July 29, 2016
ON THE first Saturday in May, Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun Runner ran 1-2-3 in the Kentucky Derby. On the last Sunday of July, those three and a horse capable of giving Bob Baffert his ninth Haskell Invitational win will convene at Monmouth Park for the $1 million race, a signature event of the second half of the horse racing season, now in full stride. When last seen in a race, Nyquist was finishing third in the slop in the Preakness at Pimlico, losing for the first time after eight wins at five different tracks.
June 10, 2016 |
THE BELMONT STAKES is a unique race, 440 yards longer than the Kentucky Derby, 550 yards longer than the Preakness and run over America's only mile-and-a-half racetrack at Belmont Park. It is also very counterintuitive. One would think a mile-and-a-half race would favor horses coming from far back with the last run. One would be wrong. The winning trip in the Belmont Stakes typically comes from a horse that is in the vicinity of what is almost always a very slow pace. That pace inhibits the closers, who generally don't have the same late rallies they had at Churchill Downs or Pimlico anyway, because they are starting their runs about the time the first two legs of the Triple Crown finish.
May 26, 2016 |
IF KENTUCKY Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator are to meet for a sixth time, it won't be in the June 11 Belmont Stakes. Nyquist spiked a fever Monday at Pimlico and underwent some blood tests. After the temperature went back to normal Monday afternoon, it was elevated again Tuesday morning. So the Derby winner has been declared out of the Belmont. "Nyquist's blood work came back this morning and there was a slightly elevated white count," said trainer Doug O'Neill's assistant, Jack Sisterson, who is with the colt at Pimlico.
May 23, 2016 |
BALTIMORE - Doug O'Neill trains without fear. If one of his horses is going to lose, it won't be because the rider is passive. O'Neill had so much faith in his unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner, Nyquist, that he was willing to risk his horse's having to battle through quick fractions in the Preakness on Saturday rather than getting trapped near the rail on a sloppy track. One man at Pimlico loved what he was seeing from Nyquist early in the race, and it was not O'Neill. It was Kent Desormeaux, the jockey on Exaggerator, which could beat just about any horse except Nyquist - until Saturday, when the colt took the 141st Preakness.
May 23, 2016 |
BALTIMORE - Ten years ago, Roy and Gretchen Jackson watched in horror from their box seats above the finish line at Pimlico as their Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, was running on three legs after his right rear leg shattered in the first few hundred yards of the Preakness. Saturday afternoon, sitting in those same seats with horses running in three races on the Pimlico card, the Jacksons saw one of their horses finish third, another finish second, and a third, shielded from their view behind the infield tents, suffer a horrific leg injury and crash to the turf on the far turn.
May 22, 2016 |
BALTIMORE - Dennis O'Neill bought the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner for $35,000. He bought the 2016 Derby winner for $400,000. "I said to someone it felt like four years ago I bought a lotto ticket," he said. "And I said for someone to buy two lotto tickets in one lifetime, I don't think that's ever happened. " Dennis is the brother of Doug O'Neill, the trainer of unbeaten Derby winner Nyquist, winner of nearly $5 million and worth many millions more as a stallion. Dennis is the talent evaluator, the horse-racing equivalent of the general manager.
June 7, 2015 |
ELMONT, N.Y. - All eyes at Belmont Park on Friday morning were on the lookout. A man and a woman together at the rail, each with their own set of binoculars, spotted him first. "He's by himself . . . There he goes. " Eventually, here he came, American Pharoah, taking his last gallop, his final preparation for a bout with history in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, as the colt tries to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown, ending a 37-year drought. Trainer Bob Baffert has been right here before, with three horses that had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fall short – "I think I'm responsible for the drought," Baffert said Friday after American Pharoah returned to the barn.
May 19, 2015 |
BALTIMORE - A hot, muggy spring day had begun to cool late Saturday afternoon as the area around Pimlico darkened and a breeze blew through the old racetrack grounds. It was 5:35 p.m. when Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah emerged from the stakes barn to get his prerace bath, a ritual that would quickly prove unnecessary. The 140th Preakness, which attracted a record 131,680, was about to get an unwanted visit from the skies, which went black as the eight horses were wandering about the grass course 15 minutes before the 6:18 post time.
May 18, 2015 |
BALTIMORE - Pimlico's infield, packed with raucous revelers all day, was eerily empty, evacuated in advance of a storm that struck minutes before the race. Lightning bolts snapped and flashed in the darkness engulfing this 143-year-old track. And the rain, a relentless torrent, fell hard and angrily. But as he powerfully separated himself from seven muddy and outclassed rivals in the 140th Preakness Stakes' swampy stretch late Saturday afternoon, American Pharoah never seemed to notice.
May 15, 2015
THREE YEARS after Ahmed Zayat sold his Egyptian beverage company for $280 million in 2002, he did what any naturalized American citizen from Cairo would do with that kind of cash - he went to horse sales around the country to see how fast he could spend it. The man who got a master's in public health from Boston University and lives in Teaneck, N.J., charged headfirst into horse racing with blinkers on and a strategy that bordered on manic....