My wife does not follow the horses but even she knows there is no racing in the UK at the moment. “Why do you still spend so much time on the computer,” she asks, “now all the racecourses are closed?” I replied that there is still racing taking place in other parts of the world; plenty of American Racing on offer for example.
To be honest I don’t know a great deal about what goes on across the pond, bar the obvious things like the Kentucky Derby, the Triple Crown and the Breeders Cup.
However I’m not quite as naive as the American comedian Henny Youngman, who once quipped, “I played a great horse yesterday! It took seven horses to beat him.”
So when Darren, at On Course Profits invited me to write this article about American Racing I had to come up with something good and his deadline was fast approaching.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from horse racing it’s that patience is a virtue; don’t panic, even if you’re struggling.
A sentiment most punters will agree with.
And then I remembered, yes of course, I have a buddy across the pond in Martin County, Florida, and guess what, she writes articles for Horse Racing Nation, one of the few websites that covers U.S. Thoroughbred racing full-time.
So this punter pioneer, that’s me, resolves to go west and trust in the ‘special relationship’ we have with our friends in the US, specifically my friend Laurie Ross, who knows an awful lot about the effects of pedigree in American racing.
First up she put me right about which tracks are still up and running.
For the foreseeable future, racing is continuing here. Gulfstream Park is open, but it is anyone's guess for how long. The same goes for Tampa Bay Downs, on the west side of Florida.
Golden Gate, in Northern California is still open. (Update now closed)
Oaklawn Park is going strong with no intent to close, since the Arkansas Governor is strongly behind the racing.
Since Churchill Downs has changed the Kentucky Derby to September 5 (without discussing it with horsemen, or the tracks that hold the Preakness & Belmont), Oaklawn has stepped up and moved the Arkansas Derby to May 4th the traditional KY Derby day.
I don't know if they will change the distance to 1 1/4-miles.
Will Rogers Downs & Remington Park in Oklahoma. They run Thoroughbreds, during the spring/summer and quarter horses in the fall.
Fonner Park in Nebraska is still open, for now.
Talks are ongoing to open Santa Anita back up.
Keeneland has cancelled their spring meet, and of course, Churchill and the Maryland tracks (Pimlico & Laurel) are closed, with no word on when they will open.
Upcoming Races to Consider
Right, so now I know which tracks are racing I can start to consider possible upcoming races and consider stand out horses for them.
Oaklawn Park we know is keen to keep racing and by the time you read this the Oaklawn Invitational for 3yo’s over 9f will have taken place on 11th April.
This is a prep race for the Arkansas Derby (G1) to be held on May 2nd and is likely to attract a large field which may necessitate it being run in 2 divisions.
The winner of the Invitational stands a good chance in the Arkansas Derby, so check when the results are in.
American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby after winning the Arkansas.
Churchill Downs isn’t racing at the moment but intends to postpone its Kentucky Derby from 1st week in May to later in the year. This is such an iconic race that it deserves a close investigation as to which horses are likely to run well.
At the moment, Florida Derby winner, Tiz The Law has the most qualifying points, easily winning both starts this year.
Laurie tells me that the horse is ‘from Florida Derby winner Constitution's first crop, Tiz the Law is out of a mare by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. The trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable previously won the Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide’.
One trainer we need to keep on side is Bob Baffert; never seen without his dark glasses and as instantly recognisable as Aidan O’Brien clutching a mobile phone. This man has five Kentucky wins to his credit and his horses deserve a lot of respect. However a note of caution from Laurie who feels he does not possess another American Pharoah this year.
‘I personally don't like his top two, Authentic and Nadal, to handle 10 furlongs.
Authentic is by Into Mischief out of a Mr. Greeley mare. Into Mischief's offspring haven't won beyond 9 furlongs on dirt.
There could always be an exception, but Authentic is a hot-headed type that likes the lead.
Nadal is by Blame out of a Pulpit mare. His pedigree is better for 10 furlongs, and he has prevailed in all 3 lifetime starts when challenged. He also likes to be on or near the lead.
I would give him more credence over Authentic.
Apart from Baffert’s entries Wells Bayou is worth considering. This 3yo colt is by Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky has an excellent 10f pedigree and likes to make the pace. He won the Louisiana Derby 1m 1 ½ furlongs last time out on fast ground.
Now what about American race tracks? The very term ‘track’ does not suggest something quite as solid as our own racecourses! In fact who would ever want to race on ground termed as sloppy – soft or heavy one can understand but sloppy suggests a soup-like consistency.
I remember Aiden O’Brian’s George Washington suffered his injury in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on a sloppy track. Thankfully Laurie assures me that most racing takes place in drier conditions and the going on turf tracks is usually firm. This can sometimes mean hard, as in Florida they may not see rain for 3 months or more.
Many dirt tracks are speed favouring and many of the winners come from horses setting or pressing the pace. Gulfstream turf favours speed horses in sprints and hold-up horses over a mile or further.
To sum up our candidates for the Kentucky Derby, as and when it takes place, I would recommend in order of preference:
- Tiz The Law
- Wells Bayou
Phew! Job done – now I can turn the computer off and do something useful like make my wife a cup of tea!
For more on American Racing you can check out my website page https://www.horse4course-racetips.com/american-racing.html