Events Menu

By Dennis Miller | May 14, 2024

May 23

We are two-thirds of the way through the Triple Crown and the only thing for certain is that we won’t have a Triple Crown winner.

Those chances vanished with Seize the Grey going coast to coast to win the Preakness Stakes last Saturday at Pimlico, beating Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan.

I got stung by the race and the emergence of Seize the Grey getting away from the field for the win. My three-horse exacta and trifecta box ran second, third, and fourth.

I was worried about someone getting an easy lead, controlling the pace, then having too much left when they got into the lane. I didn’t see it being Seize the Grey as I didn’t feel he wanted the distance.

As they were coming out of the last turn, I felt confident and to me it looked like Catching Freedom was going to be the winner. He seemed to have a full head of steam for the stretch run.

Mystik Dan also seemed to be sitting solid. Finally, Tuscan Gold had recovered from a bump at the start and seemed ready to make a move.

But Seize the Grey was not to be denied and the closers could not make up and ground the thick, deep mud on the track.

Now we are off to the Belmont Stakes – the final leg of the Triple Crown – and it won’t be run at Belmont Park.

Belmont Park has hosted stakes since 1905 – the oldest of the Triple Crown races – save for a 5-year-run at Aqueduct – but is undergoing major renovations to the grandstand and all three racing surfaces.

This year and next, the Belmont Stakes will be held at Saratoga and since the Saratoga track is smaller, the race will be run at 1.25 miles as opposed to the traditional 1.5 miles.

We will be back with an in-depth Belmont preview in this space on June 7.

This weekend’s big races!

Churchill Downs features the $250,000 Keertana, with Santa Anita offering a pair of $125,00 races. All three will take place on Saturday.

The Keertana is a 1.5-mile test for fillies and mares on the Churchill turf and is 10th race on the card, set for a 2:27p.m. post.

Chop Chop (Chad Brown trainer, Axel Concepcion jockey, 9-5) is the favorite and off recent form, is deserving of the favorite’s role.

Interesting is that in the last five starts, the horse has been altering wins and second place finishes. Last start was a 2-plus length win in the Grade III Bewitched at Keeneland on April 26, earning a 95 Beyer in the process.

She has not started at Churchill before but did have a bullet work on the grass on May 19.

Atomic Blonde (Christophe Clement, Tyler Gaffalione, 3-1) was second in the Bewitched in her first start off a layoff. The horse figures to be tough here for a barn that hits at 20 percent for second off a layoff.

Vergara (Graham Motion, Jose Ortiz, 5-2) was third in the Bewitched and fell apart in the lane, finishing almost seven lengths back. It was also her first start off a break so expect better fitness here.

If you are looking for a value play, look at Holy Foley (Brian Lynch, Frankie Dettori, 10-1). It is the most expensive race the horse has ever started but she is coming off a big closing with at Keeneland.

There is enough speed in this race that it might set up for a big close. And with just seven horses in the field traffic should not be an issue.

The two races at Santa Anita are the Snow Chief Stakes and the Melair. Both are for 3-year-olds, and both are part of the Golden State Series for Cal-Breds.

Snow Chief

A 1-1/8-mile race on the turf that is the 8th on the Santa Anita card and is set for a 4:30 p.m. post.

Shady Tiger (Philip D’Amato, Juan Hernandez, 5-2) has been on a role, winning three straight. The last start came on the Santa Anita dirt where he won the Echo Eddie by five lengths, after entering the lane with a one-length lead.

Curlin’s Kaos (Antonio Garcia, Diego Herrera, 3-1) has seen the best races, running fourth in both the Sunland and San Anita Derby’s.

After dropping off the Kentucky Derby trail he went back to the grass on an optional claimer and got the win, beating five others entered here.

Final Storm (Phil D’Amato, Kyle Frey, 6-1) is getting some love and has won two straight,/ but has been beaten by the two favorites, including twice by Curlin’s Kaos.

The Melair

This one is for 3-year-old fillies and is 1-1/16-miles on the main track. It is the 9th race on the card and set for a 5 p.m. post.

Grand Slam Smile (Steve Specht, Frank Alvarado, 8-5) is the overwhelming favorite and should be. In six career starts he has four wins and a pair of seconds.

Alvarado has been up for every start, whether the race was in Northern or Southern California.  She will be either on the lead or sitting right off – she will be a pace factor.

The lightly raced Roberta’s Love (Hector Palma, Juan Hernandez, 3-1) is your second choice. The horse has two wins and a third in three starts as is stretching out for the first time. The last start was a similar spot but was only 6.5 furlongs.

Safa (Gary Stute, T J Pereira, 4-1) is the third choice and has a streak of four places in a row. Those all came after the straight maiden score in her sixth career start. A consistent runner the horse was beaten by Roberta’s Love two back.

All the races can be watched and wagered on at the Pleasanton OTB!

May 17

We were saved last week with the possibility of a Triple Crown when it was announced by the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan would run back in the Preakness.

Initial reports did not sound good that Mystik Dan would take the two-week turnaround to run the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Once the connections were confirmed, the intrigue in the race intensified as standing right in front Mystik Dan and the second leg of the Triple Crown was a pair of Bob Baffert horses – Muth and Imagination.

Muth was the winner of the Arkansas Derby where he beat Mystik Dan, who ended up third. He likely would have been the post-time favorite.

It all changed on Wednesday when Muth spiked a fever and was scratched from the Preakness. The departure likely leaves Mystik Dan as the favorite, with Imagination as the second choice.

The race is the 13th on the Pimlico card and is set for a 4:01 p.m. PDT post.

Let us look at the eight-horse field. These are the initial morning line odds, and the horses are listed in post-position order.

1) Mugatu (Jeff Engler trainer, Joe Bravo jockey, 20/1): First ran in June of 2023 and has 12 career starts, tied for the most in the field. Has one win in the 12 starts and that came in a straight maiden win in his fifth start. Honestly cannot find a thing to make a case here. Was fifth in the 10-horse field Blue Grass field as he passed some tiring horses in the lane.

2) Uncle Heavy (Robert Reid, Irad Ortiz Jr., 20/1): I actually can make a case here provided it rains, which as of Thursday was a 78 percent chance of it happening. Two back in the Withers, contested over a muddy Aqueduct, he stalked the pace then flew home through the slop to get up for the win. Three solid works since then and if the skies open Saturday, might be worth a look.

3) Catching Freedom (Brad Cox, Flavian Prat, 6/1): Was part of my Derby ticket and ran a strong fourth, going by 12 horses in the final half of the race. Only seven to pass here and has a third on a sloppy in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. Cox doesn’t usually wheel them back this quick, so there must be something he sees. I think we could see a big player here.

4) Mystik Dan (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez, 5/2): My guess is he will be not better than 7/5 come post time with the withdrawal Muth. I had him as one of my value plays in the Derby and he was certainly all that, winning at almost 19-1. Won by eight in the mud in the Southwest so an off track will not bother him. Will appreciate the shortening up here as five more yards and he would have been passed in the Derby. Every reason to be the favorite and every reason to expect another big one. One thing – I believe if it was up to the trainer alone, we would not see him here.

5) Seize the Grey (D Wayne Lukas, Jaime Torres, 15-1): Did win the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard so if wheeling back quickly for this one. Had not shown a lot in big races until the win at 9-1 on Derby Day. He was a badly beaten seventh in the Blue Grass and just think he will be better at the shorter races.

6) Just Steel (D Wayne Lukas, Joel Rosario, 15-1): Another Derby runner but this one saw his chances disappear early in the race with a bad bump. He finished 17th, 33 lengths out. Ran in all three Oaklawn preps, finishing second in the Southwest and the Arkansas Derby, with those two sandwiched on a 7th in the Rebel. Has 12 career starts and only two wins. He may be better on an off-track so watch the tote for clues.

7) Tuscan Gold (Chad Brown, Tyler Gaffalione, 8-1): Has become the wise guy horse for this race and that may turn out to be, but I think he is too lightly raced at this point. Three starts, of which two were in straight maiden company. His last start was an even third in the Louisiana Derby, where was third at every call in the race.

8) Imagination (Bob Baffert, Frankie Dettori, 6-1): Probably will go off a lot lower than 6-1 but I think he may be over-bet. Has hit the board in all four starts this year, winning a pair and running second in the other two. The wins came in a straight maiden start and in the four-horse, less than impressive San Felipe. The last start was a gutsy nose-loss to Stronghold in the Santa Anita Derby. A positive is the horse is a fighter and will not give up if he gets passed. He could get an easy lead here and could be tough to catch if he has it was way on the front end. Will be a major contender – just not sure he can get up for the win.

How it shakes out: I want to see a Mystik Dan win as it would leave us the chance for the Triple Crown heading into the Belmont. There is not a load of early speed here and it has me thinking Imagination could have it his way up front. Maybe Just Steel will go early to keep the pace honest. Mystik Dan will be close to the leaders and hope to get first run when they head for home. I think Catching Freedom could be sitting on a big one, and if the rain comes Uncle Heavy may warrant a couple of bucks. I think the win play is Mystik Dan. He is the lone horse with a 100 Beyer, and he has a pair of those. Catching Freedom will be on my exotics, as if Cox is wheeling the horse back quicker than normal, he sees something he likes. I will likely put Uncle Heavy and Tuscan Gold underneath. I am tossing the two Lukas runners, as well as Mugatu. Certainly not the most exciting Preakness field but that aside it should be a very exciting race.

May 11

It is time for the Preakness, the second leg in the Triple Crown. With the announcement last week that Kentucky Derby champion Mystik Dan will run Saturday in the Preakness, we still have hopes of a Triple Crown winner.

But it won’t be easy as Bob Baffert, a trainer whose horses are still banned from running at Churchill Downs and thus the Kentucky Derby, will send out his top two 3-year-olds in Muth and Imagination.

Muth was the winner of the Arkansas Derby, while Imagination was beaten by a neck in the Santa Anita Derby. The two will invade the Pimlico racetrack with plans to ruin a Triple Crown winner this year.

Check back in this space on Friday for a detailed preview of the Preakness. Weather could be a factor on Saturday so see who good benefit from an off-track.

Your chance to own a racehorse!

Have you ever watched the paddock area before a horse race and wondered what it would be like to be in there, watching a horse you are an owner of get ready to race?

Have you watched the pile of people into the winner’s circle following the end of a race their horse won. A lot of us have had the chance to be in the photos but have we done so as one of the owners?

You’ve probably thought it is too expensive to own a racehorse, and if you are going the route alone, you would be right as it has the potential to be costly.

But what if I told you that for as little as $1,000 you could be part owner of not just one horse, but 5-7 horses that run during the Alameda County Fair?

Interested?

Pastime Racing Limited Partnerships is a low-cost introduction to Thoroughbred ownership during this year’s Fair.

The brainchild of Pleasanton horseracing icon Allen Aldrich. Aldrich is selling 100 spots for $1,000 each for horses that will run at the meet that takes place Friday-Sunday of each week of the June 14-July 7 Fair. As usual, racing will also take place on the Fourth of July.

As of May 14, only 27 spots remain as it has been a popular, quick sell. I didn’t hesitate to jump into the deal when I first heard about it.

What does the Limited Partnership Interest include?

  • Ownership of multiple racehorses as a limited partner
  • No hidden costs, no additional training fees or bills
  • Free admission for you and one guest every day of the 2024 Alameda County Fair
  • Paddock access on race day
  • E-mail communication about each horse’s activities

This is a not-for-profit entity and at the end of the Fair and after returning all membership fees if there is any excess funds, they will be donated to 4-H clubs that participate at the Alameda County Fair.

Aldrich will serve as the General Partner and will handle the decision making for the L.P. The trainers right now are Jeff Bonde and Marcia Stortz, with the possibility of more trainers being involved.

For more information or to get involved in Pastime Racing, contact us here.