Gun Pit Retired

Due to a bone chip found in his left front fetlock, Gun Pit (AUS) has been forced to retire from the world of racing. The seven-year-old Gun Pit became sort of a sensation in the Hong Kong racing scene thanks to an undefeated record of 7-0 in starts at the She Tin all-weather track. However, last year saw him decline after going winless on the year.

Gun Pit was being pointed towards the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (gr. I) by his trainer Caspar Fownes, with an eye towards racing again in the Dubai World Cup (gr. I), a race in which he finished in 12th last year.

“It is sad, because he had a lot more to offer—he really had a lot of heart and he was a lovely horse with a beautiful temperament. We will certainly miss him around the stable,” Fownes relayed to South China Morning Post reporter Michael Cox. “He was such an exciting horse on a true dirt surface and Dubai and Japan never gave him a chance to show us what he could really do.

“His left front joint just gave him too much trouble, so we made the decision to get the bone chip removed, and find him a nice home. The horse’s owner Eddie Cheng Chung-wah is a great friend of mine and we had a lot of fun with this horse.”

From 28 career starts, Gun Pit will retire with a record of 8-3-1.

McCraken Makes His Move to Win Sam F. Davis Stakes

McCraken Rallies in Track Record Time to win Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

McCraken made another stride towards the Kentucky Derby Saturday. The rising, talented Kentucky-bred made a magnificent move down the stretch to win the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes in a track record time at Tampa Bay Down.

McCraken, the undefeated son of Ghostzapper, won his fourth straight race with a winning time of 1 minute 42.45 seconds. He picked up $120,000 as the top prize and broke Destin’s track record from last year which is the best 1 1/16 mile time in the Downs’ 91 year history.

Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. settled McCraken behind the pack five lengths off the pacesetter State of Honor, who set fractions of 23.63, :47.15 and 1:10.90 through six furlongs. When Hernandez asked McCraken to go, the strapping colt unleashed his big stride and flew home to win by 1 ¼ lengths over a late charging Tapwrit.

“Riding a horse like (McCraken) puts a lot of confidence in you, and you’ve got to go out there and ride him with the confidence we do … and he gets us there,” Hernandez said. “When I first got to the half-mile pole, I asked him for a run and he hesitated a bit. But I think it was him telling me, ‘Hey, jock, don’t worry. We’re going to get there when it’s my time.’ And he did.”

State of Honor held on for 3rd, while Wild Shot finished fourth after briefly taking the lead by a head in the stretch. Fact Finding, No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court completed the finish.

McCraken went to post as the 3-2 favorite and paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80. Tapwrit returned $8.20 and $5.20, and State of Honor paid $6.20. The top four finishers received Kentucky Derby points on a sliding scale of 10-4-2-1.

Trainer Ian Wilkes knows has a special horse in his barn, and has been trying to downplay all the Derby talk about McCraken.

“If he’s good enough, he’ll take us there,” Wilkes said. “I don’t know how good (he is). But there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”

McCraken will build on his latest victory and success in his next race, the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Tampa Bay Stakes Live with Long Shots

Tampa Bay Stakes Could Pay a Nice Price with Competitive Long Shots

The 31ST running of The Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) is set for Saturday, Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs. A field of 10 will run 1 1/6 miles over a firm turf course with a purse of $150,000.00.  This race is the second of four straight stakes races headlined by the Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Bondurant seeks breakout win in Tampa Bay Stakes

The Tampa Bay Stakes features a very competitive field. That includes Bondurant, who is the half-brother to Derby hopeful and Sam F. Davis favorite McCraken.  The owners of these two fine colts will be in attendance to see these two horses run in back-to-back races, and both Bondurant and McCraken are the first two foals to race from the 11-year-old Whitham Thoroughbreds mare Ivory Empress.  Trainer Ian Wilkes is very high on Bondurant, as he’s stated he’s gotten a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. Bondurant is likely to be bet down from the morning line on race day, as the War Front colt has 3 wins and was 2nd in his stakes debut by a head at Churchill Downs in November.

We feel the morning line favorite and Arlington Million runner up Kasaqui (ARG) is very vulnerable for this race today. This 7-year-old Argentine-Bred is coming in off a very long layoff and was also given 40 days at Ocala farms before returning to trainer Ignacio Correas, who has been very bullish on him to the press leading up to this race. He’s stated he’s been training with a real purpose and feels he could win as he’s just that type horse.

We prefer others over Kasaqui as Chad Brown’s Catapult (7/2) will likely be the favorite at post. Catapult will be the controlling speed from the break as he comes in off a front running win in the Gio Ponti at Aqueduct over a turf course listed as good. It’s always nice to have Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz in your corner as they are winning at an incredible 43 percent clip when teaming up together.

We are very enamored with an outsider and first-time U.S. starter Turbo Street (AUS), who comes from the Brian Lynch barn. This looks like a very live longshot at 15-1, and Lynch purchased this colt privately and gives Turbo Street first time Lasix for this race. Turbo Street is a 6-year old gelding that has been blistering the weeds in his morning workouts at Palm Meadows. Don’t let this horse and price slip past you on Saturday!

The Tampa Bay Stakes is race 9 on the turf with a post time of 4:15 ET, and is followed by the Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners

2017 Sam F Davis Stakes

McCraken Headlines 2017 Sam F Davis

The only Kentucky Derby prep race featured this weekend is the 2017 Sam F Davis Stakes, run at Tampa Bay Downs. It’s not usually on people’s radar but after the success of Destin’s 2016 campaign, and the inclusion of McCraken in this year’s field, it’s hard not to not get excited about it. McCraken is the 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club champion and is listed at 2/1 on the morning line as the obvious favorite.

The three-year-old colt has also been making waves in the KDFW as the reigning second choice alongside Mastery. Classic Empire is still technically the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but he just suffered a loss at the Holy Bull recently and his stock is sure to drop slightly. This opens the gate for McCraken and Mastery to take the lead in the polls.

Primarily challenging McCraken at the 2017 Sam F Davis Stakes is No Dozing, a horse seemingly beloved by handicappers and oddsmakers. The only issue is that he hasn’t won a stakes race. He was runner-up at the 2016 Remsen in his last outing, but as a son of Union Rags out of Stay Awake there is certainly potential.

Fact Finding is a tight consideration at 9/2 and recently won the 2016 Smooth Stakes. He doesn’t feel like he’s on the level of McCraken, but anything can happen in these early derby prep races. If you happen to be particularly high on him, he’s not a bad bet. I just don’t see it.

The remainder of the 2017 Sam F Davis Stakes field is listed at either 8/1 or much higher. Those are dead man odds, if you aren’t sure.

The hope for the derby hype is that McCraken holds court as a future Triple Crown hopeful. For me, he’s the no brainer despite being listed at just 2/1. That’s an overreaction to Classic Empire and other favorites falling at recent races.

2017 Sam F Davis Stakes – Saturday, February 11th at Tampa Bay Downs
1 1/16th Miles – 3 Year Olds – $250,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 State of Honor (ON) Julien R. Leparoux 116 Mark E. Casse 8/1
2 King and His Court (ON) Gary Boulanger 120 Mark E. Casse 8/1
3 Fact Finding (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 Todd A. Pletcher 9/2
4 Chance of Luck (KY) Ronald Dale Allen, Jr. 116 Gerald S. Bennett 15/1
5 Six Gun Salute (KY) Pablo Morales 116 Eoin G. Harty 30/1
6 Wild Shot (KY) Robby Albarado 116 George R. Arnold, II 5/1
7 Tapwrit (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Todd A. Pletcher 8/1
8 McCraken (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 122 Ian R. Wilkes 2/1
9 No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 Arnaud Delacour 4/1

It’s No Joke Moving to Canada

Pierre Esquirol saw potential in grade two winner It’s No Joke and when he was up for auction in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale he knew he had to bid on him. It wasn’t the first time Esquirol made an attempt to purchase the 15-year-old It’s No Joke.

“I’ve had this horse on my radar for several years and made an offer on him at one point, but we couldn’t get the deal done,” said Esquirol, the owner of Esquirol Farms located close to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “His statistics from a limited number of mares are really impressive, he really moves his mares up.”

The 15-year-old It’s No Joke is the son of Distorted Humor and was bred by WinStar Farm in Kentucky. Back in 2003, he was sold by Woods Edge Farm at the Keeneland September yearling sale to Fleetwood/NW Management for $675,000, who worked as an agent on behalf of Stan Fulton. Following the 2003 purchase, It’s No Joke went on to win three graded stakes races and would retire after having earned $685,612. One of his more well known victories came in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II).

It’s No Joke has sired 94 foals. 51 sires out of a total 70 starters have won a race. In total, his progeny have earned over $4.4 million, averaging $63,523/starter. It’s No Joke was purchased by acting agent Dr. Don Gibb for $6,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale and will stand for $2,000 at Esquirol Farm.

EMHF Welcomes Greece

The European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation (EMHF) has announced Greece will be the group’s 28th member country. This means the Jockey Club of Greece will be welcomed to the EMHF General Assembly this year, which will take place on May 29 in Stockholm. Below are a few words from invested parties…

“We warmly welcome the Jockey Club of Greece into the region’s international racing community. I hope that we are witnessing the start of an era of growth in Greek racing and a return to the popularity the sport enjoyed in that country not so long ago,” said EMHF Chairman Brian Kavanagh.

“I was impressed by the strides that have been made over the past year to re-kindle horseracing in Greece and by the enthusiasm of all concerned to ensure that this upward trend continues. I am sure that there is much that our Federation, and its member Racing Authorities, can do to assist Greece in its journey,” said EMHF Secretary-General Paula Khan.

“We are delighted to hear that we are now a member of EMHF. We would like to thank all members of EMHF for their decision. This decision is of great importance for us and supports our effort not only in keeping Greek racing alive but continuing towards a status that will permit us to actively interact with other racing industries. We strongly believe that we can benefit in many ways from being a member of the EMHF, on various racing matters and will gain practical assistance in providing a high quality experience. We are looking forward to meeting everyone at the General Assembly,” said Jockey Club of Greece General Manager Retros Zafeiris.

The EMHF is the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ regional body and they promote horse racing in Europe and the Mediterranean, as well defend their prestige and integrity worldwide.

2017 Holy Bull Stakes results

Irish War Cry Dominates 2017 Holy Bull

We have yet another legitimate contender for this year’s Triple Crown. Irish War Cry seized immediate control of the 2017 Holy Bull stakes from Classic Empire and never relinquished it, romping the field in a wire-to-wire performance that has busted him in to the next level. The derby trail just got a whole lot busier.

All eyes were on Classic Empire, a 1/2 first choice in the 2017 Holy Bull who had essentially been established as the Kentucky Derby preference. In the KDFW Pool 2, he closed with 5/1 odds and $30,161.56 in action. By comparison, Irish War Cry finished with 26/1 odds to win the futures bet garnering a meagre sum of $6,957.96. Well, “meagre” in the sport of kings anyhow.

Exploding from the gate, Irish War Cry charged to the front as a 4/1 outside shot and never gave an inch. He led by at least a length in what was a slowly paced race, and then exploded down the home stretch to seal the victory. Classic Empire was urged onwards but couldn’t find that next throttle, and was ultimately passed by Gunnevera who was also a strong consideration to win. The winner paid out $10.80, $4.00 and $2.20.

The 2017 Holy Bull victory is the third straight in as many starts for Irish War Cry. The typical next step is preparation for the Florida Derby but Graham Motion, his trainer, simply revelled in the moment instead of jumping to conclusions. “I really haven’t gotten beyond today,” Motion said. “It will be hard enough to run back in one of them, obviously, but we’ll figure it out. There’s nothing quite like being involved in these three-year-old races. It’s what we all like to do. It’s pretty exciting.”

This race certainly throws a wrench in the backing of Classic Empire, who still rates out as the top horse in the overall field, but is beginning to show that he may not be as far ahead of the pack as pundits imagined. The 2017 Holy Bull is still just a small time race on the derby trail with a 10-4-2-1 split. Classic Empire still has time to bounce back – and many hope that he will – but Irish War Cry is sure to garner more attention. It’s well deserved after this weekend.

Fair Grounds Picks and Preview – Keith Gee Memorial

Zinger Could Zoom at a Price in Keith Gee Memorial

The 2ND running of the Keith Gee Memorial Overnight Stakes is set for Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Fair Grounds Race Course. A field of 9 is lined up for the nearly 1 mile race on the turf with a $50,000 purse. This is a race that many will overlook this weekend as there is an abundant of Kentucky Derby prep races carded from coast to coast.

We are very bullish on I’m A Chatterboxes little brother Zinger.  He’s a homebred from the Gray’s and has given very good account of himself at the current Fair Grounds meet. He’s regally bred for the turf and we like that Cowboy Larry Jones has elected to keep him over the weeds for now instead putting the son of The Factor over the main and trying to get him on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Zinger (10/1) is two heads away from being on a 3 race win streak. The only race in his 4 career starts that he hasn’t been on the wire was his debut race at Keeneland and he lost all chance in that race as he was steadied after being stuck down inside as the speed started to back up on him down the lane. He’s facing by far the toughest competition to date but the 10/1 morning line is very enticing on a newcomer that we feel has stakes quality to him. It always pays very handsomely to be one of the first on the bandwagon before everyone jumps aboard once he reels off two or three stakes victory in a row. This field is laden with speed runners and that is a big advantage to Zingers running style. We see Gabe Saez taking a very good hold of Zinger in the early stages of the race and when they turn for home we really feel he’ll be charging down the lane to the winners circle.

We feel that the only other runners that will hamper Zinger to the finish line are Cool Arrow (3/1) and Cowboy Culture (4/1). Cool Arrow is the morning line favorite from the Joe Sharp barn and he’s making his 1st start over the turf and will be hampered with all the other speed lined up against him in this nearly 1 mile race. He’ll be on the lead if he handles the turf, and Cool Arrow has six races under his belt with 3 wins at Laurel Park an Remington Park.  Cowboy Culture is 2-for-2 and the Quality Road colt is from the barn of meet leading trainer Brad Cox. He chased down the leaders at about a mile on the turf last out as the 3/5 favorite and leading jockey Florent Geroux will get plenty of betting action at the windows prior to the gates opening for race 5.

Other contenders running in the Keith Gee Memorial include Girvin (9/2), who won his only race to break his maiden at 6 furlongs at the Fair Grounds, Hot Dad (5/1) and Holly Field (6/1), who could also benefit from a fast pace as a closer. But a value opportunity to zoom home with Zinger in the lone stakes race at the Fair Grounds Saturday.

The Keith Gee Memorial is race 5 on Saturday, Feb. 4 at The Fair Grounds Race Course with an estimated post time of 3:13 p.m. local CST.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners. 

Shadai Farm Purchases Lighthouse Bay

2013 Prioress Stakes (gr. I) winner Lighthouse Bay has been sold to Shadai Farm. The deal was administered by Greg Harbut of the Harbut Bloodstock Agency.

Lighthouse Bay is currently in foal to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh. She has already produced a two-year-old colt by Tapit and a yearling colt from Medaglia d’Ora. Her 2017 breeding plans have not been set yet.

“She’s a beautiful specimen,” said Harbut, speaking of Lighthouse Bay. “I’m just always on the lookout for nice mares for Shadai Farm, and I have several other clients in Japan that I’ve purchased grade 1 winners and dams of grade 1 horses for. I have a working relationship with Shannon Potter of Town and Country Farms and in conversations with him, things just worked out with the client with what they were looking for.”

Harbut has operated the Harbut Bloodstock Agency since 2010. If his name sounds familiar it’s because he is the great grandson of legendary Man o’ War groom Will Harbut. Man o’ War is famous for winning 20 out of 21 races in a career that began after World War I.

“I have a few clients here but the majority of my clients would be international, in Japan and Qatar,” Harbut said.

Lighthouse Bay was bred by Richlyn Farm and won four out of eight career starts. Upon retirement, she had earned $365,706. She was sold to Newgate Farm for $1.2 million during the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall mixed sale and was a $850,000 buyback in Keeneland’s November sale in 2015.