Racing! Count Fleet comes in at No. 4 in Triple Crown ratings

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we start our reporting from Belmont Park.

But before we get to this year’s Triple Crown run let’s continue our countdown of the all-time Triple Crown rankings put together by our blue-ribbon panel of experts. Let’s see No. 4.

4. Count Fleet (1943) 97 points

Count Fleet was the sixth winner of the Triple Crown and was the only horse to never race again after winning the Belmont Stakes. Panelist Tim Layden summed up Count Fleet’s accomplishment this way: “He won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont by a combined 36 lengths despite injuring himself in the first two races and squeezing in a victory in the Withers between the Preakness and Belmont. A remarkably durable horse.” Another voter, Tim Wilkin put it this way: “We never knew how good he could have been.” Panelist Alicia Wincze Hughes sees it this way: “Count Fleet winning a stakes in between the Preakness and the Belmont is something we won’t see again in our lifetime.”

Two panelists thought he was the second-best Triple Crown winner of all time. Two had him third, two had him fourth, two had him fifth, two had him sixth and one panelist didn’t have as high an opinion of him placing him eighth.

The story could have been very different if John Hertz had sold him, but instead jockey Johnny Longden persuaded him to keep the colt. He proved worth keeping. Count Fleet won 10 of 15 races as a 2-year-old although he lost his first two starts. He finished the year by winning the Walden Stakes at Pimlico by, depending on who you believe, 20 to 30 lengths. He was clearly going to be the Kentucky Derby favorite if he continued to move forward.

His 3-year-old year, 1943, was run under a lot of travel restrictions because of World War II, so shipping wasn’t as easy as the past. The Florida racing circuit was shut down for part of the war, using the facilities as storage depots or training areas. Count Fleet’s first race was an allowance at Aqueduct, which he won by 3 ½ lengths. The colt was constantly getting injured either in training or races. In this race, he had a cut on his left foreleg, but he recovered quickly and came back four days later to win the Wood Memorial by 3 ½ lengths.

During the Wood he suffered a three-inch gash on his hoof. Part of the hoof was removed and trainer Don Cameron packed the area with antibiotics and they were able to avoid an infection. Longden was said to have applied ice to the wound on the train ride from New York to Kentucky for the Derby. Today, Count Fleet would have been taken off the Derby trail. But, a lot has changed since then, mostly in for what traits horses are bred. Back then, being tough and durable was more important than flash and speed.

In the Derby, Count Fleet took the lead on the backstretch and had little trouble winning by three lengths. He again injured himself, but it wasn’t considered serious. A week later, he won the Preakness by eight lengths in a four-horse field.

He then snuck a five-length win in the Withers Stakes in between the Preakness and Belmont.

Panelist Jon White describes his dominance in the Belmont Stakes.

“How great was Count Fleet? He won the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths with Longden in the saddle. It was the biggest margin of victory in the Belmont until Secretariat came along and won by an astounding 31 lengths in 1973. Count Fleet won the Belmont ‘by a pole,’ as they say, even though he rapped his right front ankle during the race. It turned out to be the end of his racing career. Longden once told me that there was no doubt that the best horse he ever rode was Count Fleet. And that’s saying a lot when you consider Longden rode 6,032 winners during his extraordinary career as jockey.”

They tried to rehabilitate his injuries after the Belmont but he also came down with a problem with his right front leg. It was decided that it would be too rigorous and too risky to try and bring him back to the track and he was retired.

He had a successful run as a stallion, although his best long-term progeny appear on the broodmare side. He lived longer than any other Kentucky Derby winner and died in 1973 at 33.

The Times Triple Crown panel is composed of horse racing experts, journalists and racing secretaries. It members are Rick Hammerle, racing secretary at Santa Anita; Steve Haskin, racing author and columnist the BloodHorse; David Jerkens, racing secretary at Del Mar; Tim Layden, turf writer at Sports Illustrated; Tom Pedulla, lead writer for America’s Best Racing; Jay Privman, national correspondent for the Daly Racing Form; Jeff Siegel, veteran horseman and lead commentator at; Childs Walker, turf writer at the Baltimore Sun; Alicia Wincze Hughes, racing editor at the BloodHorse; Jon White, racing historian and morning-line maker at Santa Anita and Tim Wilkin, turf writer at the Albany Times Union.

Vote totals were 14 points for first place, 12 for second, 10 for third, and then one point less in descending order.

6. War Admiral (read about him here)

8. American Pharoah (read about him here)

9. Gallant Fox (read about him here)

12. Sir Barton (read about him here)

A couple of Belmont reads

In case you missed it, here’s the Times story on the Belmont draw. (Just click here.)

Missed Justify’s arrival at Belmont? Do you think the Triple Crown has lost some sparkle since American Pharoah won it three years ago? We tackle both topics and what the Triple Crown means today. (Just click here.)

Who goofed, I’ve got to know?

In one of the Triple Crown previews I mentioned that Secretariat raced on the West Coast. Nope. He never did.

Now, a lot of you emailed to say how much you are enjoying the Triple Crown countdown. Well, I never saw those messages until the other day. If you hit reply on the newsletter, it goes to an unmonitored mailbox and I rarely see unless some kind soul with access goes in there and forwards them to me. We created that email to try and figure out a way to keep fewer newsletters from going to your spam basket. It’s a work in progress.

So, if you want to reach me, try Time doesn’t allow me to answer every message, but I do read every one.

Updates from Belmont

All the horses are at Belmont Park by now. We can’t be everywhere, so with the help of the NYRA Press Office here’s a quick spin around what’s going on at the backstretch.

--Trainer Bill Mott is starting to crystalize a plan for Hofburg in his bid to beat Justify. “You'd like to be within two, three lengths at the quarter-pole,” Mott said. “I've been observing a lot of these marathons on dirt, and I don't think you want to be a dozen lengths off the lead turning for home.”

Mott also discussed the ability of a horse to get the 1 ½ miles. “You've got to have a horse that really wants to do that, genetically capable of doing it,” Mott said. “That's probably one of the main ingredients. Horses are made a little different, move a little differently, and some have the capacity to do it. Training is part of it, but rather I'd rather have a horse that is capable of doing that rather than one that is challenging as a miler trying to stretch it out.”

--Bravazo underwent a routine gallop on Wednesday. “The trip was easy and he had a good day on the track,” said trainer Wayne Lukas. “He just galloped and did very well. He won't do anything of any consequence between now and the race. He's fit. Now I just need to keep him happy the rest of the way.”

--Free Drop Billy worked out at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning and then took the same flight as Justify to get to the Belmont. “It's fun and exciting to be a part of something that could be historic, like when we ran third the year Pharoah won,” trainer Dale Romans said. “Just being there and a racing fan, I was glad to be a participant and feel the electricity and energy from all the people and the fans that day. It makes the whole day a little bit more special.”

--Blended Citizen’s connections don’t seem too concerned with the No. 10 hole at the start. “Being outside helps, but it's a long race so you have plenty of time,” assistant trainer Leandro Mora said about the Doug O’Neill trained colt. “It really doesn't matter much. It's not like the Kentucky Derby where everybody is fighting for position. We're happy. First of all, it's a 10-horse field, and he's going to be the last one to load. Usually there's less stress and pressure, and now Justify is on the inside, he got the number that nobody wanted to have. So, for us it's good.”

Santa Anita preview

If you like the downhill turf course, then Thursday at Santa Anita is for you. Half of the eight races are over the only race course in the U.S. that takes a right turn, now just a little right turn, but one nonetheless. Racing secretary Rick Hammerle, and a member of our blue-ribbon Triple Crown panel, sometimes likes the symmetry of even and odd races but broke that on Thursday by making the turf races the first, third, sixth and eighth.

We’re guessing the feature might be the first, which is for Cal-bred fillies and mares 3 and up. It carries a $61,000 purse with eight runners.

The field sizes, in order: 8, 5, 6, 9, 7, 8, 6, 10 (2 also eligibles).

Golden Gate weekend preview

Now a look at the best racing coming up at Golden Gate. Race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman is our host to previews and other musings. So, take it away Matt.

“Only four more racing days of the winter/spring meet. Time has flown by and it has been a real pleasure to call my first Golden Gate Fields meet.

“A marathon 12-race card has been assembled for live racing on Belmont Stakes Day. The feature races are the two divisions of the Albany Stakes, a five furlong turf dash for 3-year-olds and upward. Sixteen sprinters were entered so the field was split. The first race on Saturday is at a special, early first post of 12:15 p.m. There is an average of 8.7 horses a race, with four fields with more than 10 horses and five turf events. Entries are expected to be solid for closing day Sunday as well.

“The first division of the Albany, which goes as the seventh, features My Friend Emma, who ran a gallant second in the Grade 3 All American Stakes two weeks ago. The son of Tannersmyman last won a stake at Santa Rosa in the Jess Jackson Owners Handicap at five furlongs on the lawn (the same distance and surface as this race.) Other main contenders include Grade 3 placed gelding Many Roses and Southern California shippers Triston’s Trilogy and Life of Illusion.

“The second division of the Albany Stakes is the ninth race. Leading the list of local entrants is defending Albany Stakes champion Krsto Skye, who was victorious at 62-1 last year. His stablemate, Lost in the Fog stakes winner Tribal Storm, is also entered and comes into this race fresh off a sharp allowance win against his aforementioned barn mate. Southern California entrants in include Taman Guard from the Richard Mandella stable and Eddie Haskell, first off the claim for trainer Mark Glatt. Portando, who has won a pair of allowance races at Golden Gate, trains at Santa Anita with Michael McCarthy and is also entered to run in the Albany.

“Sunday afternoon, closing day, has 11 or 12 races, according to David Duggan, general manager and vice president of Golden Gate. The $0.20 golden pick six will have a guaranteed payout along with the late pick 5, which will have a guaranteed pool of $50,000. Heading into Thursday’s card, the golden pick six jackpot pool sits at $31,526.

“Thank you to all of the dedicated horseplayers, horsemen, owners, front-side personnel and fans for your participation and support of Golden Gate Fields. Our final week of racing this winter/spring meet is sure to be an exciting one, with good races and good payouts. Our summer meet begins Aug. 23 and runs through Sept. 30. See you there.”

(Editor’s note: Many thanks to Matt’s excellent previews in the newsletter. We have some Northern California readers and we’re glad we could offer you—and simulcast players—just a little extra to help you enjoy racing.)

Bob Ike SA pick of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 5 Reign On (5-2)

Second-betting choice is a bit of an in-and-outer but makes his first start off the Peter Miller claim and gets a big rider switch to Kent Desormeaux. He should be close to a soft pace and beat better over the downhill layout one race back, so look for a top try in this spot.

Sunday’s result: Dragon Flower (5-2) did not get her anticipated easy trip on the front end and faded late to finish fourth.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Final thought

Still looking to jump the circulation of this newsletter. Can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, then you’re probably not reading this. Either way, send to a friend and just have them click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more.

Any thoughts, drop me an email at my new address or feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, June 7.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 31st day of a 42-day meet.


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $61,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Queen Bee to YouKent Desormeaux123Michael Pender7-2
2Li'l GrazenStewart Elliott123Eddie Truman12-1
3Easy SongTyler Baze123Carla Gaines4-1
4All of a SuddenJoseph Talamo123Philip D'Amato5-2
5Cleverly BeverlyGeovanni Franco125J. Eric Kruljac8-116,000
6ForthenineteenBrayan Pena123Genaro Vallejo5-116,000
7Allie's LoveHeriberto Figueroa111Genaro Vallejo6-1
8OperandiMario Gutierrez118Doug F. O'Neill10-1


1 Mile. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1RoomsMario Gutierrez125Peter Eurton2-120,000
2Resky BusinessAsa Espinoza116Gus Headley3-120,000
3Tiki Bar LogicJoseph Talamo123Michael Machowsky5-220,000
4Gio's LadyKyle Frey123Doug F. O'Neill9-220,000
5BackintheacademyTiago Pereira123Peter Miller7-220,000


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $20,000-$18,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Yes Yes YesStewart Elliott121Peter Miller5-118,000
2Los GatosTiago Pereira123William Spawr6-120,000
3Roaring RuleBrayan Pena123Paul G. Aguirre10-120,000
4El TovarMartin Pedroza123David Jacobson8-520,000
5Reign On Kent Desormeaux121Peter Miller5-218,000
6General IkeTyler Conner123Jerry Hollendorfer7-220,000


5 Furlongs. Purse: $59,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Lesley's SongTyler Conner122Jerry Hollendorfer5-1
2Kalypso NightStewart Elliott122Neil French15-1
3Factor of TwoMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill8-5
4Point ReceivedTiago Pereira122Ruben Gomez30-1
5ReflectKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux4-1
6KatieleighDrayden Van Dyke122Luis Mendez5-1
7Giza GoddessGeovanni Franco122John A. Shirreffs12-1
8Queen of the TrackRafael Bejarano122Jeff Bonde8-1
9Zo Lo's LovJoseph Talamo122Gary Sherlock8-1


1 Mile. Purse: $59,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Paint Me LuckyJoseph Talamo120Bob Baffert10-1
2Trojan SpiritDrayden Van Dyke125Patrick Gallagher5-1
3EvisceratorKent Desormeaux120Richard Baltas5-1
4JuliusMartin Garcia120Bob Baffert5-2
5SenditlikechillyHeriberto Figueroa113George Papaprodromou15-1
6Holly BlameBrice Blanc120Paulo H. Lobo4-1
7Canadian GameMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill2-1


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Hitters ParkStewart Elliott125Adam Kitchingman4-135,000
2Royal Opera House Israel Ocampo125Alfredo Marquez10-135,000
3Monterey ShaleTyler Baze125Mark Glatt15-135,000
4Cats BlameJoseph Talamo125Matthew Chew3-135,000
5Uber StarAsa Espinoza118William E. Morey6-135,000
6Kona DreamsTiago Pereira125William Spawr5-235,000
7Will TellEdwin Maldonado125Vladimir Cerin6-135,000
8Elwood JRafael Bejarano125Eddie Truman8-135,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $61,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $75,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Best of MeMartin Pedroza122Peter Miller6-1
2Kimberlea KDrayden Van Dyke124Jerry Hollendorfer6-1
3Highland LassTyler Baze122John W. Sadler5-1
4Proud HeroineRafael Bejarano122Tim Yakteen8-1
5Newport BreezeJoseph Talamo122Peter Eurton8-1
6Amada RafaelaMartin Garcia122Bob Baffert3-5


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Take a LeapFranklin Ceballos120Jeff Mullins10-140,000
2BedfordStewart Elliott120Clifford W. Sise, Jr.12-140,000
3ArrowsphereTyler Conner125Peter Eurton4-140,000
4Majestic AuthorityMartin Pedroza120Jack Carava6-140,000
5CyrielleKent Desormeaux120Peter Miller7-240,000
6Beauty DivineHeriberto Figueroa118Steven Miyadi4-140,000
7Spectacular MoveJoseph Talamo120Simon Callaghan12-140,000
8Sweet CongratsAsa Espinoza113Dan Blacker15-140,000
9Weather MarketTyler Baze125Carla Gaines5-140,000
10It's AlexusKyle Frey120Doug F. O'Neill12-140,000
Also Eligible
11Grecian FortOctavio Vergara, Jr.120Antonio Garcia50-140,000
12Red BomberGeovanni Franco120Richard Baltas10-140,000