The Week in Review

The Week in Review: Vitali Starting a Horse at Saratoga Is Not OK

The system, whatever that has come to mean, failed badly last week when Marcus Vitali, one of the sport's most controversial trainers, was allowed to start a horse at Saratoga. Then again, should anyone have been surprised? This was just the latest example of this being a sport that is so dysfunctional, its regulatory systems so weak, that it is completely unable to police itself. Help is on its way. Some day, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will be implemented and a central body led by the U.S....

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CDI Reportedly Asks for '22 Illinois Dates Application

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton Two months before Arlington International Racecourse is scheduled to run what is feared to be the historic track's final race, Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), the gaming corporation that owns the up-for-sale landmark, has reportedly requested an application for 2022 race dates from the Illinois Racing Board. But as columnist Jim O'Donnell of the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago put it in his Friday scoop of this story, "What the carnivorous CDI will do with the application remains to be seen." With a July...

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Eight Wins Already in '21–And It's Only June

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton We're not even at the midpoint of 2021, and one North American Thoroughbred is already taking aim at a ninth win on the season. For perspective, the eight wins racked up so far this year by Arizona-based Six Ninety One (Congrats) are equal to the number of victories achieved by the four horses who co-led the continent during the entirety of 2020. Such a fast start through the first 5 1/2 months puts Six Ninety One on a trajectory to blast past what...

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When An Ambulance Follows You at Work, the Job is Never Easy

The Week in Review, by T.D. Thornton A couple of decades ago, I knew a press box wiseguy who faithfully played what he called "ambulance chaser" bets. Every time a rider got unseated in a spill, he would put two bucks to win on the next mount that jockey rode back. The wagers didn't have to involve an actual ambulance ride--he believed the very act of hitting the dirt and having to dust yourself off might give a jockey extra incentive once he or she got back in the irons....

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Observations From a Whip-Free Weekend at Monmouth

The Week in Review, by Bill Finley We will need a bigger sample size before being able to fully evaluate how Monmouth's experiment with whip-free racing has fared. But this much is certain: Three days in and after hysterical fomenting from the pro-whip side of the argument, the whip-less races amounted to a big nothingburger. That is to say there were no incidents, no major form reversals, no mass boycotts from the horseplayers, etc. Perhaps this was just round one in what figures to be a long, drawn-out battle that...

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The Week in Review: Sorry Bob, It's Not OK

When Bob Baffert told us last week that he thought the positive drug test for Medina Spirit (Protonico) following the GI Kentucky Derby was the result of his having been treated with an anti-fungal ointment, he seemed to be suggesting that the whole thing was an honest and forgivable mistake. No harm, so why the foul? "This has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage," he said. On that, he's likely telling the truth. That Baffert would use a rather benign corticosteroid...

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Week in Review: Off-Lasix 3YOs Have Now Won 25% of This Year's Derby Preps

Besides solidifying his status as a top-tier Triple Crown threat, Saturday's win by Known Agenda (Curlin) in the GI Curlin Florida Derby bolstered the overall case that the phase-out of Lasix in this year's series of GI Kentucky Derby preps seems to be having no adverse effect on performance. Through 20 races in North America since Jan. 1 that have awarded Derby qualifying points, horses giving up Lasix after receiving it in their prior start have won five of those races. Seven others have finished second, an impressive strike rate...

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The Week in Review: Charlatan Ran a Huge Race in Saudi Arabia

He did not win Saturday over in Saudi Arabia, but Charlatan (Speightstown) proved that he is undoubtedly the best dirt horse in America. That's how well he ran in his one-length defeat to Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) in the $20-million race. It was by no means a surprise that Charlatan and Knicks Go (Paynter) got caught up in a speed duel. Both are talented horses with abundant early speed and jockeys Joel Rosario (Knicks Go) and Mike Smith (Charlatan) rode aggressively, perhaps because neither rider wanted to see their...

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Homebreds Are Dominant On This Year's Derby Trail

The Week in Review by T.D. Thornton In a departure from recent seasons, homebreds are dominating the GI Kentucky Derby trail through the early portion of the 2021 prep-race season. In the TDN Derby Top 12 that will be published in the Feb. 2 edition, no fewer than seven of the leading dozen race for the same owners who planned their matings, raised them as foals, and got those colts into the starting gate. That 7-of-12 ratio is as high a number of homebreds within the Top 12 at any...

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Knicks Go-Charlatan Showdown Could Be in the Offing

The Week in Review, by Bill Finley After last year's GI Breeders' Cup Classic, it seemed that every horse that mattered had been retired and that 2021 was going to be a bleak year for the handicap ranks. But 23 days into the year, it is apparent that's not going to be the case. First, Charlatan (Speightstown) turned in a sizzling performance in his comeback race in the GI Runhappy Malibu S. and, exactly four weeks, later Knicks Go (Paynter) could not have won the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational...

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The Week in Review: Sparks of Brightness Amid the Winter Solstice

Leave it to one of the darkest days of the year to deliver two glimmering equine efforts that could combust into shining stars for the 2021 racing season. On the cusp of the winter solstice, breakout races book-ended the Saturday Fair Grounds card. One was a smart, step-wise progression by a juvenile colt in a NW2L allowance who now has credible GI Kentucky Derby aspirations. The other was an admirably impressive comeback by a still-undefeated 3-year-old whose own chance at the 2020 Derby got derailed by injuries and untimely setbacks....

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The Week in Review: Quintessential 'American Way' on Display at Breeders' Cup

Nearly two decades apart, we've witnessed a Breeders' Cup in the aftermath of a devastating terrorism attack, which led to armed marksmen defending the rooftop of the host track, and now during a global pandemic, which necessitated the barring of the general public from the two-day event and kept the relatively few essential attendees masked and socially distanced from one another. Unlike 2001, this year's championships produced no singular "Tiznow wins it for America!" moment to buoy the spirit of a nation in crisis. But the crescendo of Authentic (Into...

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