and hurt a hoof. But then he came in second in his next 2 dirt races.

On May 13, trainer Michael Matz switched Nic to turf and he took off, winning by 15 ¼ lengths at Delaware Park, the same track where Barbaro first proved he was a champion.

Then Nic did it again on June 17 on another turf track.

So he’s coming to Colonial Downs’ turf on a winning streak. His jockey is Jose Lezcano, and they’ll be racing against Barbaro’s jockey, Edgar Prado, now on Take the Points, and and Big Brown’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, now on Hold Me Back.

Just FYI, Barbaro has other full brothers besides Nicanor. Lentenor is now 2 years old. There’s a new foal, and mother La Ville Rouge is pregnant again by their father, Dynaformer.

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