Friday, August 31, 2007

Horse Racing News Update

Even the most casual racing fans have watched the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May. In just two minutes, the best 3-year-old thoroughbreds in the country run for the roses at Churchill Downs. On Labor Day, in just 20 seconds, the fastest 2-year-old American quarter horses compete in the most prestigious event in their racing industry, the $2 million All American Futurity.

Heartswideopen, a 2-year-old filly, was the fastest qualifier for trainer Carl Draper. She sizzled to victory in her 440-yard trial in 20.921 seconds, the fastest qualifying time in the history of the Grade 1 All American Futurity.

Two Sam Houston Race Park trainers, John Buchanan and Heath Taylor will saddle finalists in the All American. Buchanan trains Coronas Fast Dash for owner/breeder Bobby D. Cox, and Taylor conditions the California-bred Captain Courage.

Buchanan is attempting to win his second All American Futurity; in 1987, he won with Elans Special. The Texas-bred Coronas Fast Dash was the fourth-fastest qualifier and will be ridden by Juan Vazquez, who piloted DM Shicago to victory in 2004.

Taylor is hoping Captain Courage, owned by Burnett Ranches & Chad Hart, will have what it takes in the final.

"The horse is phenomenally well-bred," Taylor said. "He is a full-brother to Corona Cash, winner of the 1997 All American. We have intentionally kept him lightly raced. He's very sound — starting to mature and peak at the right time. For all intents and purposes, it's an unbelievably tough race; the fillies look like world beaters. He'll have to step up, but he's got the looks, conformation and breeding for it."

A total of 18 trials were run on Aug. 23, with the 10 fastest runners earning the chance to compete for $2 million.

"It's a weird race," Taylor said. "I've run at every quarter horse track in the world and have never seen a place where luck plays such an important part. Despite the skill and preparation, there are so many aspects you can't control."

This weekend at SHRP
Sam Houston Race Park will host an extended weekend of live quarter horse racing. Friday night's card will be highlighted by the running of the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2) with the four-horse entry trained by Heath Taylor: Toastin Dash, Conner Can, Automatically and St. Pat's First. Woodlands Stakes winner Ckh Valiant Ruler drew the enviable rail post position for Saturday's $35,000 Governors' Cup Marathon at 870 yards. Charlie Daniels will perform following Saturday's races.

There will be two matinee racing programs this weekend, with post time for Sunday and a special Labor Day race card at 1:30 p.m.

The 2007 American quarter horse meeting concludes the following weekend, with the $341,700 Sam Houston Futurity (G1) on Sept. 7 and the $114,400 Sam Houston Derby (G2) on Sept. 8.

Penn Derby offers $1 million
Philadelphia Park will present the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Monday. This is the first time in its 28th running that the purse has been increased to $1 million, and several of the nation's top 3-year-olds are nominated, including Cowtown Cat, Zanjero and Cable Boy.

Setback for Rags to Riches
Rags to Riches, the 3-year-old filly and upset winner of the Belmont Stakes, is undergoing further testing after running a fever on Monday. The Daily Racing Form reported that trainer Todd Pletcher canceled her workout earlier this week when she had a temperature of 102 degrees.

This is the second time this summer the filly has faced health issues. She was pulled up from a routine morning workout on July 22 and sent to the New Bolton Center for a thorough evaluation. Once cleared, she resumed training and was scheduled to make her next start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ruffian Handicap on Sept. 8 at Belmont Park.

Presque Isle Downs opens
A new thoroughbred racetrack — Presque Isle Downs — will open Saturday in Erie, Penn. Its meet will kick off with the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The six-furlong stakes attracted a field of 10, including Cantrel, Coy Coyote, Lottacosta and Tres Dream.

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