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.

It’s a Boy! for Rachel Alexandra

January 24, 2012

By Adele

On January 22 at 2:40 p.m., Rachel Alexandra became the proud mother of a 125-lb. as-yet-unnamed bay colt. The little guy has big (horse)shoes to fill. In addition to his mother being 2009 Horse of the Year, his father is the fabulous Curlin, Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

If you’ll recall, Rachel broke the horseracing gender barrier by being the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, and the first filly to win the Woodward Stakes ever.

Rachel and her colt are getting acquainted, and they say Rachel’s a natural mother. Like mom, the colt has a white blaze on his forehead, and his back feet are white, like Zenyatta — Rachel’s nemesis.

Rachel Alexandra's little bundle of joy. (Photo - Stonestreet Farm)

I was able to make a quick call to Rachel at Stonestreet Farm in Kentucky:

Adele: Congratulations on your son!

Rachel: Hey, thanks, Adele. He couldn’t have come a minute too soon. At 125 lbs., he weighs as much as a jockey. Carrying someone on your back for a 3-minute race is a lump of sugar compared to hauling another horse around in your belly for a year. Oy!

A: He looks like you, too, and he was up and walking at only 90 minutes old.

RA: What did you expect? Curlin and I couldn’t spawn a slouch even if we tried.

A: Are you disappointed you didn’t have a filly to carry on your legacy?

RA: Nah, I’m just thankful the little guy has 2 eyes and 4 hooves.

A: They’re saying you have a date with Bernardini later this year. Zenyatta’s carrying his foal right now, after her first pregnancy by him didn’t work out.

RA: That was a tough break for Zenyatta. She’s so used to having everything her way. But humans! What perverts! I never shared a track with Zenyatta, so why should we share men? I suppose they’ll bunk her in with Curlin to keep it all in the family. How gross is that?

A: Well, she and Curlin do both live at Lane’s End. And Curlin did knock up your stablemate, Hot Dixie Chick.

RA: That Curlin! There’s no keeping him “down on the farm,” if you know what I mean. Dixie’s due to drop my colt’s half-brother any minute now.

A: Who can keep up? It’s like the Real Horsewives of Kentucky. You make me glad I’m spayed. Take it easy, and I hope your colt’s an even bigger winner than his mom and dad.

RA: Same to you, Adele. These days I just eat, sleep, play, mess around, and pop out ponies. I can’t complain.

Rachel Alexandra Hangs Up Her Racing Shoes

September 30, 2010

By Adele

The hopes of horse-racing fans to see the ultimate match-up between 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated Zenyatta were dashed this week when Rachel’s owner suddenly retired her.

(Photo - HorsePhotos.com)

But don’t worry. She’s in good health and has been running fine. She just hasn’t been the same record-breaking super-filly she was in 2009, so she’s moving on…

…to a date with Curlin, the 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year. They will be living the good life on her owner’s Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

With any luck, in 4 years or so, Rachel and Curlin’s first offspring will be a contender for the Triple Crown.

When I talked to Rachel back in January, she wasn’t ready to settle down, but after winning only 2 of her 5 races this year (although she came in 2nd in the other 3), the decision was taken off her hooves. Her owner said she deserves a “less stressful” life.

I reached Rachel’s nemesis, Zenyatta, by phone at Santa Anita to find out what she thinks of all this. At 6 years old, Zenyatta remains unbeaten with 18 career wins under her saddle, but has never worn the Horse of the Year crown.

Zenyatta told me…

“Yeah, that whole Horse of the Year business does make me feel like Susan Lucci. But, hey, I’ve never run a race that didn’t end with me standing in the winner’s circle.

“In spite of all the hype, I always suspected Rachel was a flash in the pan. She backed out of every race were were supposed to run together. But what do I know? I’m a horse.

“I wish the kid well. I hear Curlin’s a handful. He’ll probably have her wearing a maternity saddle in no time.”

Here’s video of Zenyatta winning her 18th race on August 7 at Del Mar.

For the history books, Rachel ran 19 races. Except for coming in 6th her very first time, she won all but 5 of the next 18 starts, but never came in farther back than 2nd.

To honor Rachel, the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, the last prep race for the Fair Ground Oaks, which she won last year, is being renamed at Fair Ground racetrack in Florida. The Rachel Alexandra Stakes will be run on Feburary 19, 2011.

I’ll miss Rachel Alexandra, but Cats Working wishes her and Curlin the best!

Talking with Rachel Alexandra, Horse of the Year

January 29, 2010

By Adele

Rachel Alexandra finally agreed to a phone interview from New Orleans where she’s training, after learning she beat her arch-rival, Zenyatta, as Horse of the Year.

Adele: Congratulations, Miss Alexandra! I was worried Zenyatta would be the sentimental favorite, since she lost to Curlin last year and was supposedly retired.

Rachel: Call me Rachel. I hear you, Adele. We were both undefeated but, not to brag, I won 8 races to Zenyatta’s 5, broke a couple of records winning by 20 ¼ lengths and 19 ¼ lengths, which was ridiculous. Those other fillies barely left their stalls. And I was the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924, and the first filly ever to win the Haskell, and the first 3-year-old filly to beat older guys running a mile-plus in the Woodward Stakes.

Zenyatta ran against the same horses she always beats until they put her up against males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Big deal. I’d already beaten colts 3 times.

A: Everybody was disappointed that you and Zenyatta never raced each other. Did you hear she’s coming back as a 6-year-old? That means there could still be a match-up, and they’re talking about the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 3.

R: Bring her on! If Zenyatta’s willing to get her hooves dirty on a real track instead of that fake stuff she loves out in California, I’d be happy to settle the “best horse” question once and for all.

A: You won the Preakness, the second Triple Crown race, and beat the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, respectively. I think that makes you the Triple Crown winner by default. Do you wish they had entered you in all three races so you could have earned the title for real?

R: Hadn’t thought about it, since I was busy winning races. But, gee, since you put it that way, I’m bummed. I felt bad beating Mine in the Preakness and crushing his big dream — with his jockey on my back, no less. It would have been preferable to win the Derby so he never got his hopes up. Mine’s a nice guy. So’s his brother, Summer.

A: I guess that means the rumors you tried to gain an edge before the races by freaking them both out pretending there was a love triangle are false?

R: Rumors? It’s no secret I’d be game anytime for a little ménage à trios with the Bird brothers. They’re hot! Racing is just our job.

A: They’re hot, but slow.

R: Well, yeah. I can out-run them with one hoof tied behind my back, but speed isn’t a necessarily good thing in boyfriends.

A: What do you do in the off-season?

R: Get my mane done. Have a pedicure. Watch Mister Ed reruns. I’m not much for reading.

A: Did you hear that Curlin, last year’s Horse of the Year, just had his first foal, a filly?

R: Yes. He and his chick Zophie have asked me to be her godmother.

A: Are you looking forward to the new racing season?

R: Sure. At this point, my only career options are racing or making little horses. I’d rather colts be chasing me than have one on my back. I’m not ready to settle down.

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.

Injured Big Brown Forced Into Early Retirement

October 14, 2008

By Fred

Even with 4 horseshoes, Big Brown has been a strangely unlucky horse. Less than 2 weeks before he was to meet his match, 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, in the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita, Brownie’s out of the running.

Yesterday morning during his workout at Aqueduct in New York, Big Brown kicked himself in a freakish misstep and “not only tore the bulb off his right front hoof, but half the foot was torn off,” according to owner Michael Iavarone.

It sounds devastating, but other news outlets describe it as a 3-inch gouge, and no one even noticed it until trainer Rick Dutrow saw blood. Thankfully, it’s not life-threatening as long as it doesn’t get infected, but it will take about 2 months to heal. Since Big Brown is scheduled to begin his $50 million stud gig at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky, by December 31, there’s no time to enter him in another race. That would be anticlimactic anyway, without Curlin.

No one knew that the last time we saw Big Brown gallop to victory in the Monmouth Stakes on September 13, it really was the last time.

Big Brown (right) had no idea he was feeling the thrill of victory for the last time on September 13 at Monmouth.

Big Brown (right) had no idea he was feeling the thrill of victory for the last time on September 13 at Monmouth.

As the first horse in 79 years to win the Kentucky Derby from post 20, Big Brown ends his fascinating career with 7 wins and only one loss – his baffling melt-down in the Belmont Stakes that robbed him of the Triple Crown.

We at Cats Working wish Brownie a speedy recovery and many happy years surrounded by cute fillies and offspring who will grow up to fulfill Dad’s promise by winning the Triple Crown.

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!

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