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Track Phantom Talks Track Phantom

I’ve always enjoyed the analytical side of horse racing. As a handicapper at heart, past performances have been the gateway into the world of racing. In 2012, I created the website, Track Phantom. I wanted to have a place for handicapping thoughts and ideas as well as a repository of information for the most important races in the United States. To my knowledge, the Track Phantom website is the only one with past performances for all of the Triple Crown races dating back to 1970, the Kentucky Oaks back to 1980 and the past performances of every Breeders’ Cup since its inauguration in 1984. 


I was looking for anonymity separating a passion for horse racing with the rest of my life. Growing up in Minnesota, I was influenced by Dark Star, a local sports celebrity who was the first host and ambassador of Canterbury Downs. I assumed he took his name from the 1953 Kentucky Derby winner, Dark Star. He was a big personality that was easy to like. Sadly, he died unexpectedly in 2012.  It just so happened that when building the website and trying to decide on a name, a documentary on Andrew Lloyd Webber was airing on TV in the background. I was a big fan of Phantom of the Opera having seen it twice in person. Track Phantom came to be that night.


Jerry Caroom is one of the owners who shelled out $500,000 for a yearling by Quality Road out of the Into Mischief mare, Miss Sunset. Jerry is a gregarious horse owner from Arkansas who has had much success in a relatively short time as an owner. He and I became friendly a few years back and talked horses off and on. One day he called and asked if he could name the new acquisition, Track Phantom. I said "absolutely" but added that I hoped he was faster than the original Track Phantom. Not exactly a high bar.


Track Phantom (the colt) is now a budding superstar. He just won the Grade 3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds for his third consecutive win. The three wins makes him undefeated around two turns. Steve Asmussen is the trainer. He is the all-time winningest trainer in the history of North American racing and has won just about every important race except the Kentucky Derby. To say he’s underperformed in the Kentucky Derby would be woefully unfair. He’s sent out 25 starters on the first Saturday in May and hit the board 5 times. He’s been very close to winning and with a little luck he might have 2 or 3 wins in the big race by now.


Track Phantom will continue to improve. To this handicapper, he is reminiscent of two recent Kentucky Derby starters.  He’s putting a resume together that is nearly identical to that of Epicenter, the runner-up in 2022. This is hardly surprising since the trainer of Epicenter was also Steve Asmussen.  But talk about precedent. The races align closely to this point. Both won maiden races at Churchill Downs. Both won the Gun Runner stakes. Both ran huge in the Lecomte with Epicenter losing by a head.  Asmussen confirmed, if all is well, Track Phantom would go on to the Risen Star on February 17th and the Louisiana Derby on March 23rd. Epicenter won both of those races in 2022. In fact, the best horse ever trained by Asmussen was Gun Runner. He won the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby in 2016 before a huge third place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The Louisiana winter and spring Kentucky Derby prep schedule is the preferred road for Asmussen.


California Chrome is the other colt who has a less obvious similarity to Track Phantom. Just like Track Phantom, California Chrome had good early speed which allowed him to gather ideal positioning. What made him so dangerous was his acceleration at the head of the stretch. When the other riders started pumping on their horses, California Chrome would surge clear with less effort and put the race away. This is exactly what Track Phantom has done in all three route races.

Will Track Phantom achieve the success of California Chrome or Epicenter? If he can stay healthy, we’ll find out soon. One thing is for sure. Steve Asmussen is going to win the Kentucky Derby. He’ll probably win more than one. If Track Phantom continues to progress as Epicenter did back in 2022, Asmussen, Caroom, and the other owners could be celebrating in the Churchill Downs winners circle. So will a far lesser known namesake in Austin, Texas.

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