A Cat’s 2016 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 5, 2016

By Adele

It seems like only yesterday that American Pharoah was winning the Triple Crown, but he’s retired now and living the good life. It’s time for new hooves to run for the roses in the Kentucky Derby. You can watch it on NBC May 7 from 4-7:30 p.m. ET (post time 6:34).

Studying this year’s field of 20, it was hard to find a favorite, but then one jumped out at me. Actually, two.

The first is Exaggerator, son of Curlin. Curlin was Big Brown’s all-round nemesis back in 2008. And here’s an interesting twist: Exaggerator’s going to be ridden by Brownie’s faithful jockey, Kent Desormeaux. The Ex Man pulled post position 11. He’s won four of his nine previous races, the most recent being the Santa Anita Derby on April 9, and his odds aren’t too bad at 8-1.

My treats are on Exaggerator to win.

My second pick is Suddenbreakingnews, who has won three of his eight previous races. His most recent race was the Arkansas Derby on April 16, where he came in second.

Sudden’s grandfather is Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 2005. Alex is another sentimental favorite of mine because of that moment in the Preakness stretch when Scrappy T bumped into Alex so hard, he nearly fell on his knees and threw his jockey, but then he recovered and WON THE RACE by 4 ¾ lengths!

Suddenbreakingnews’ pulled post position 2, which could put him in a tight spot by the rail. His jockey is Luis Quinonez. His odds are 20-1

And because I’m not into jinxing any horse’s chances, my third pick is the 3-1 favorite, unbeaten in seven previous races, Nyquist. He most recently won the Florida Derby on April 2. He’ll be in post position 13 under Mario Gutierrez.

Interesting FYI: Nyquist is competing against his half-brother, Outwork (post position 11, odds 15-1). They are both sons of Uncle Mo.

Another family tie I noticed was Destin (pp 9, 15-1) and Brody’s Cause (pp 19, 12-1), who are cousins that share a grandpa, Storm Cat.

Cats Working wishes all the horses good luck (because you never tell them to “Break a leg!” before a big race), and hopes all cross the finish line safely.

Cats Working Preakness Picks

May 18, 2012

By Adele

Unlike the odds-makers who are obstinately picking Bodemeister in post position 7 as the favorite in the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19, I’m a cat who would never shred any horse’s Triple Crown dream. I’m putting my treats on Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in pp 9.

I think Bode will run a close second.

My wildcard favorite is 30-1 longshot Tiger Walk, who will be under Kent Desormeaux. Tiger will be at the rail in pp 1, but in a field of only 11 horses, I don’t think Kent will let him get hemmed in.

My original Derby pick and current idol, Dullahan, is taking a pass on the Preakness to rest up for the Belmont Stakes. If I’ll Have Another blows his chance at the Triple Crown this Saturday, Dully will be my man again because distance is his thing, and the Belmont is the longest race of the three.

Good luck to all the Preakness horses. May they and their jockeys cross the finish line safely.

PS: After 800+ posts, Cats Working will be taking a long overdue and much-needed break next week, but we will be back after Memorial Day.

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.

A Cat’s Kentucky Derby Picks

May 1, 2009

By Fred

My annual cat-on-horse crush begins with the Kentucky Derby, and there’s stiff competition for my affections.

I was all set to root for the home team, a Virginia-bred horse named Quality Road, but a quarter crack in his hoof got him scratched, to be replaced by Join in the Dance (at odds 50-1).

I Want Revenge with jockey Joe Talamo is favored to win 3-1, but he’s got a lot of baggage. He’s running from (unlucky?) 13th post position. His trainer, Jeff Mullins, was recently caught and suspended 7 days (beginning May 3 so he can attend the Derby) for illegally medicating another horse before an Aqueduct race. And Big Brown’s former owners, wacky IEAH stables, own a piece of Revenge.

Pioneerof the Nile with jockey Garrett Gomez has 4-1 odds, even though he out-ran Revenge in 2 previous races. Of all the horses I’m watching, Pioneer will be farthest to the outside, at post position 16 in a field of 20.

I’m interested in a couple of jockeys for sentimental reasons. Dunkirk, also at 4-1 odds, will be carrying Barbaro’s former jockey, Edgar Prado. Hold Me Back (15-1) will be under Kent Desormeaux, who won last year’s Derby with Big Brown.

But my Derby pick is an underdog named General Quarters and jockey Julien Leparoux. The General’s odds are 20-1, but he looked good winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland a few weeks ago, beating both Join in the Dance and Hold Me Back. Eibar Coa rode him at Keeneland, so I hope a new jockey doesn’t bother him.

General Quarters is the only horse owned and trained by 75-year-old Thomas McCarthy, who plans to retire whenever his General does. McCarthy bought the horse for a piddly $20,000, where Dunkirk sold for $3.7 million.

At post position 12, the General will be next to I Want Revenge. Let’s hope there’s no hanky-panky.

I want to see this spunky kid from the ‘hood make good and have his shot at the Triple Crown.

Go, General Quarters!

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’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!!

Big Brown’s Biggest Problem: His Trainer

June 12, 2008

By Fred

Horse trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. became the second biggest loser at Belmont when he blamed the jockey after no medical reason was found for Big Brown’s last-place finish, blowing his Triple Crown chances.

Kent Desormeaux is the same jockey who rode Big Brown to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He’s said Brownie is the “best horse I’ve ever ridden,” and he should know, being a Hall of Famer with nearly 5,000 victories under his cap.

While sports writers crucified Dutrow for dissing everyone, including the other horses at Belmont – by calling Big Brown’s win a “foregone conclusion” – Desormeaux maturely approached Dutrow and they reached an understanding.

Theories abound about what happened, but I think they’re underestimating Big Brown’s intelligence. He’s an unbeaten champion who found himself stuck in a herd on a miserably hot day. When he decided, “To hell with this,” it didn’t matter what Desormeaux did or didn’t do.

Big Brown has a mind of his own. You could see his usual joie de vivre was missing going into that race, although the talking heads kept praising his “calmness.”

Fortunately, Big Brown will get another chance – with Desormeaux in his saddle. If all goes well, they’ll compete in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23 at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 25 at Santa Anita.

Not that he’ll ever admit it had anything to do with the pep disappearing from Big Brown’s step, but Dutrow’s putting Brownie back on the steroid Winstrol on June 15.

I never thought I’d get attached to a horse, but I look forward to seeing Big Brown make a big comeback, in spite of Dutrow.

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