The Ragozin Sheets' JONATHAN HARDOON just announced on Thoroughbred Los Angeles w/ Mike Willman that IEAH has bought into G.3 Gotham S. winner I WANT REVENGE. The initial report is that there are clauses in the agreement, one may involve Champion Juvenile Filly STARDOM BOUND.

Stay tuned for majority owner DAVID LANZMAN to make the deal official sometime today or tomorrow.


GARRETT K. GOMEZ was an early foal of 1972.    He celebrated his 37th birthday on New Year’s Day with a winner, which is exactly what Gomez has become on and off the track.

In the early stages of the Santa Anita winter meeting, he’s won with 13 of 33 mounts, including 3 stakes wins, for a staggering 39% wins.  On Saturday, GOMEZ won with 3 of his 6 mounts, including the featured G.3 Monrovia H. with JIBBOOM  for BOBBY FRANKEL and JUDDMONTE FARMS.  He teamed with the trainer/owner combination for back-to-back Pacific Classic wins in 2000-01 with SKIMMING, which solidified GOMEZ’ credentials as a big-race rider.

To give a top-class horse a chance to win, GOMEZ must be at the top of the jockey wish list if you own or train a graded stakes-caliber thoroughbred racehorse.  He’s finished #1 on the earnings list for the last three years (2006-08) while increasing his totals slightly each year.  His 2008 total of over $23,344,351 was just over $10k shy of JERRY BAILEY’s all-time earnings mark.  In another twist of fate, RON ANDERSON was BAILEY’s agent and has served in the same capacity for GOMEZ since early in 2006.  GOMEZ is the heavy favorite to repeat as Eclipse Award winner in 2008, a year in which he amassed 6 G.1 wins to go along with 4 Breeders’ Cup wins.

GOMEZ’ success with VENTURA in the Just A Game H. and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, CHAMPS ELYSEES in the Northern Dancer BC Turf, and JIBBOOM (all JUDDMONTE runners) solidifies his position as FRANKEL’s #1 rider in California.  That mantle was held by PATRICK VALENZUELA who had major wins for FRANKEL aboard WILD DESERT, THREE VALLEYS, and TATES CREEK (the latter two wearing JUDDMONTE silks) until he relapsed from the chemical dependency issues that plagued what should have been a Hall of Fame career.  FRANKEL has used many riders on his top California-based horses since VALENZUELA had his California jockey license suspended in 2006 and twice in 2007.

Ironically, GOMEZ had his own brush with chemical addiction in 2003 and hit “bottom” during a 40 day jail term for possession of a controlled substance.  Since his rehabilitation, aided by the WINNERS FOUNDATION in ‘03, GOMEZ has not let this second chance as a jockey slip by.  Despite his success on track over the last four years, he hasn’t forgotten the people responsible for his recovery away from it.

On Sunday Saturday he, along with many jockeys in the SoCal colony, thanked the WINNERS FOUNDATION with a contribution.  The money will aid the foundation with race track personnel and/or family members fighting addiction to drugs or alcohol.

GARRETT GOMEZ, winner on the track and a solid gold person.



I ushered in 2009 much like I did 2008.  Well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions were thought about but never made.   I endeavor to make my yearly horse racing experience more of a “racing carnival” as a horse racing enthusiast who also has a full-time job outside of the industry that is his avocation.

I am enjoying the HRTV replay of their “2008 Year In Review” with my free time today rather than handicapping an ordinary card at Santa Anita with a Pick 6 carryover.  Today’s races probably won’t impact the elite divisions I prefer to follow.  This video is a special edition of “Inside Information” program hosted by Jon White shown in two parts on

Part 1 begins with snapshots of the newsworthy, animals and humans alike, to capture your attention.  As I watch this, I’m convinced that the humans in their lives can have great effect on the careers of the horses they care for.  There is an interesting contrast of the careers of three horses retiring at the end of 2008 at various ages:  3y.o. BIG BROWN, 5y.o. mare PEPPER’S PRIDE, and 4y.o. CURLIN.

The lead story belongs to BIG BROWN.  His brilliance in top 3y.o. races from the Florida Derby, to the Kentucky Derby and through the Preakness was overshadowed by a crushing loss, his only lifetime defeat, to longshot DA’ TARA in the Belmont by a greater distance than SECRETARIAT won the TRIPLE CROWN.  Perhaps the racing gods were protecting the legacy of past Crown winners, using BIG BROWN as an example that greatness cannot be bought or shot through a hypodermic needle.  They tried to use a quarter crack to get RICK DUTROW, JR. and MICAEL IAVARONE/IEAH to see that this steroid-enhanced specimen was too massive for his genetics to accomplish greatness on dirt.  That did not deter them from putting his injured hoof together with glue and metal ties while pressing on.  Angered over DUTROW and IAVARONE’s insolence, the racing gods then pushed GUADALCANAL into BIG BROWN at the start of the Belmont Stakes to jar loose a shoe.  Thankfully KENT DESORMEAUX could feel BIG BROWN wasn’t traveling right and pulled him up when they were hopelessly defeated.  After the Belmont, if BIG BROWN was human, I can imagine him lamenting to his caretakers as the rock band TRAIN once crooned:

Tell me, did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the milky way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated

Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there

Workmanlike wins without steroids in the G.1 Haskell Invitational and the Monmouth S., then skipping the Breeders’ Cup Classic proves my point…humans can learn from their mistakes.  Trying to manufacture a Triple Crown winner likely kept the world from seeing the brilliance that BIG BROWN hinted at in his debut win on turf, perhaps even prevented a Breeders’ Cup Classic win on a synthetic main track that was kind to European turf horses.  The colt was a potentially brilliant horse without enhancements when raced with his own kind on turf.  I was fortunate to see AFFIRMED win the Triple Crown in my youth and in multiple replays and BIG BROWN, son of BOUNDARY and MIEN, was not reared to be a Triple Crown winner.  I’ll look for his sons and daughters to become what BIG BROWN was bred to be, descendents with turf-loving genes like his grandsire DANZIG and damsire NUREYEV owned and passed on.

Next came the unblemished brilliance of PEPPER’S PRIDE, holder of the modern-day record of consecutive wins.  The New Mexico-bred mare retires undefeated with 19 wins (14 in stakes), an improbable achievement that her trainer JOEL MARR, jockey CARLOS MADEIRA, and owner/breeder JOE ALLEN can take pride in.  Her caretakers were sure to put her in races against the fillies and mares they knew she could beat and campaigned her when she was fit.  For their efforts, PEPPER’S PRIDE earned $1,066,085.  Outside of horse racing enthusiasts, the general public does not know who PEPPER’S PRIDE is.  I don’t even know if she was enhanced by steroids, racing on the minor New Mexico circuit.  I’d like to believe that she wasn’t.  It’s best to remember her career that way…she’ll retire and become a broodmare with the unpretentiousness that typified her undefeated record.  Even in retirement, she will give riches to New Mexico breeding by infusing the stock with bonafide G.1 Kentucky blood.

An unheard of 3rd on this list is likely back-to-back Horse of the Year, CURLIN.  Was this HRTV’s way of putting an asterisk on his career accomplishments?  Is he the BARRY BONDS of horse racing?  CURLIN became the sport’s all-time leading money earner while racing at the elite level of competition nearly his whole career.  His best form was sapped in a brilliant 3y.o. campaign that was tainted by reports that surfaced this year that his Horse of the Year campaign in 2007 was enhanced by steroids (, much like the career of all-time home run leader BONDS was.  The trip to Dubai, where the world got a taste of his ability without drugs, nearly ran his ability dry.  When he returned to the U.S., CURLIN was merely a shell of the colt we’d seen in 2007 requiring all-out drives to defeat lesser graded stakes winner WANDERIN BOY and allowance winner PAST THE POINT.  Was this the real CURLIN, his true ability without steroids?  Did he simply need more than 2 ½ months to recover from Dubai to produce another performance like the World Cup win?  With wins in the Preakness S., back-to-back wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and Woodward there is no doubting that CURLIN achieved as much on the track as many prior Champions.  I ask you if his accomplishments, the earnings record and Horse of the Year titles, should be noted in history books with an asterisk???  If so, how many champions before him could/should carry the same designation?


Injuries to thoroughbreds are part of the game. I was critical of a fellow blogger who commented on another blogspot that opening day at Santa Anita was not a success because of the injuries to two 2y.o. maiden claimers in the opening race. I went as far to suggest that the sport should examine whether to run maiden claiming races at all. In hindsight I considered those horses collateral damage. I was wrong. On Saturday, multiple G.3 winner INDYANNE went wrong after battling INDIAN BLESSING in the G.1 La Brea. Now I’m left to consider, do we do away with graded stakes races as well? The answer of course is, “NO!”

I wonder, can we ever get past this infatuation of lamenting injuries? Valerie, I am sorry if my remark to your comment was hurtful. I could have used different words to express my exasperation over your initial comment…I am just very tired of reading and writing so much negative commentary about this game I love. While injuries are part of the game, I believe they should be reported and left at that. But to lament them without trying to find a solution does the game no good. It just gets PETA up in arms that horse racing should be banned, as they shouted after the EIGHT BELLES tragedy.

To that end, I invite you and other horse racing owners, trainers, jockeys, and fans to join me in trying to figure out how to lessen injuries to thoroughbreds. Obviously, altering the tracks (synthetics were installed first in Kentucky and mandated at racetracks operating meetings longer than 4 weeks in California) isn’t the answer. Synthetic surfaces may be giving horsemen a false sense of security. I have long felt that there are reasons why a horse breaks down, events during training or a race that can predict future bad performances and perhaps injury during a race. But this would mean bringing up hard evidence that could cause a horse to miss a start or perhaps a number of months because of a trainer’s intuition, even when nothing shows emphatically wrong with testing.

Case in point. 2004 Champion Juvenile Filly SWEET CATOMINE raced against the boys in the ‘05 Santa Anita Derby. After finishing a dull 5th as the favorite, Marty Wygod disclosed that she had been sent to Alamo Pintado for hyperbaric oxygen treatment five days before the race. The CHRB charged Wygod and the van driver for secretly transporting the filly for treatment. Trainer Julio Canani was not initially charged, but eventually was named in the CHRB complaint. After the race, trainer Julio Canani reportedly told friends that he was quitting Wygod according to an L.A. Times article. Shortly thereafter, five horses including the filly were transferred to John Shirreffs. Thankfully Wygod came to his senses and retired SWEET CATOMINE before she could sustain a career or life-threatening injury.

My read: Canani told Wygod SWEET CATOMINE wasn’t right prior to the Derby and should be scratched, essentially preventing her Kentucky Derby or Oaks start. He couldn’t pinpoint the reason to scratch her, but just knew he should. Thankfully she completed the course without mishap. Wygod was intent on getting her to Churchill Downs and treated her without Canani’s knowledge. Canani protected his owner after the race by stating she was fine after the SA Derby, but Wygod’s post-race comments were to the contrary. They, along with the racetrack, were named in a suit filed by a horseplayer for misinforming of the filly’s condition.

In 1992, A.P. INDY was scratched from the Kentucky Derby by Neil Drysdale when he developed a foot bruise. He would go on to win the Peter Pan, Belmont Stakes, and BC Classic in a Horse of the Year campaign managed by a consummate horseman and understood by an owner who was the same. Drysdale is “old-school” and the horse comes first. In 2008, BIG BROWN ran last in the Belmont Stakes after his well-chronicled quarter crack was supposedly stable. BIG BROWN won two-thirds of the Triple Crown but never made the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He will not be named Horse of the Year. Rick Dutrow, Jr., he’s no Neil Drysdale.

Perhaps Dutrow felt pressure to keep BIG BROWN running considering the big money spent by Michael Iavarone and IEAH. Perhaps his quarter crack was the reason BIG BROWN only had a few works and Dutrow worried prior to his devastating 3y.o. debut. BIG BROWN was talented, but economics literally ran him into the ground.

Bottom line: Trainers have pressure, real or perceived, to keep their horses running. They will overlook things unintentionally as their eyes are on the prize of the next race and beyond. It’s hard for them to justify stopping on a horse that’s recording a good race record. The bills need to be paid, the only way is for horses to earn their keep on the track.

So I went to the videos at and to try and find any hint that INDYANNE was trying to tell us she wasn’t right. I’ll spare you my detailed evaluation, here’s the synopsis:

When you review her four race cycle this summer/fall, there are some indications that her condition was heading south. INDYANNE was so talented that she could persevere where less competitive fillies would pull themselves up. Perhaps knowing the reason for her layoff from September 2007 to June of 2008 could shed further light on her health. As a juvenile she ran only two races. It appears that after two races in the summer, there were signs of distress that were at the worst in start #4. However, her good finishes blinded her connections to her deteriorating health. After the G.3 TCA win, start #4 in that cycle, she was rested for three months. In retrospect, that wasn’t enough time. Her two races this winter are proof.

Again, this post is no disrespect to trainer GREG GILCHRIST. I believe he’s an outstanding horseman who runs his stock when they are right. His 30% win rate and only 161 starts proves that point. But, the economics of the game force decisions that a trainer would not make in a perfect world. She cost $375k as a 2y.o., earned only $54k last year. Then came a large bill from the farm where she was laid up for many months (was there surgery also involved?), putting INDYANNE further in the red. The owners probably were still in the red despite her $395k earnings this year.

I hope she recovers and we can see little INDYANNE’s in a few years. If we’ve learned anything from her career, we know her progeny will be precocious and speedy. We’ll know that they need time for their legs to develop. What we don’t know is how patient the owners and trainers can be when she drops a son or daughter with her uncommon talent.

That, fellow horse racing fans, is why injuries will happen tomorrow, next week, next month….



There is an adage at the race track that grade 1 horses win grade 1 races. Saturday’s feature is the 36th running of the G.1 La Brea, the filly companion to the G.1 Malibu for males won by world record holder BOB BLACK JACK who hadn’t even won a graded stake prior to yesterday. Was the Malibu result the exception that proves the rule?

If the saying holds true, the contention is COUNTRY STAR and ‘07 Juvenile Filly Champion INDIAN BLESSING. However, don’t sleep on the winning chance of multiple G.2 winner/G.1 placed BSHARPSONATA and the pace effect of multiple G.3 winner INDYANNE. This 10 filly field will be a key race for many months to come in graded stakes, not just in SoCal but throughout the country.

(4) INDIAN BLESSING is a Champion and deserving favorite. She has never finished out of the exacta in 11 races (8-3-0) while amassing more than $2.2 million. Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s homebred is the epitome of class and Bob Baffert has managed her career brilliantly, as he’s done for so many horses in his illustrious career. So, here it comes…I think she’s beatable. INDYANNE will be her foil today. John Velazquez cannot allow that talented filly, ironically also a daughter of INDIAN CHARLIE, to get loose on the lead. I envision the two speedy fillies engaging in a spirited middle 3f, sapping the late kick of each. INDIAN BLESSING, even if she can put away INDYANNE, could very well be passed with ease by an off-pace runner just like VENTURA did in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. For many horizontal exotics players, INDIAN BLESSING will be a single. Finding a filly to beat her and having correct opinions in the other races could mean overlaid mutuals.

(10) BSHARPSONATA will play the role of VENTURA in this spot. She blazed the final ¼ of her stakes-winning prep across town in under :22 3/5 while stopping the clock in 1:07 4/5. Her finish is more impressive when you consider that the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park played more like dirt, usually favoring on-pace or pace-pressing runners. That effort off the 6 ½ month layoff will have her sharp enough to be close to the contending speed of INDIAN BLESSING and INDYANNE today. Noted author/handicapper JIM QUINN states that a winner of dual G.2 races is eligible to win a G.1. Considering this Todd Pletcher-trained filly is also G.1 placed, she is by no means outclassed when factoring in the race shape and that the Pro-ride main track still favors off-pace runners. Garrett Gomez gets another G.1 win.

(1) COUNTRY STAR may suffer from a COLONEL JOHN kind of trip today. Rafael Bejarano will need to extract this filly from the rail post at some point in the race. However, that may mean she needs to be used to get position while sapping her late energy or they risk being shuffled way back before finding room to launch her late bid. Bobby Frankel would dearly love to legitimize her top-class 2y.o. form with a G.1 win at 3. Like Eoin Harty prepared COLONEL JOHN, her long works suggest that COUNTRY STAR won’t be close enough to run down BSHARPSONATA even with a clean trip. Look for the daughter of Empire Maker to be finishing strong, setting her up for top form around two turns in the Santa Margarita series. I view her as a must-use second option because of her class and closer-favoring nature of the main track.

(6) INDYANNE has done nothing wrong in her brief career. Like INDIAN BLESSING, she has never been out of the exacta (7-5-2-0) and was unlucky to lose the G.3 Victory Ride at Saratoga when she “lunged break, steadied” to be off last for the first time in her career. Last out she was no match for older males, notably past-classer SIREN LURE who won the Sausalito S. at Golden Gate Fields. This will be the biggest field she’s ever faced. Either she gets lost on the lead or there will be too many pace players in an event that will test her class. It is because of her quality and speed that I can play against her and the classy INDIAN BLESSING on the win end today.


BOB BLACK JACK did what I expected in the G.1 Malibu Stakes. David Flores hustled him to the front, they set an easy/uncontested pace which allowed him to sap the late kick of INTO MISCHIEF on the turn and into the lane. Certainly, BBJ is the speed of the 3y.o. class in SoCal.
For those who didn't catch my analysis yesterday: "If this overachieving Cal-bred is on top after fractions like :22 1/5 and :44 2/5, he will be ultra-tough to run down. He proved with a 3rd to GEORGIE BOY in the San Felipe (G.2) and a 2nd to COLONEL JOHN in the Santa Anita Derby that he certainly belongs in this race. Color him the value running against the apparent bias and G.1 winners."With even a hint of pace pressure, I have no doubt that the runner-up would have posed for pictures instead. B. Wayne Hughes, please don’t retire INTO MISCHIEF!!! SoCal racing needs him against this group of graded stakes performers!

LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, POINT ENCOUNTER IS YOUR 2009 KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER!!! YOU READ IT HERE FIRST :)! Okay, I know it’s early, this was just a maiden win, and he‘s behind the seasoning curve to juvenile graded stakes winners…but I saw his papa prep in SoCal prior to his Kentucky Derby debacle as the favorite and dominance in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and this dude’s got "IT"! The talented colt trained by Carla Gaines bucked the track’s typical profile by leading from start to finish in his career debut at 6-5.

POINT ENCOUNTER showed a high cruising speed while cutting out fractions of :21.80, :44.54, :1:08.37 in hand en route to a sparkling final time of 1:14.81. His debut sent chills up my spine (or was that just the spine-tingling northern wind) and I couldn‘t help but share my enthusiasm with a “newbie” who’d put $5 to win on him. A son of POINT GIVEN, he’s out of a multiple SW winner and is a ¾ sibling to multiple SW PRIVATE WORLD (by THUNDER GULCH). For those who’ve forgotten about Carla Gaines, she trained brilliant but ill-fated multiple G.1 winner NASHOBA’S KEY. The conditioner knows how to handle a great horse. If POINT ENCOUNTER comes out of the race well and progresses like I believe he can, his connections have every right to dream a little about twin spires and roses in a few months.

He needed a driving finish to turn back UNIONIZE, a colt with a stakes-winning future for Pam & Marty Wygod. The homebred is out of top-class SILENT SIGHS, who the Wygods campaigned to a 4-for-6 record including a G.1 Santa Anita Oaks win en route to almost $450k. If my memory is correct, I believe that Cliff Sise trained the dam as well. UNIONIZE was very green down the lane and could have been much closer if not for ducking in from Flores’ right-handed stick. He’s a must-watch colt in his second career start.

Include show horse VALKYRIE MISSILE on watch lists after his solid debut effort at 22-1. INFERNAL finished best of the experienced runners and should be afforded another chance without those three in the race. He was climbing his first time on Pro-ride, training and running his one prior start on Cushion Track. He’s screaming for a route off two, one-paced 4th-place sprints.
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