Tiznow will have his day in the sun Friday

Trainer Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram’s great filly Silverbulletday won’t be the only Hall of Fame inductees on Friday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. with Southland ties.

Tiznow, the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic also will be inducted. Off the board only once in 15 lifetime starts, Tiznow won eight times with four seconds and two thirds for career earnings of $6,427,830.

Unfortunately, trainer Jay Robbins had to cancel his trip to attend the ceremony because he came down with laryngitis and was advised by his doctor not to travel.

“He’s the best horse I ever had,” Robbins said. “And I’ve had some nice ones. I had Flying Continental and Nostalgia’s Star. But as good as they were, none can touch Tiznow.”

Tiznow’s two Breeders’ Cup wins came in 2000 by a neck over Giant’s Causeway and the following year when he scored by a nose over Sakhee.

“The two Classics are the pinnacle of my career, especially the second one,” Robbins said. “I thought Sakhee went by him and he wouldn’t come back, but he did.”

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Breeders’ Cup adopts stricter drug policy

The Breeders’ Cup did a good thing this week. Officials announced Monday that, in addition to the ban on steroids that was adopted last year, all trainers of Class 1 and Class 2 drug violations will face a one-year suspension from the 2010 Breeders’ Cup and those that violate the policy three times will face a lifetime ban from the event.

Great, but I suggest going even further:

(1) Let’s also suspend the owners of these horses. Why are owners given a free pass when the trainers are in essence working for them? Any penalty handed down to trainers should also be imposed on the owners, who then might start taking a second look at conditioners who continue to bend the rules.

(2) How about a two- or three-year ban for a first offense, and a lifetime ban after a second violation? Why do they get a second chance when they know the rules going in? This is an industry that has coddled its cheaters for too long, and it’s time the drug rules were similar to the ones in Europe. I applaud the Breeders’ Cup for its actions this week, but we can take it a step further.

According to a press release distributed to the media on Monday, the ranking of drugs is based on their pharmacology, their ability to influence the outcome of a race, whether or not they have legitimate therapeutic uses in the racing horse, or other evidence that they may be used improperly.

Here is how the Class 1 and Class 2 drugs are defined in the Breeders’ Cup release:

Class 1 — Stimulants and depressant drugs that have the highest potential to affect performance and have no generally accepted medical use in a racing horse. Many of these agents are Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedule II substances. These include the following drugs and their metabolites: Opiates, opium derivatives, synthetic opioids, psychoactive drugs, amphetamines and amphetamine-like drugs. There are at least 51 drugs in this class.

Class 2 – Drugs that have a high potential to affect performance, but have less of a potential than Class 1. These drugs are not generally accepted as therapeutic agents in racing horses or they are therapeutic agents that have a high potential for abuse. Among the nearly 350 drugs in this class are Lidocaine, Epogen, Caffeine and snake venoms.

“The establishment of these new regulations strengthens our number one priority of preserving the integrity of our competition and protecting the welfare of our athletes at the World Championships,” Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Greg Avioli said in a statement.

In addition to the crackdown on steroids and Class 1 and Class 2 drugs, this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita (Nov. 6-7) will include out of competition testing for EPO (blood doping) 10 days before the Breeders’ Cup and TCO2 (milk shaking) testing in the detention barn before all 14 Breeders’ Cup races. A failed EPO test would render the horse eneligible for the race and the trainer open to suspensions. Failed tests for TCO2 will mean purse redistributions and suspensions. The latter two testing policies were introduced at the 2007 Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park.

Again, let’s make the owners as liable as the trainers in all this.

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Zenyatta’s camp holds firm

Shortly after Zenyatta had run her unbeaten streak to 12 on Sunday with a dramatic victory by a head in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, trainer John Shirreffs was asked if the Pacific Classic on Sept. 6 against males was a possibility for the brilliant mare’s next start.

“I don’t think so,” he succinctly said.

It now looks like Zenyatta will use the Lady’s Secret Stakes during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet as her final prep race for the Breeders’ Cup and what could be a start against the males in the $5 million Classic. If she won, she’d become the first female horse to win the Classic.

Whatever, Shirreffs made it clear Zenyatta will not be on a plane heading east anytime soon.

“For what? What would be the purpose at this particular time, especially with the Breeders’ Cup (coming up)?” Shirreffs said. “That’s what the thoroughbred industry did, they created a venue for the best horses in the country and the world now to come and race against one another. I think we need to support that.”

Of course, Jess Jackson, who happens to own a filly named Rachel Alexandra, has said he will not come to the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita because of the track’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.

Zenyatta’s owner, Jerry Moss, said he’s not about to lobby Jackson for a change of heart.

“I don’t think we’re the people to talk him out of anything,” he said. “It’s really his horse and he can do what he wants to do.”

So it appears the stalemate continues and these two fabulous distaffers will have to wait until after the Breeders’ Cup if they’re going to meet before Zenyatta heads to the breeding shed in 2010.

After Zenyatta won by only a head Sunday, the slimmest margin of her career, the cries from Rachel Alexandra’s camp about superiority are sure to be heard.

Shirreffs, for one, can’t understand how anybody can be critical of a mare who carried a career-high 129 pounds in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 27 in only her second start of 2009, when horses perhaps are their most vulnerable.

“I thought she had an amazing year last year,” Shirreffs said. “I mean, every race she had to step up, from maiden to allowance, to graded, to graded ones, and the competition was against the best fillies in the country — Ginger Punch, Cocoa Beach, Tough Tiz’s Sis.

“Then she’s asked to carry the most weight (in the Vanity) in 25 years. If somebody wants to be critical of that, I just don’t know how they do it.”

Especially the way Zenyatta won Sunday, overcoming terribly slow fractions — 23.86, 48.84 and 1:13.64 — and displaying a great will to win by overtaking 22-1 long shot Anabaa’s Creation by a head in the last couple of jumps.

“She exerted herself today in a big way,” Moss said. “She used a gear she maybe hasn’t used before.”

Said jockey Mike Smith: “There are more gears there.”

Somehow, we don’t doubt him.

Zenyatta is a great champion, and I wish her connections would be a little more bold and take on the boys before the Classic in either the Pacific Classic or Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita. She’s good enough to beat the males.

But hey, it’s their horse, they want to see her retire undefeated, and why should they take any more heat than Jackson, who won’t come west because he doesn’t like synthetic tracks?

Moss and Shirreffs have a point. The Breeders’ Cup, no matter what the surface, was set up to decide championships. Jackson’s refusal to come is comparable to the Dodgers refusing to play in the World Series because they don’t like the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.

And the debate rages on.

Another breakdown at Del Mar

Lost in the aftermath of Zenyatta’s dramatic victory in the Clement Hirsch Stakes on Sunday at Del Mar was the fact another breakdown occurred shortly after the start of the 10th race — a maiden claiming event for colts and geldings.

Endless Moon, with Alex Solis aboard, broke down and fell leaving the chute, and Captain Cash struck the fallen horse and threw jockey Aaron Gryder. Endless Moon fractured both his left front and left hind legs and had to be euthanized — the seventh casualty of the meet over these supposedly safer surfaces. There have been three fatal breakdowns in the mornings and four during live racing. A seventh horse broke down on the turf and had to be euthanized.

Captain Cash appeared to have injured his right foreleg, according to Del Mar publicity, and was apparently taken back to his barn. No immediate word on whether he was going to be OK.

Luckily, both jockeys escaped serious injury. Both were back in the jocks’ room shortly after the race. Solis left the track under his own power, while Gryder was taken off on an ambulance. He was complaining of a sore left hand afterward.

I’m not blaming these breakdowns on Del Mar’s Polytrack, but I am wondering why we were all told these tracks were going to be safer when they clearly are not. Breakdowns keep happening, like they will over any surface because these magnificent animals are so fragile, and the long-term effect of all the soft-tissue injuries that are now popping up on synthetics is unknown.

Please, whoever ends up owning Santa Anita, let’s go back to dirt so we’re not the brunt of jokes from other parts of the country. What should have been an experiment with horses using artificial surfaces as training tracks has cost the state’s race tracks more than $40 million. And you can’t put a cost on all the bad publicitiy and sour reviews from around the country.

Odds and ends by the beach

Sitting here in the Del Mar press box, waiting for Zenyatta and the Clement Hirsch, and …

* I’m shaking my head over this gentleman who truly believes Secretariat was not a great race horse. I mean, you can question his standing in history because he didn’t race as a 4-year-old, but actually say he was not a great horse?

The man’s name is Rich Aller. He’s big into horse racing, has more data than you’d believe. You might have even seen him at Dodger Stadium, selling peanuts and such. He is a big fan of Dr. Fager and he says Spectacular Bid was one of the all-time greats, much better than Secretariat.

He said the true test of a champion is when a horse is hooked by another, actually looks him in the eye, and then how he responds to the challenge. He says it happened once to Secretariat, when he lost to Prove Out by 4 1/2 lengths in the 1973 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park.

My question to him — what if you’re so much better than your competition that you’re seldom hooked, seldom have the opportunity to look another horse in the eye because you’re in front by one, two, three ……. or in one historic instance, 31 lengths?

I never saw Dr. Fager, but Spectacular Bid is higher on my list of all-time great thoroughbreds than Secretariat — who still makes my top five — because he raced as a 4-year-old, carrying more weight and still winning graded stakes.

But to say Secretariat was not a great race horse. I mean, well, there are all sorts of wacky opinions floating around out there.

* Not that it’s a wacky opinion, but I also heard that Bob Baffert believes that Jess Jackson will relent and bring Rachel Alexandra to the Breeders’ Cup. I don’t agree. Bob knows a heck of a lot more than me when it comes to training thoroughbreds, but if he heard the conviction in Jackson’s voice when he says he’s not coming west this year, well, I think he’d believe differently.

* Talk about an unconventional schedule — Global Hunter, who won the Eddie Read Stakes on the turf the first weekend of the Del Mar meet and finished third in Saturday’s Bing Crosby Stakes on Polytrack, is now being pointed toward the Pacific Classic on Sept. 6. Trainer A.C. Avila doesn’t think it’s all that unconventional. “When you get a horse right, you might as well run him,” said Avila, who said the Crosby served as a good six-furlong workout for the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic.

* Trainer Ron Ellis is pleased by the progress of Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, who is on target for the Pacific Classic. The 4-year-old gelding worked five furlongs in 1:02 Sunday morning at Del Mar. “He worked great, nice and easy, nice and comfortable,” Ellis said. “He has at least three more works before the Pacific Classic. He’ll work six furlongs next, probably Saturday or Sunday.”

* Fabulous Strike proved he’ll be a formidable foe for Zensational if he comes to the Breeders’ Cup, winning the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga on Sunday. Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, the 6-year-old Smart Strike gelding won by a length and ran the six furlongs in 1:08.69 on dirt. Zensational ran six furlongs over Del Mar’s Polytrack in 1:08.57 while winning Saturday’s Bing Crosby Stakes.

Breeders’ Cup winners on display?

We might have seen two future Breeders’ Cup winners in action Saturday during the Arlington Million at Arlington Park and the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.

Except for Rachel Alexandra, is there a sharper race horse in America than Gio Ponti? A 1 1/4-length winner of the 27th running of the Million, Gio Ponti has turned into a monster, winning four consecutive Grade 1 turf races at three different venues.

Gio Ponti started his streak with a victory in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March, won the Manhattan Handicap and Man o’ War at Belmont Park this summer and then capped the streak with his impressive win Saturday.

Any idea who might go postward as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 7? He’s already shown his fondness for the course, and anyone betting against him can do so at their own risk.

Meanwhile, Zensational continued to stamp himself as the top sprinter on the West Coast by zipping to a 2 1/2-length win in the Crosby, overcoming his own inexperience at the start to comfortably win his second consecutive Grade 1 sprint.

Trainer Bob Baffert is not sure what’s next, but it might be the Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 6 as the soon to be Hall of Famer eyes his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Sprint win and fourth overall. He won the past two years with Midnight Lute and with Thirty Slews in 1992.

“I want to have him really right for the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said after Zensational scored his fourth victory in six lifetime starts.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s already displayed his love for synthetics, winning twice over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, once on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track and Saturday on the Polytrack at Del Mar.

Remember, it was Baffert who turned in one of the all-time great training jobs last year when he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint for the second consecutive year with Midnight Lute off one prep race — a dismal 10th-place finish in the Pat O’Brien two months earlier.

Yep, Gio Ponti and Zensational. Right now they look to have the right stuff for that big weekend in November.

This and that from Del Mar

Some leftover notes from the Del Mar meet while waiting for the start of the Bing Crosby Stakes:

* Trainer Eric Guillot was obviously quite pleased with Mi Sueno’s resounding victory in Friday’s Sorrento Stakes, setting the 2-year-old filly up for a start in the Grade 1 Darley Dubutante on Sept. 5. Mi Sueno beat runner-up Necessary Evil, the Hollywood Juvenile winner against the boys, by 6 1/2 lengths. “There’s no reason for me to be scared if I get the same cast back and we’re going farther, which is what my filly wants,” Guillot said of the Debutante, which was won last year by Stardom Bound, who went on to win an Eclipse Award as top juvenile filly.

* Joel Rosario opened up some distance on runner-up Tyler Baze in the jockey race with a riding double Friday, but Baze won three of the first four races Saturday while Rosario was blanking, leaving the two tied atop the standings with 19 victories apiece. Victor Espinoza is running a strong third with 13 wins.

* Awesome Gem, a potential starter in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Sept. 6 who is trained by Craig Dollase, is scheduled to ship north for the Longacres Mile next Saturday at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash.

* Trainer Doug O’Neill, who’ll try to upset the unbeaten Zenyatta with Champagne Eyes in Sunday’s $300,000 Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes, summed up his chances this way: “We’ll have a good chance if Zenyatta has a headache.”

* Favorites got off to a terrible start at the meet, but they’ve rebounded since. Heading into Saturday’s 10-race card, favorites had won 33 of 119 races (27.73 percent), including 25 of 92 on Polytrack (27.17 percent). Favorites normally win at about a 32-percent clip. Turf favorites were winning at a 29.63 percent rate (8 of 27) and odds-on favorites were 9 of 19 (47.3 percent).

Nine have the courage to challenge the Queen

As Chevy Chase was heard saying before he jumped into the pool with Christie Brinkley in “Vacation” — “This is crazy, this is crazy.”

Yes, it is a little bit crazy that nine fillies and mares have been entered to test the unbeaten Zenyatta in Sunday’s $300,000 Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar — the most rivals she’ll have faced since her maiden victory at Hollywood Park on Nov. 22, 2007.

Well, second place is worth $60,000, which in any economy is hardly chicken feed. Heck, I’d have jumped into a pool with Phyllis Diller for that much money. Remember, us starving journalists are always looking to make a big splash.

On paper, you’d have to think that Zenyatta’s stablemate, Life Is Sweet, is a good bet to take home that big consolation prize, if not the whole ball of wax if she likes Del Mar’s synthetic Polytrack surface as much as she enjoyed Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride. She won three graded stakes last winter in Arcadia, including the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths. She comes in off a third-place finish against the boys in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11, so she’s hardly here to play the role of the Washington Generals against the Globetrotters.

Then there’s Lethal Heat, who you’d eliminate at first glance until you notice she’s won two of three over Polytrack and found the winner’s circle in her lone outing at Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile distance. Hey, stranger things have happened. Just ask Bill Mott, who came here in the summer of 1996 with what everyone thought was an unbeatable Horse of the Year candidate — Cigar — and discovered everyone was just blowing smoke when they told him he couldn’t lose.

Whatever, jockey Mike Smith is not afraid of all the competition. Hey, if I rode Zenyatta, I’d feel on top of the world, too.

“She breaks and falls back and just kind of takes her time, gets into stride, so the size of the field doesn’t really matter a whole lot to her,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “I mean, you always do worry whenever you’re coming from off the pace about getting stuck or having to go too wide or whatever, but she just always seems to find a way so I just kind of leave it up to her.”

Wise strategy, Mike.

Owner Jerry Moss, who’s taken enough grief these past few weeks for not undertaking a more aggressive campaign with his starlet than he’d care to remember, embraces the large turnout if not all the negative remarks.

“I’m comfortable with a bigger field because then we know there’ll be some sort of pace to the race and something that she can come after,” Moss said. “I like a bigger field than a smaller one, to tell you the truth.”

Well, here’s the truth — Zenyatta comes running with that huge stride of hers whether there’s a swift pace or not. Doesn’t seem to bother the girl when they dawdle up front in hopes of stealing a big payday and being the one to spoil an unblemished record.

All that does is seem to rile up a champion. And believe me, you don’t wanna rile up Zenyatta, not when she’s within reach of finishing her career with an unblemished record and still has a shot at Horse of the Year.

I mean, that would be just plain crazy.

Some amazing pictures from Churchill Downs

Here’s what six inches of rain in about an hour’s time will do to a race track. A torrential rainstorm in the Louisville, Ky. area early Tuesday morning left huge portions of the dirt and turf courses at Churchill Downs under water, along with other areas of the track. About 30 to 35 horses had to be evaculated from two barns when water rose in the two structures. Luckily, no injuries to either humans or horses were reported:



Zenyatta about to step out of the box?

Reader Alysse advised on 8/06 that the Woodward is at Saratoga.

Zenyatta’s connections have taken a lot of heat both from the media and bloggers for keeping their unbeaten 5-year-old mare home in California for the most part and continuing to run her within her own division when she’s already proved she’s head and shoulders above the other fillies and mares in California.

Whereas Rachel Alexandra’s camp has taken two huge leaps outside the lines by tackling boys in both the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational, Zenyatta has not raced against males once in 11 lifetime races and has raced outside of California only one time in arguably her most powerful score — last year’s Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park when she easily beat reigning older female champion Ginger Punch on dirt.

But if you listened carefully to owner Jerry Moss on a teleconference earlier this week, you came away with the feeling that after Sunday’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar when Zenyatta will be heavily favored to run her perfect record to 12-0, the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry’s camp is ready to shake it up a little bit.

“I think last year we went from the Clement Hirsch to the Lady’s Secret,” Moss said. “I’m not sure we’ll do that this year. Again, it depends on her, but we’ll talk about it. We have time for another race between (the Clement Hirsch and Breeders’ Cup), and we’ll just have to figure it out.”

Perhaps the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 6?

“At this stage of the game, everything is a possibility,” Moss said. “But it really depends on how John (trainer John Shirreffs) is also feeling about that track down there. It’s very troublesome because it’s not the same track every year. So we’re just hoping everything works out OK.”

If Zenyatta runs well and appears to like Del Mar’s Polytrack surface, I think there’s a better than 50-50 chance she’ll run in the Pacific Classic. If not, perhaps the Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 5, a destination that could bring her face to face with Rachel Alexandra.

Although neither Moss nor Shirreffs is a big fan of the NYRA’s holding barns, where horses must spend hours before their races, it is a possibility, however remote.

“We don’t think it’s fair to a horse that’s traveled 3,000 miles to have to move twice,” Moss said. “That’s really putting a lot of stress on a horse, and I know John feels very strongly about it and I do too. I just don’t think it’s fair.”

Does that mean Zenyatta will not be racing in New York anytime soon?

“It’s not a welcoming mat, if you know what I’m saying,” Moss said.

Of course, if not the Pacific Classic or Woodward, how about the Goodwood Handicap against the males during the Oak Tree meet? It would be a perfect tune-up for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The only way Zenyatta can win Horse of the Year now is if she beats the boys at least once and defeats Rachel Alexandra head to head, or defeats the males twice without squaring off against the fabulous 3-year-old filly.

Whatever, I believe Zenyatta’s folks realize they’ve got to get bold if they want Horse of the Year, which they do. They rightfully believe they should have won it last year, but this year they’re behind and have a lot of catching up to do.

I think we’re about to discover just how special Zenyatta is in these next couple of months. It’s just a gut feeling, but stay tuned. This Horse of the Year chase could get a lot more interesting in the coming weeks.