Monday, March 28, 2011

Mucho Macho Man Blows Tire on Trail, "DERBY TOP 21" for 3.28.2011

Mucho Macho Man followed protocol for this year's Derby Trail by limping home in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Another example of the trend of horses backing up this year.

PREMIER PEGASUS remains the only bright spot in the preps so far, in terms of excitement. Very impressive in dusting the field in the San Felipe by 7+ lengths. He gets the second spot as the Derby Top 21 - #2, right behind UNCLE MO. Maybe we will see a second horse in a break out performance next Sunday in the Florida Derby... I'm not holding my breath.

Pants On Fire (pink cap) outlasts Mucho Macho Man (green cap). Photo: Alexander Barkoff 1/1000 @ f/8, iso 640, 400mm

MUCHO MACHO MAN threw a shoe early on in the Louisiana Derby, and perhaps remarkably was able to finish a competitive 3rd. Kathy Ritvo, the colts' trainer was given the shoe by the gate crew. "Apparently, he stepped on it right out of the gate and ran the whole race without that shoe. I’ll find out which one it was when I get back to the barn. It is an excuse, but Pants On Fire ran a great race," she said afterward.
I'm willing to draw a line through this one for Mucho Macho Man, and leave him in as Derby Top 21 - #5.

PANTS ON FIRE, under leading rider Rosie Napravnik, held off second place Nehro by a neck in the Louisiana Derby. It was another 1/2 back to Mucho Macho Man.
"Mucho Macho Man came up next to us and he just dug in and he really finished with all heart," Napravnik said of Pants On Fire.
Does he deserve a spot in the Top 21? Well, he has the earnings, so he will be in the gate come Derby Day. I'll drop Pants On Fire in as Derby Top 21 - #14.

NEHRO ran a game 2nd in the Louisiana Derby, and is on the earnings bubble. The Steve Asmussen trainee needs another start to secure a spot in the Derby. He's the Derby Top 21 - #19 for this week.

At Turfway Park it was ANIMAL KINGDOM prevailing in the Vinery Spiral Stakes (G3).

Animal Kingdom (red cap). Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @ f/4.5, iso 800, 200mm

Animal Kingdom. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @ f/4, iso 1600
The Team Valor homebred son of Leroidesanimeaux now has the earnings for the Kentucky Derby, but has not yet made a start on dirt. The course for Animal Kingdom has yet to be decided. Trainer Graham Motion and Team Valor's Barry Irwin have options now, “We haven’t had him on the dirt but it’s something Barry and I will talk about. I don’t think distance is a problem," Motion said.

With everybody backing up, I'm putting Animal Kingdom in as Derby Top 21 - #9.

Astrology. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/2000 @ f/5, iso 500
ASTROLOGY made his long awaited comeback in the Sunland Derby. Well, he tried to come back, but ran out of gas with a furlong to go, finishing second. Another case of a horse backing down the Derby Trail. I'll give the colt credit for a nice run after 5 months off that included recovering from illness. He's the Derby Top 21 - #13.

TWICE THE APPEAL, (Successful Appeal), is now on the Trail as Derby Top 21 - #15 by virtue of his win in the Sunland Derby. The Jeff Bonde trained colt survived fast early fractions, and overhauled a bouncing Astrology in the stretch.

Co-Owner Edward Brown said after the race, "He ran his eyeballs out today. I haven’t had any sleep in days. He has become a different horse since switching from synthetic to dirt. We are going to the Kentucky Derby.”
Perhaps following in the footsteps of the widely discounted Mine That Bird down the Trail?
Stay tuned.

MASTER OF HOUNDS (Kingmambo) is eligible on earnings after a nice 2nd place finish in the UAE Derby. Trainer Aidan O'Brien is keeping options open, “Master Of Hounds is in the English 2000 Guineas (Eng-I) and would have a Kentucky Derby option."
He comes in as Derby Top 21 - #16

THE WORD,  "DERBY TOP 21" for 3.28.2011
(Performance and Earnings Based..... and maybe a Dash of Pedigree)

Rank HORSE Sire

1 UNCLE MO Indian Charlie
2 PREMIER PEGASUS Fusaichi Pegasus
3 SOLDAT War Front
4 DIALED IN Mineshaft
6 STAY THIRSTY Bernardini
7 THE FACTOR War Front
9 ANIMAL KINGDOM Leroidesanimeaux
10 JAYCITO Victory Gallop
11 SANTIVA Giant's Causeway
12 ANTHONY'S CROSS Indian Charlie
14 PANTS ON FIRE Jump Start
15 TWICE THE APPEAL Successful Appeal
17 DECISIVE MOMENT With Distinction
18 WATCH ME GO West Acre
19 NEHRO Mineshaft
20 JP'S GUSTO Successful Appeal

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rachel Alexandra, Glamour Session in Lightroom!

Stonestreet Farm trotted out Rachel Alexandra for Fan Appreciation Day Saturday.
She was poised and perfect. The weather was cold and crappy... and there was a crowd.
So. How can we make some good pictures?
Follow me...

Rachel Alexandra. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/640 @ f/3.5, iso 800, -1 1/3 EV, 125mm, cloudy white balance.

Just so you have a point of reference, here is the scene.

First thing is to evaluate the scene with your eyes. It's dark, and there are lots of people. So I'm going to shoot tight, that will help lose the people.

Second thing, I'm going to shoot pretty wide open in Aperture Priority (f/3.5), to bring in light and control the depth of field. I raise the ISO to about 800.

Last thing, lower the Exposure Value. I want to keep it dark and moody. I don't want to blow out the highlights.
Remember, I am the "Protector of Highlights". We talked about EV in the last post.

 I have one lens with me, a 70-200 f/2.8, and I shot 305 images in about 35 minutes. I ended up with a dozen that worked, and 4 that I really like.
That's half the job. What's the next step? What do I need to do to get Rachel, in all of her glory, up on the website?

Let's run through a quick Lightroom demo. Lightroom Rocks!
Elements and Photoshop used to be the "go to" editing software for me, but I am now in Lightroom 90% of the time. Lightroom 3 to be specific.

Rachel Alexandra. Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 1/400 @ f/3.5, iso 800, -1/3 EV, 200mm, cloudy white balance.
 This is the finished image, a nice moody sepia toned tight shot. The "eye shot" is a little bit cliche, but she has a nice soft eye, and Rachel's blaze is something of a trademark. So I think this works.

Here's the Lightroom screen shot with the original image.

I have turned on the blown highlights, as shown in red. This it what you might see on your camera LCD with the "highlight alerts", or blinkies, turned on. As I said in the last post, I like to push the exposure, knowing that I can recover the highlights in Lightroom. With my in camera EV set at -1/3, I captured the detail in the shadow, without blowing out too much. So, -1/3 was actually "pushing the exposure".

I just start at the top of the Develop Panel on the right side of the screen.
Crop in a little tighter to lose the nose chain.
Raise the Color Temperature to add warmth, 7000 for this shot.
Move the Recovery slider to about 40 to recover the highlights.
Add some Blacks for contrast (to maybe 15), add Brightness (65 or so).

Next, I'm going to grab the adjustment brush, and add a little exposure and brightness to the face (+33 exp, +7 brightness on the brush). This is a "Selective" exposure change.
I actually made a correct exposure in the camera, so I don't need a "Global" modification with the Exposure slider.

Going right down the Develop Panel;
Add a little Sharpness (40), add some Noise Reduction (20) and Color Noise Reduction (40).
Finally, a nice dark Vignette (-20).

Here's the Before/After screen. I did not have to add any Clarity, Vibrance or Saturation to this image. By exposing properly in camera, I just needed to add some contrast, with the Blacks and Brightness sliders. Moving the Color Temperature to 7000 gave me all the color I needed.

This image could live right here just fine, a nice rich color picture. But I wanted to give it a classic look, so I added a Sepia Tone. First by clicking B&W in the HSL Panel, then adjusting the Split Toning. My recipe for this shot was, Highlights Hue and Saturation 40 & 30, Shadows Hue & Saturation 40 & 30.

 Okay, that's a quick run-through with Lightroom. The whole process took about a minute. I then export as a JPG and it's ready to send out. Did I mention that Lightroom Rocks!

The image on the left ran in the Thoroughbred Times Today for Saturday, March 25th. I sent 4 different images, and this is what the editors selected.
As you can see, from a photojournalism standpoint, it's good to include the entire scene to give context. But it's the artsy head shots that made it to my website.

The lesson here is figuring out how to make a nice picture given a difficult situation. Some of my favorite shots were taken in real pain in the ass conditions, like in the pouring rain during an important race. That's what connects with the viewer and gives the image it's mood.

A quick reminder..
We are looking for a few more Camera Happy Participants for our Spring Equine Photography Workshop, May 3-5, which includes working in Lightroom!

Space in the workshop is limited to 12 or so!
The cutoff date for our discounted room rate is April 2nd.
Check out the Capture The Light website for all of the topics and details. Or call me any time.. 859-338-4187

That's it for now... mw.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Still a Factor" - Derby Top 21 for March 21st

For all of the naysayers, myself included, The Factor proved himself a serious contender for the Derby in winning the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park Saturday.

The Factor. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/5, iso 400, 300mm.

The Factor (War Front) showed a dimension that we had not yet seen. Martin Garcia, trainer Bob Baffert's first call rider, was able to harness The Factor's speed. Breaking alertly, the colt was able to go to the front and set a reasonable pace. He coasted across the wire, 6 lengths in front of Caleb's Posse and Archarcharch. The question of whether The Factor could leave enough in the tank for the final furlong was clearly answered.

The Factor. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/800 @ f/3.2, iso 1000, 400mm.
Baffert seems to be weighing his many options with the colt, "Right now, I would say he’s going back to the Arkansas Derby. I could leave him at Santa Anita, but I don’t know."
With regards to Oaklawn Park, Baffert said after the race, “We love it here. As long as (The Factor) comes out of it well, I’m sure we will come back."

"THE WORD",  DERBY TOP 21 for 3.21.2011
Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 SOLDAT (War Front)
3 PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus)
5 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
6 THE FACTOR (War Front)
7 ELITE ALEX (Afleet Alex)
8 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
9 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
10 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
11 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
14 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
16 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
17 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
18 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
19 FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy)
20 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)

Wendy and I are keeping an eye out for participants for Capture the Light - Equine Photography Workshop, presented by EquiSport Photos, May 3-5, 2011.
This is a great destination workshop in Lexington, Kentucky for beginning and intermediate photographers. Some of the great learning topics are outlined in our blog.

That's it for now... mw

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"The 'Mo Thing" Stays the Same.. Derby Top 21 for March 14th.

Not a stayer amongst the bunch!
While top ranked Derby horses were expected to solidify their credentials this weekend, this years' trend only continued, with the more highly touted 3 year-olds shying from the spotlight. We've been waiting for break-out performance all year.
Still waiting.
We certainly didn't see greatness from any of the favorites this weekend. Tune in later for the Florida Derby.

The highlight of the weekend turned out to be PREMIER PEGASUS, in the San Felipe STAKES (G2) at Santa Anita  By far the most visually impressive prep so far this season, the Fusaichi Pegasus colt coasted to an 8 length win over JAYCITO. I'm dropping him in at #3.

Premier Pegasus, (shown here in Hollywood Prevue). Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photo 1/500 @ f/3.2, 200mm
Bred, trained and owned by Myung Kwon Cho, Premier Pegasus showed an amazing turn of foot in the turn, to overhaul the San Felipe also-rans. He now has sights on the Santa Anita Derby (G1), April 9th.

Premier Pegasus and Alonso Quinonez
In his first 2-turn race, Alonso Quinonez rated the colt nicely, in 5th place, off of a quick pace. Entering the far turn Premier Pegasus made a well timed move, and jumped to the front. "I was just hoping to make a move at the right time and he did," Quinonez said. "He waited for me until I asked him. At the three-eighths pole he switched leads and grabbed the bridle. I didn’t hold his intentions back, I just let him go. He knew it was time to go because he is a very special horse."

As disappointing as the favorites have been this year, Premier Pegasus has proven to be a bright spot. JAYCITO and BRETHREN both lost stock yesterday, while UNCLE MO really proved nothing. My recurring theme has been how the favorites seem to be backing up. I say "This 2 or 3 race training method of getting fresh horses to the Derby is NOT working for most."

Jaycito, who finished 7th in the BC Juvenile has given me no reason to be impressed. Brethren, who beat a lackluster field in the Sam Davis, couldn't keep pace with a (barely) better field Saturday.  

UNCLE MO easily handled a field of 4 rivals in a $100,000 workout disguised as a horse race. Aside from a bump at the start before moving to the front, the race was not noteworthy. Uncle Mo set pedestrian splits, (:25.53 and :49.58), before easily outdistancing the field with a final quarter in 22 4/5.

Uncle Mo wins Timely Writer. Photo: Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos 1/1250 @ f/4, iso 500, 185mm
Trainer Todd Pletcher seems content with the colts' progress. “Except for the break when he and (Gallant Dreams) bumped, everything went the way I had hoped. It’s great to get over this hurdle. He got the last quarter in :22 4/5, which is always good in a dirt race, and he really galloped out strong," Pletcher said. "He was the Derby favorite going in and he’s the Derby favorite coming out. We’re on schedule with the Wood."

Well, okay, he's still the favorite. Everybody else is going in reverse.

WATCH ME GO, the surprise winner in the Tampa Bay Derby, now gets a spot in the Top 21 by virtue of earnings. Trainer Kathleen O'Connell seems to have a clear direction in mind. "I’ll have to talk to the owner, but I’m sure right now he’s thinking roses," she said.

Watch Me Go on trail. Photo: Amber Chalfin?EquiSport Photos 1/1600 @f/5.6, iso 400, 300mm

"THE WORD" DERBY TOP 21 for 3.14.2011
Rank Horse Sire
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 SOLDAT (War Front)
3 PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus)
5 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
7 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
9 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
10 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
11 SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex)
13 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
14 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
15 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
16 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
17 WATCH ME GO (West Acre)
18 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
19 FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy)
20 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
21 SWEET DUCKY (Pulpit)

Wendy and I are keeping an eye out for participants for Capture the Light - Equine Photography Workshop, presented by EquiSport Photos, May 3-5, 2011.
This is a great destination workshop in Lexington, Kentucky for beginning and intermediate photographers. Some of the great learning topics are outlined in our blog.

That's it for now... mw

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Dialed In - Disconnected"... Derby Top 21 for March 7th.

Wow! What was up with DIALED IN?
Okay, it was his first 2-turn, mile and an eighth race, and against older rivals.
But, Dialed In just couldn't get past the Equestrio, who took a hard right at the wire, drifting out 6 paths. And, Dialed In was getting 7 pounds from the winner, who happened to be his stablemate.
This is our #2 horse on the Kentucky Derby Trail? I don't think so.

Equestrio beats stablemate Dialed In. Photo: Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos 1/1250th @ f/4, iso 1250, 200mm.
I'm still trying to figure out what Dialed In got out of this race. He rated last of 5 horses off of a pedestrian pace, got a ton of dirt kicked in his face, and just failed to fire when asked.

Trainer Nick Zito was obviously searching for positives, "The horse that beat him isn't a bad horse. It was two turns too; they were older horses; and there was no speed in the race." Zito continued,  "I would have liked to win, but I have to be happy. It was a mile and an eighth over the track. He made the mile and an eighth."
Okay great Nick... he finished the race.  Yet another Derby contender just dropped a few spots.

Julien Leparoux seems intent on seeing the Mineshaft colt through to the Derby.  "We got a trip, a good teaching trip, but there was no pace unfortunately," Leparoux said. "It's horse racing -- he's going to have horses next to him in the Derby, so he's got to learn that.
Hello Julien.... there were 5 horses in this race. You have horses next to you during training hours.

STAY THIRSTY seems to be the only horse staying on form over the past couple of months, and prevailed in the Gotham Stakes (G3) Saturday. I wouldn't call it a brilliant win, but the Bernardini colt has to move up the Derby Trail a few notches, if only because others are moving backwards.

Stay Thirsty wins the Gotham S. Photo: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/2.8, iso 1600, 180mm
After breaking poorly, Ramon Dominguez guided Stay Thirsty in mid pack through easy fractions, before taking charge coming out of the turn. "I was very happy with him. He gave me whatever I asked him, and he galloped out very strong, too."

Owner Mike Repole now has 2 of the Top 5 ranked colts including Stay Thirsty's stablemate, Uncle Mo, as the #1 ranked horse. Never at a loss for words, Repole is happy for Stay Thirsty to have some time in the spotlight. "I couldn't be any happier for this horse, because I keep hearing about 'Mo's shadow' and 'stablemate' and this is one of the top six three-year-olds in the country," he said after the race. "Today is all about Stay Thirsty and I think he proved that when you get away from Boys At Tosconova and you get away from Uncle Mo, this is a pretty special horse.

MY COMMENTS... since you stopped by.
This 2 or 3 race training method of getting fresh horses to the Derby is NOT working for most. Everybody seems to be going backwards. Way too much emphasis is being placed on pedigree, 2YO stats, dosage, Beyer figs, hair style..... whatev! Give me a break.
Those who base a Derby contender list based on history and statistics are missing one key ingredient... experience. Horses with little to no 3YO experience are getting knocked off like flies.
If you're going to get in the gate with 19 other strapping young 3 year olds, you better have some battle field experience. Two races at 3 ain't enough experience.

To me, it seems that horses are moving DOWN the list his year, rather than anyone making a move up. No one is racing against strong fields. Last weeks' "also ran" sort of inherits a better spot in the Top 20, as this weeks' "golden boy" gets dusted.

Dialed in is a perfect example of a horse backing up. He was #2  on a lot of lists until now. Zito ran him today to dodge Uncle Mo, and lost in an Allowance Optional Claimer! Who has he beaten so far? Oh yeah... Sweet Ducky.
So now, he moves down the list, and a few "also rans" go past him.

The same could be said for Uncle Mo and Jaycito? They haven't run since last November, but they stay in the Top 5 because other horses get bumped. Jaycito finished 7th in the BC  4 months ago.. and he's 5th in the rankings? Really?
To Honor And Serve dropped to #8 after getting beat by an Allowance winner, Soldat.

This light training regimen (and losing) gives a little more credibility to a horse like Gourmet Dinner, for at least being battle tested. He had more than enough earnings from winning the flukish Delta Jackpot last year.  But, to his credit, he has not dodged the competition, running 3rd in the Holy Bull and 2nd in the Fountain of Youth. Give me a Gourmet Dinner any day over a Dialed In.

All that said, we have yet to see a break out performance like a Quality Road or an I Want Revenge. Maybe by April 3rd we'll finally see a horse race, in the Florida Derby.

"THE WORD" DERBY TOP 21 for 3.07.2011

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 SOLDAT (War Front)
4 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
6 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
7 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
8 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
10 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
11 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
12 SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex)
14 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
15 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
16 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
17 FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy)
18 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
19 WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid)
20 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
21 SWEET DUCKY (Pulpit)

All for now... mw.

"Bumper Car Big 'Cap" Recap

You gotta feel a little bit bad for Chantal Sutherland. Game On Dude, her mount, survived a 12 minute Stewards inquiry Saturday after the Santa Anita Handicap, making Sutherland the first female jockey to win the 74 year old Grade 1 race. Yet the crowd of 23,304 could only register it's displeasure with the official results.
“I’ve never heard anyone boo me – not even in New York,” Sutherland said.

Game On Dude (right), outlasts Setsuko. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/3.2, iso 1000, 400mm
 Odds on crowd favorite Twirling Candy, with Joel Rosario up, had seemingly been mugged coming out of the turn. But numerous replays showed that while Game On Dude drifted out a bit, the spent Twirling Candy lugged in causing the chain reaction. Setsuko, ridden by Victor Espinoza, was also bumped by Twirling Candy to lose momentum, but rallied to finish second.
The whole cluster looked like a three-man bobsled team, out of control, bouncing down the stretch. Thankfully, everyone stayed up. Twirling Candy, rank from the gate, was never going to hit the board this day.

Winning trainer Bob Baffert said after the race, “Twirling Candy, I hope fans understand, he was out of horse; he started all of the ping-ponging. I think the stewards made the right call."

Espinoza was not so diplomatic, “It’s the wrong decision,” he said. “I don’t know why it took so long to make the wrong decision. I think the stewards are blind.”

Chantal after winning the Santa Anita Handicap.  Photo: Alex Evers/Equisport Photos 1/320 @ f/3.2, iso 1000, 400mm
 "When I watched the replay," Sutherland said, "I thought it was clear that Joel kind of tipped into Victor and bumped him into me."
Her disappointment in the crowd was short lived, “This is by far the best win in my career. Even getting a leg up from Bob on the horse was great. I just had such a good feeling today, I’m glad it came to fruition."

Congrats Chantal!

That's all for now... mw.