Horse racing newsletter: Jon White looks to the Preakness

Dynamic Duo makes a run from the back on the final stretch at Del Mar Race Track.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act takes a step closer to reality.

First off, this will the only newsletter this week, so savor it as you would a fine wine. We’ll be back next Friday in advance of Saturday’s opening of the Fall meeting at Santa Anita. Still, even though no daytime racing, we needed to update you on the Triple Crown trail and what is happening at the nighttime races. So, we’ll get to that in a second.

The big news of the week is that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will almost certainly pass the Congress in the next month and then we’ll see if it can be successfully executed. On Wednesday, it cleared a committee in the House and majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced it in the Senate. The two bills will soon mirror each other and then pass with bipartisan approval.

Most of you know the big details, which includes the goals of medication and safety reform and uniformity through the country. Other safety measures will also be on the table. What hasn’t been widely discussed is how it will happen.

McConnell’s office supplied a summary of how things would work. The part we wanted to look at is Section 3. Here is the summary.


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Section 3: Recognition of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority

“--This section recognizes a private, independent, self-regulatory entity for the purposes of developing and implementing the horseracing medication control and anti-doping program and the racetrack safety program.

“--The Board of Directors will be comprised of 9 members – 5 independent members and 4 industry members. The Chair of the Board must be an independent member. All members will be subject to conflict of interest parameters.

“--The Board will be in charge of developing a set of bylaws, which will need to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission (“Commission”).

“--There will be two standing committees that will be established at the outset of the development of the authority – the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee and the Racetrack Safety Standing Committee. Each standing committee will be made up of seven members – a majority of which will be independent members. The standing committees will provide advice and guidance to the board on the development of rules and regulations under the Authority’s jurisdiction.


“--The authority will be authorized to take out loans to meet its initial funding needs. Subsequently, the authority will be funded by the broader industry under the Authority’s jurisdiction.”

So, after this bill passes, all the attention will be on who the members will be, who the staff will be, and how much each state is going to have to pay into this group. Lots more of this to play out. If you want to read the entire senate bill, just click here.

Now, on to the good stuff.

Jon White’s Preakness rankings

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Triple Crown trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here we look toward the final stop on the Triple Crown trail, with our Preakness Stakes rankings, brought courtesy of

“One year before future trainer Bob Baffert was born, renowned horseman Ben Jones sent out Hill Gail to win the 1952 Kentucky Derby. Hill Gail became Jones’ record sixth winner of the Run for the Roses.

“Year after year, decade after decade, Jones stood alone with his feat of six Kentucky Derby victories by a trainer. But Jones no longer is the sole holder of this record.

“Last Saturday, Authentic became Baffert’s sixth Kentucky Derby winner.

“And if not for Grindstone’s nose, Baffert would own the record outright with seven.

“The first horse that Baffert ever ran in the Kentucky Derby was Cavonnier in 1996. Cavonnier and jockey Chris McCarron lost by the narrowest of margins to Grindstone and Jerry Bailey. ‘It was tough to get beat like that because I thought that I might never get another chance to win a Kentucky Derby,’ Baffert recalled years later.

“Not long after Cavonnier lost the Kentucky Derby by such a slim margin, William T. Young (Overbrook Farm), owner of Grindstone, reached out to Baffert to console him. Young sent Baffert a note that said it was understandable for the trainer to be disappointed that Cavonnier lost by only a nose, but that Baffert should be proud of the race his horse had run.

“Of course, Baffert’s fear that he might never run another horse in the Kentucky Derby proved unfounded. Baffert not only returned to the Kentucky Derby the very next year, he won it with Silver Charm. That was followed by Baffert’s victories with Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015, Justify in 2018 and now Authentic in 2020.

“American Pharoah and Justify did not just win the Kentucky Derby, they went on to win the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to sweep the Triple Crown.

“Thanks to Authentic’s Kentucky Derby victory, Baffert added yet another jewel to his record total of 16 wins in Triple Crown races by a trainer. These are the trainers who have won seven or more Triple Crown races:

“16 Bob Baffert

“14 D. Wayne Lukas

“13 “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons

“11 James Rowe

“11 R. Wyndam Walden

“9 Max Hirsch

“9 Ben Jones

“8 Woody Stephens

“7 Sam Hildreth

“7 Jimmy Jones

“Baffert has been widely praised for the training job he did to win the $3 million, 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby with Authentic. Many questioned whether Authentic had the stamina to succeed at 1 1/4 miles. The skepticism was fueled in large measure by Authentic’s performances in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby on June 6 and 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 18.

“Authentic finished second in the Santa Anita Derby. Honor A.P. swept past him in upper stretch that day while on his way to a 2 3/4-length win. In the Haskell, Authentic turned a 2 1/2-length lead with a furlong to go into only a nose victory.

“After the Haskell, Authentic returned to Del Mar and was put through a demanding training regimen. Authentic had six workouts at the seaside venue. A one-mile drill in a sparkling 1:38.60 on Aug. 25 suggested that Authentic might prove a very tough customer in the Kentucky Derby. A one-mile workout was something the late, great trainer Charlie Whittingham often would ask a horse to do when cranking them up for the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap or 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup.

“Ridden by John Velazquez, Authentic began his Kentucky Derby journey from the outside post in a field of 15. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt did not break sharply, then immediately was bumped by Tiz the Law in the first few strides.

“Without being hustled by Velazquez, Authentic steadily passed rivals early to reach the front just before crossing the finish line the first time. He completed the opening quarter-mile in a brisk :22.92. Authentic then led the pack through fractions of :46.41 for the half and 1:10.23 for the first six furlongs.

“Tiz the Law, backed down to 7-10 favoritism, lurked in fourth early while being patiently handled by jockey Manny Franco. On the far turn, Tiz the Law ranged up to collar Authentic turning into the stretch.

“At the top of the lane, Authentic and Tiz the Law were virtually on even terms. Considering Tiz the Law had the momentum at that point, no doubt many, if not most, people were expecting Tiz the Law to draw away in the stretch, just as he had done in each of his four previous 2020 starts. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Authentic opened a one-length lead at the eighth pole, then held Tiz the Law at bay the rest of the way home.

“Authentic prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 8-1. His final time of 2:00.61 was very good, though the track seemingly was lightning fast. It was the seventh-fastest Kentucky Derby in history.

“Though Tiz the Law lost, he gave it a good try to finish clear of the rest. Mr. Big News, a 46-1 longshot, came on from 10th to finish third, two lengths behind Tiz the Law.

“Honor A.P., the 7-1 second choice in the wagering, finished fourth. All things considered, Honor A.P. did well to do that. He broke half a step slow, then immediately got slammed by Ny Traffic. This put Honor A.P. far back early. He was dead last with four furlongs left to run. Additionally, he had an extremely wide trip. In Honor A.P.’s previous four races at one mile or longer, the farthest he had been behind early was 2 1/2 lengths. At one point during the Kentucky Derby, he was 13 1/4 lengths off the pace.

“For Velazquez, this was his third Kentucky Derby victory. All three of his wins came aboard a horse whose name begins with the letter A -- Animal Kingdom in 2011, Always Dreaming in 2017 and now Authentic in 2020. Velazquez is three for three in the Kentucky Derby when riding a horse whose name starts with the letter A, but 0 for 19 on all others.

“It turned out that Velazquez briefly had quite a wild ride on Authentic in the winner’s circle. When the attempt was made to place the garland of roses on Authentic, ‘it just scared the hell out of him,’ Baffert said to Mike Willman on the radio program ‘Thoroughbred Los Angeles’ the next morning. Baffert fell to the ground when trying to get out of Authentic’s way.

“Baffert came through the winner’s circle ruckus unscathed. However, Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s longtime assistant, was injured in a paddock incident before the race. Thousand Words, who can be ‘tricky to saddle,’ according to Baffert, ‘got mad’ when the saddling process was taking longer than the colt was willing to tolerate. The $1 million yearling reared, lost his balance, fell on his side and was automatically scratched as a precaution. When Thousand Words acted up, Barnes got knocked down to the ground and was said to have broken his wrist. Barnes had to watch the Kentucky Derby on the phone while on his way to a local hospital. As for Thousand Words, he emerged from the incident OK, according to Baffert.

“Even though Authentic ran fast enough to win this year’s Kentucky Derby, his individual time for every quarter-mile was slower than the preceding one. That’s the opposite of what the legendary Secretariat did when he rallied from last to win the 1973 Kentucky Derby going away by 2 1/2 lengths. Back when races were timed only in fifths, Secretariat’s final time of 1:59 1/2 set a track record that still stands.

“Why did Tiz the Law get beat? Perhaps Authentic simply is a better horse. Or maybe it was the track. Tiz the Law now is zero for two on the main track at Churchill Downs and six for six on other surfaces. Or perhaps Tiz the Law had run such a big race in the Travers that it took a toll. Or was Tiz the Law’s loss due to running back in four weeks after the Travers? He’d had more time between his previous starts. Maybe it was a combination of all those things.

“In any case, for whatever reason or reasons, Tiz the Law was not able to get the job done in the second leg of this year’s coronavirus-related revamped Triple Crown after winning the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths on June 20. This means there will be no Triple Crown on the line when the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes is run at Pimlico Race Course on Oct. 3.

“Baffert said he intends to run both Authentic and Thousand Words in the Preakness. I have put Authentic atop my Preakness rankings, not only because of his victory in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, but also because the shorter 1 3/16-mile distance of the Preakness figures to help his cause.

“Tiz the Law’s Preakness status seems to be up in the air. There are conflicting signals from the Tiz the Law camp. If he does not run in the Preakness, he will make his next start in the $7 million, 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 7.

“I am going to include him in my Preakness rankings until such time that it is announced that Tiz the Law definitely is not running. I have him ranked No. 2.

“Here are this week’s rankings for the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Authentic (4)

2. Tiz the Law (1)

3. Art Collector (NR)

4. Shirl’s Speight (NR)

5. Thousand Words (5)

6. Pneumatic (NR)

7. Mystic Guide (NR)

8. King Guillermo (NR)

9. Finnick the Fierce (12)

10. Happy Saver (NR)

NOTE: Last week’s Kentucky Derby rankings in parentheses”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only track in California racing at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos Race Course is open this weekend for outdoor daytime simulcasting. Locations include the Vessels Club patio and terrace levels, Mezzanine terrace and grandstand apron. There is free general parking and admission this weekend. Nighttime live racing will continue to be held with no spectators and only essential personnel allowed inside the facility.

“Friday’s card will be called by track announcer Michael Wrona, back in Orange County after being on the mic for the first few days of the popular Kentucky Downs thoroughbred meet. Wrona will be calling a seven-race card highlighted by the return of Marco Hernandez’s Tres A Jess, who posted an impressive victory in the $51,000 John Deere Los Alamitos Juvenile Final on Aug. 15. Tres A Jess is the 7-5 favorite in the seventh race, a $12,600 allowance for 2-year-olds at 330 yards. First post is 6 p.m.

Jonathan Roman will ride for trainer Roman Figueroa. Tres A Jess got stronger as the race got longer in the John Deere, eventually winning the 350-yard race by 1 1/4 lengths. The Arizona-bred colt by One Sweet Jess has done well in all three of his career starts. He was third to Apollitical Patty in the John Deere trials and second by a nose to the well-regarded Racing N Lace in his career debut on July 19.

“On Saturday night, sophomore star Tell Cartel and 2019 graded futurity winners Runforyourlife and Chayito Cartel are among the 19 sophomores in the trials to the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Derby. Also running will be Tell Cartel, winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Grade 3 El Primero Del Año Derby. The son of Favorite Cartel enters the trials after a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Golden State Derby on Aug. 16. A winner in six-of-15 career starts, Tell Cartel will have Ruben Lozano up for trainer Matt Fales in the second heat.

“Chayito Cartel will be making his first start since running second a year ago in his trial to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity on Sept. 15. Trained by Lindofo Diaz, Chayito Cartel won the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity during his freshman campaign. Jesus Rios Ayala, off his All-American weekend stint at Ruidoso Downs, will be aboard the gelding by Favorite Cartel in the first of two trials.

“Runforyourlife comes in well rested after running fourth in the Governor’s Cup Derby following a strong freshman campaign in which he won the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity, finished second in the Governor’s Cup Futurity and ran seventh in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Runforyourlife has finished fourth or better in each of his three outings this year. He will face Tell Cartel in the second heat.

The 10 fastest times will advance to the Breeders Derby final on Friday, Oct. 2 on the eve Los Alamitos Equine Sale weekend. The 16th annual Equine Sale is Oct. 3 and 4.

“Sunday’s nine-race card has seven trials to the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. Entrants include Terrific Temper, runner-up in the Ed Burke Million Futurity, and Cesar Nunez’s Squid Word, the runner-up in the Governor’s Cup Derby. Royal Racy Perry, who was second to Tres A Jess in the John Deere Los Alamitos Juvenile, will also run as will Governor’s Cup third-place finisher Opt Out and Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity third-place finisher Unstoppable One.

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

SEVENTH RACE: No. 2 Jess Fortunate (6-1)

She is an improving performer who finished fourth against a quality cast of allowance rivals 21 nights ago. In that event, this runner got rather rambunctious inside the metal monster prior to bobbling outward at the start to lose over a length and her early racing momentum. After a less than stellar start, the filly showed a nice way of going under no pressure to light the board with run still left in the tank. With a comparable number in her holster plus a solid jockey/trainer connections (23%), this filly just need a better start to have an opportunity to pressure the favorite throughout and perhaps score at a nice price.

Chris Wade’s Saturday LA pick

FIFTH RACE: Fastnmagic Prize (7-2)

She is one of the participants in the opening leg of the late Pick Four sequence for a solid owner/trainer combo and a new rider in Victor Salazar who has done well from her limited opportunities. Fastnmagic Prize moved forward immensely on my comparison speed charts in her last effort when running second at 16-1 odds versus a great looking winner. In that event, this filly broke a tad slow and inward before finishing well despite drifting in and running in spots late under only light pressure. That effort earned her a solid charting in my figures and with another step of improvement, she gets a big look at all the board placings.

A final thought

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That’s it for this week, we’ll see you next Friday.