Injury knocks The Pamplemousse out of the Ky Derby

The Pamplemousse will not run in the Kentucky Derby on May 2 because of a tendon injury that was discovered on Saturday during a vet exam just hours before the Santa Anita Derby.

“He has a small lesion (on the tendon in his left front leg) and we’ll do the best thing by the horse,” part-owner Alex Solis II told

Solis II estimated that The Pamplemousse would be sidelined for more than six months and added that he is confident that the colt will race again.

The Pamplemousse won the San Rafael (gr. III) and Sham (gr. III) stakes this season at Santa Anita. He has won his last three starts while earning $209,280 in five starts. Trainer Julio Canani scratched him from the Santa Anita Derby after a pre-race veterinary exam found heat in his left front leg.

With Saturday’s scratch, betting was suspended on The Pamplemousse in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which is a pari-mutuel bet through Churchill Downs. Pools closed on Sunday with horseplayers making I Want Revenge the 9/2 favorite. Quality Road was the second choice at 6/1, then Friesan Fire, 8/1; Pioneerof the Nile, 9/1; and Dunkirk, 11/1.

Injuries are an unfortunate part of future book wagers because bettors lose without their horse ever getting to the gate.

Three important Kentucky Derby preps were run Saturday and below are videos of the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial and the Illinois Derby.

SA Derby: The Pamplemousse or Pioneerof the Nile?

Early KY Derby forecast: Toss The Pamplemousse and favor Pioneerof the Nile, Quality Road and Imperial Council

homeOf the 23 colts listed in this year’s second pari-mutuel Kentucky Derby future book pool, the two most likely to win at Churchill Downs on May 2 are Quality Road and Pioneerof the Nile.

Quality Road’s 4-1/4 length win in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28 earned him a 113 Beyer Speed Figure, which ties for the highest Beyer with I Want Revenge’s Gotham Stakes performance. Both of these horses sat within a length of the leader then drew off in the stretch, leading some handicappers to believe they ran the same type of race.

But I don’t agree.  

Quality Road stalked the pace in the one mile Fountain of Youth Stakes that was run in a quick 45-2/5 seconds for the half mile and 1:09-2/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. In the March 7 Gotham Stakes, I Want Revenge crawled in comparison.

The 1-1/16th mile Gotham fractions were 48-2/5 seconds for the half and 1:12-3/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. According to my pace numbers, which take track variant into consideration, Quality Road ran 10 lengths faster early than I Want Revenge.

Yes, the Fountain of Youth was run at one turn, while the Gotham Stakes was two turns, but that shouldn’t account for a 10-length pace difference.  

Of course, I Want Revenge finished faster than Quality Road, but he had an almost ideal scenario of an extremely slow early pace with no traffic to fight through. So, since I Want Revenge didn’t exert himself early, he had plenty of punch left for the stretch.

I Want Revenge, who is trained by Jeff Mullins, is obviously talented, but I can virtually guarantee you that this horse won’t experience such a soft pace again until The Belmont Stakes in June. Quality Road was much more impressive, but trainer James Jerkens needs to continue working to harness this contender’s brilliant speed or else he’ll die in the Churchill Downs stretch.

Pioneerof the Nile, trained by Bob Baffert, has never cracked 100 on the Beyer scale, but his stretch kick in the Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 stamped him as a strong Derby contender. He’s scheduled to run against a small field in the 1-1/16th mile San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday. 

The only knock on Pioneerof the Nile is that he also went slow early in the Lewis Stakes, but he is not a front runner. Rather, this colt sat far off the pace and overcame a troubled trip.

Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel betting is open through Sunday afternoon when the pools close and odds are locked in. This is the second of three Derby pools and Churchill Downs is also offering both Derby exacta betting and Kentucky Oaks wagering this weekend.  

One of this year’s overly-hyped colts who does not look like a strong Derby horse to me is The Pamplemousse. This Julio Canani trainee won 1-1/8 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 28, but was loose on the lead and went six lengths slower than Quality Road through the first six furlongs. The Pamplemousse, who earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, set an OK pace considering the Sham is two turns, but his finishing time showed that he is not yet Derby material. This horse will need to run much better next time to get my money on Derby Day.

Lastly, Imperial Council moved from eighth place to second in the Gotham Stakes, but didn’t gain any ground on I Want Revenge. However, trainer Shug McGaughey has this colt going in the right direction and his Gotham effort shows that Imperial Council has the ability to run well at the Triple Crown distances.

It is true that any of these colts could get injured at any time and be pulled from the Derby. So getting decent odds to cover the risk is essential.

Anything over 10-to-1 on #17 Pioneerof the Nile seems fair. While I would need 15/1 on both #13 Imperial Council and #18 Quality Road for a bet.

As for The Pamplemousse, throw him out until he shows that he can win while leading on a fast pace that is combined with a strong finishing kick.

TV’s “Jockeys” is a winning ride. But why muzzle Trevor?

The TV show  “Jockeys” is an exciting behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to ride top Thoroughbreds on the lucrative and ultra-competitive Southern California racing circuit.

I watched back-to-back half-hour episodes on Animal Planet Feb. 27 where the story focused on jockeys Joe Talamo, Brendon Meier, Alex Solis and Solis’ son, bloodstock agent Alex Solis II.

Being that Talamo, Meier and Solis II are all less than 24 years old, the program was obviously slanted toward youth, at least in these episodes. The first show entitled “May the Horse Be With You” opened with the narrator telling us that Talamo, who won the 2007 Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice, was losing lots of races lately.

“I’m on a cold streak and you always want to win,” said the 19-year-old Louisiana native. “I really want to win one today.”

Reckless riding

Talamo was then shown, in three consecutive races, losing control of his horses as they swerved into the path of other runners. To display how damaging a horse fall can be, the producers showed footage of jockey Mike Smith getting tossed from a horse in 1998. Smith, who almost died from the accident, was in a body cast for a month, he said.

The jockeys on the program all seem to get along well, but they don’t take riding mistakes lightly. Bad rides can easily lead to crippling injuries or death. 

After Talamo’s reckless incidents, one jockey put a white message board above Talamo’s locker, drew a racing oval and added a zig-zagged line throughout the oval. Above the drawing read: “Talamo’s path to the winner’s circle.”  And another sign written by a rival above Talamo’s locker read, “What goes around comes around.”

Talamo summoned to stewards

When a horse impedes another, the jockey goes before three stewards who serve as the judge and jury for riders. They review the race replays and the rider explains what happened. If the stewards think the jockey was at fault, they are suspended for a few days and can’t make any money.

Jockeys are paid 10 percent of the owners share of the purse for winning a race, and 5 percent for second and third. Purses generally start at about $15,000 in Southern California for maiden claiming races and dramatically increase to millions of dollars for stakes races. The winning owner gets 60 percent of the purse, second place is 20 percent and third pays 10 percent.

So, riders make $900 for winning  a race with a $15,000 purse and $60,000 if they win a $1 million stakes. Not bad for a couple of minutes work, but they spend hours every morning exercising horses and cultivating trainer relationships. Also, jockey booking agents take 20-25 percent of the rider’s pay.

Talamo met with the stewards and they watched his races together. The panel, who told Talamo they have no tolerance for careless riding, expected quicker reactions from Talamo when his horses were swerving during his races. 

However, Talamo was riding inexperienced and sometimes unpredictable 2-year-old horses, so the stewards didn’t penalize him. “I think it’s fair to say that he was very close to suspension,” said steward Scott Cheney. “He could have acted a little bit faster.”

Smith takes Talamo under his wing

Viewers learn that these jockeys try to beat each other every day, but after the races they go out to dinner together, workout together and socialize with each other. During one scene, a table full of jockeys — at least the ones older than 21 — were sipping wine during dinner at an upscale restaurant. (And I thought all these guys drank was water and ate nothing more than a  peanut or two a day.)

The conversation turned to how young jockeys are getting mounts on good horses today, whereas 10 or 20 years ago they would have to pay their dues first.

“It takes a long time to get good,” said Mike Smith, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby aboard Giacomo. “You ain’t that good Joe. You aren’t going to get that good until you are in your 30’s” 

In another scene, Smith had a party at his house and the wine glasses were full again. Gary Stevens attended and Talamo was amazed that he’d watched Stevens in the movie “Seabiscuit” just three years ago, and now he was hanging out at parties with him.

When Smith started riding, the veterans helped him out. So, Smith now advises Talamo and works out with him. They were shown jogging on the Santa Anita track. Afterward, he told Talamo to work hard and let trainers and owners know that he wants opportunities to ride good horses. But when given the the chance, he better make the most of it, Smith added.

“One good horse will make you famous,” Smith told Talamo.

Alex Solis II, 23, bloodstock agent

At the beginning of the second half hour, entitled “Hands Down,” viewers are introduced to Alex Solis II, a 23-year-old bloodstock agent. Solis II, who was involved with the aquisition of Sham Stakes winner The Pamplemousse, purchases horses and solicits investors to buy shares in his runners.

If a bloodstock agent makes a good buy and the runner wins a stakes race, then the horse could be worth millions of dollars as a breeder. But pick the wrong horse, and investors can lose lots of money.

Apprentice can’t seem to get started

Minutes into the second half hour, viewers also meet Brandon Meier — an apprentice jockey who won 58 races in three months at Arlington Park. Meier, 20, is the son of jockey Randy Meier, who is the all-time leading rider at Sportsman’s Park and Hawthorne. But Brandon is having trouble getting mounts at Santa Anita.

The stewards keep a close eye on new riders like Meier and many trainers won’t use inexperienced jockeys, even though they get a 5-pound weight break.

“I use apprentices,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “But if you have a high profile horse, you want a veteran rider.”

In a dramatic moment, Meier finally got a mount that had a strong chance to win. His horse looked so good that, while jockey Jon Court was sitting around in the jockey’s room, he bet Aaron Gryder a Gatorade that Meier’s horse would defeat the one Talamo was riding.

Meier, who was on One Time at Band Camp, had the lead in the stretch, but Return of the King with Talamo came rolling home in the stretch to nail him by a nose.

To make matters worse, Meier drifted out in the lane, so he was summoned to the stewards office the next day for an explanation. Luckily, Meier didn’t get suspended.

Alex Solis rides for son

One of Solis II’s horses, Lavender Sky, was ready to run and his father Alex Solis was looking forward to riding this classy animal, who trainer Dan Hendricks estimated to be worth at least $500,000.

“Normally your kids want to do great for you,” said jockey Solis, who is also the regular rider for The Pamplemousse. “I want to do great for him.”

But Solis couldn’t get Lavender Sky to run and she finished dead last.

“Too many good jockeys”

In a couple of scenes, Meier’s girlfriend was pressuring him to come back to Arlington Park. Meier told her that if business didn’t pick up at Santa Anita then he’d think about making a move.

Journeyman jockeys either catch on or move on. And for Meier, business didn’t pick up, so he decided that after three weeks he’d had enough. He  packed up his truck, said his goodbyes, and was off to the Churchill Downs/Keeneland circuit where he had some contacts.

“There are not enough horses and too many good jockeys here,” Meier said.

Show does Trevor no justice

To horseplayers at simulcast centers watching races on TV screens, every horse looks like every other horse and the jockeys all look the same too. What a show like “Jockeys” does, is to put a human face on the game while shining a light on various racing interactions and subtleties.

But one thing I do not like about this show are the ridiculous race calls by track announcer Trevor Denman, which sound like they’re straight from an outdated video game. Denman has become one of America’s all-time great race callers because of the excitment and drama he adds that almost nobody can match. But on “Jockeys” he speaks in a monotone with lots of dead air while using riders names instead of horses names.

The show does him no justice.

Otherwise, for fans of horse racing and competitive sports, “Jockeys” is a winning ride.

“Jockeys” airs at 9 p.m Pacific Time Friday on Animal Planet. On March 6, the first half-hour “Legend of the Fallen” is about retired jockeys risking it all in one last comeback race. Also, Chantal Sutherland faces a difficult decision. The second half hour “Go Big or Go Home” sees 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin arriving at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup. 

Two 3-yo’s that stamped their Kentucky Derby tickets Saturday. First, The Pamplemousse scintillates at SA

Thursday, Santa Anita Race 3 — 2:03 pm post time

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden King conquers So. Cal. maiden races

Maiden claiming $32,000, 6-1/2 furlongs, 3-year-olds

Possible overlays                         Morning line

#1 Mr Holmes                                       5/2
#2 Marcade                                         9/2
#3 Zephaniah                                      12/1
#9 Mustang Aleyna                             12/1

Breaking from the rail, #1 Mr. Holmes looks strong today. On Dec. 14, this colt ran a credible fourth behind The Pamplemousse, who won the San Rafael Stakes impressively on Jan. 17. In Mr. Holmes’ last on Jan. 1, it seems like jockey Michael Baze was not trying too hard, as he merely breezed Mr. Holmes throughout the length of the stretch. Finally, trainer Jeff Mullins won with 10 of his last 43, producing $1.72 for every $1 bet, when going from a route to a sprint.

Trainer John Sadler appears to have #2 Marcade ready to run. Jockey Mike Smith rides many of owner Jerome Moss’ first time starters, but he hasn’t had much success with them.

Jerry Hollendorfer claimed #3 Zephaniah for $40,000 from trainer Ed Moger on Aug. 21, then Moger claimed him right back on Sept. 25 for the same price.  On Oct. 17, Zephaniah raced well enough to beat a weak field at this level, so he’s also a threat today.

Finally, #9 Mustang Aleyna could surprise at a big price as this gelding is coming off a long layoff and could be a live longshot. Although, his workouts are slow.

I will bet $300 on #1 Mr. Holmes at 2/1 or more, and $200 on #2 Marcade between 10/1 to 19/1. Also, I’ll take $100 on both #3 Zephaniah and #9 Mustang Aleyna at odds of 5/1 and up.

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