Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where Will Hollywood Park's Graded Stakes Land? (Where Should They?)

With the imminent closure of Betfair Hollywood Park, the 36 graded stakes are up for grabs to the other tracks on the circuit. Below is listing is of each of graded stakes available, along with where the writer thinks they SHOULD go and where they probably WILL go.



As the chart shows, the reason it is 36 (and not 37) graded stakes is that the Jim Murray Memorial Hcp. has not been run in either of the last two years, which means it will not be graded next year.

Most of the stakes are just going to be carried over from one venue to the other with little change, with some getting the axe due to excessive duplication or monetary issues. The third column is what this blog wish could happen to the schedule instead, taking advantage of certain factors and/or scheduling conflicts. This blog's main suggestions would provide a drastically needed shake-up while throwing a lifeline to a struggling smaller track.

Including Golden Gate Fields
The biggest change suggested is that Golden Gate (whose owners also own Santa Anita) get the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. Moving the races there would not (initially) affect its Grade 1 status, as it is still within California and the basic timing and conditions of the race would remain unchanged. If this were to occur, two prep series could be set-up between the tracks, to help attract attention. The San Francisco Mile (GG) on Derby Day, the American (SA) 4 weeks later, and then Shoemaker Mile (GG) back at Golden Gate Fields on Independence Day would make up the first series (all older male grass miles). For the older main track routers, with the Mervyn Leroy Hcp (SA), Californian (SA), and the newly christened Golden Gate Gold Cup (GG) would make up a comparable series. (Golden Gate Fields will still run the G3 All-American on Memorial Day, as a local prep) Both could have some sort of bonus attached to get connections to run all three. The Golden Gate Gold Cup in particular could be marketed as a sort of test run for any horses who might want to consider a run in Dubai, with it being a similar Tapeta surface as the track at Meydan.

Including Los Alamitos
Los Alamitos is going to run 5 weeks (split among two weeks) next year, and the chance for them to pick up a few stakes that will get squeezed out of the schedule is there. This blog ended up thinking as many as five of them could end up at the track, with four of them being run in the Autumn meet (dark purple). Each of those four graded stakes would fit the configuration of the track AND have a high chance of not being picked up by Del Mar because of Del Mar's short meet. The G3 Laz Barrera was not run this spring/summer meet at Hollywood Park, and at 7 furlongs might have to change distance to be run at Los Alamitos, but it is an intriguing option to any 3yo sprinters who may not handle the Polytrack/facing older at Del Mar. The Hollywood Prevue could be available if Del Mar decides to not run a prep for the Hollywood Futurity, and Los Al could easily pick that up as well.

Hollywood Derby
Del Mar cannot run a ten-furlong grass race because of the configuration of its turf course. So that mean the Hollywood Derby would have to be shortened/lengthened to fit the course. Instead, this blog suggests that it be moved to Belmont Stakes weekend (or the weekend after) of the spring/summer meet. In this case, it would fill a natural void of races for 3yo turf horses early in the year, while also retaining its original distance. The other option is to move it to Santa Anita's autumn meet on closing weekend, forcing the Twilight Derby to opening weekend.

CUT?
Honestly, this blog didn't cut any of the races from his column because he decided to see how the changes made would affect the schedule. The guesses on which will be cut are based on assumptions from track gossip, logical guesses based on the schedule (including the recently released 2013-2014 Santa Anita Winter meet stakes schedule) and which stakes seemed to be the most redundant compared to the track they are headed. The one stake this blog feels most confident on being cut is the Sunset, as with the Whittingham being a G2 and the omission of the typical closing day feature, the San Juan Capistrano Hcp., from the winter/spring schedule (assuming that it will be placed at the end of the spring/summer meet instead), the numbers don't add up for the Sunset's inclusion on the stakes calendar.

So there is this blog's "ten cents" on what the graded stakes schedule should look like for Southern California after Hollywood Park closes. What's your take? Let it be known in the comments. Good luck everybody.

Friday, November 1, 2013

2013 Breeders Cup Friday picks (Undercard Included) - Sparing Twitter Feeds

Let me be perfectly honest with you: This post only exists because I wish to state who I like for each race on the Breeders' Cup Friday card, but I don't want to flood anyone's Twitter feed with a whole bunch of tweets. So this is my kind of odd way of being nice while still getting my opinion out there.

On to the picks!!

Race 1
Another year, another "Best Bet" being on the undercard instead of in a Breeders' Cup race. This year it comes right off the bat with #12 Omega Star. Bred for turf, enough early speed to stay in contact with the leader through the first bend, much better sprinting than routing, a good outside post, and should be a VERY good price.

Confidence Rating: 9.3

Race 2
New year, same idea. Last year, I liked Basmati, but picked someone else on top because I didn't adjust to track quick enough. Not this year. I know there is other speed, but he's proven at this distance on this day. I would use EVERY speed horse if playing multi-horse exotics.
Confidence Rating: 5.6

Race 3 - Golden State Juvenile
California Chrome is either going to be on the lead or just barely off it. He should appreciate the extra distance. The favorite Tamarando is an ABSOLUTE play against based on how the track is playing.
Confidence Rating: 5.5

Race 4 - Golden State Juvenile Fillies
If the track were fair, I would take a shot with Whatsallthedrama, but it's not, so I'll take a swing for the fences with Swiss Lake Yodeler. She has speed from the outside draw and will have to gun hard. Considering her only win was at Fairplex, she will be a big price.
Confidence Rating: 4.7

Race 5 - Twilight Derby
Normally I love this race because it has a good mix of up and coming horses and play-against milers. This year though...THEY ALL LOOK LIKE MILERS! I know some of them won at today's distance, but I still have doubts on them. Kid Dreams is going to get overbet off his big number he earned last time (not sure HOW you come up with that number without any comparable races). I'm gonna stab with Outside Nashville. Hopefully with his post the jockey will elect to use more of his positional speed to stay closer to the pace and secure a good trip from his outside post.
Confidence Rating: 5

Race 6 - Breeders' Cup Marathon
Threw a dart, landed on Suns Out Guns Out. So I'll go with that.
Confidence Rating: 0.01

Race 7 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
50% lifetime winning percentage for the writer's picks in this race. I never go with the "A" Euro (in this case Giovanni Boldini) in here because he always gets overbet. I going with Wilshire Boulevard instead. I like my juvenile Euros well-seasoned (7 starts) and a purely gut feeling has me thinking that he will appreciate two turns. If I had to pick a U.S. based horse, I'll swing for the fences and go with Bon Accord, mainly because I bet on him when he won the Calder Turf Dash at 46-1!
Confidence Rating: 6 (6.5 that one of the two will win)

Race 8 - Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Broadway Empire and Golden Ticket are the only two horses coming out of a nine furlong race. A nine furlong race has produced at least one of the top 3 finishers in each of the six runnings of this race. I expect that to continue today. (Click on the link to see my pre-bias thoughts on the races, via Thorofan,)
Confidence Rating: 6.5 one of the two wins, 9 at least one hits the board.

Race 9 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
A first time U.S. horse or Ready To Act win this race. Slight lean to Chriselliam, for "obvious" reasons. (In vague preference: Chriselliam - Al Thakhira - Ready To Act - Vorda). The post dooms My Conquestadory unless she is a bigger monster than she has already shown.
Confidence Rating: 4

Race 10 - Breeders' Cup Distaff
Until the track came up so speed-favoring on Thursday, #2 Authenticity was an absolutely standout to me. I can't see how Mike Smith on Royal Delta was going to let Beholder get in an easy lead, yet I have no doubt that Gary Stevens would engage in a protracted duel if Mikey decided to go for the lead hard. (See Tiz The Truth's race on Sunday at Santa Anita as an example of why I think that. I don't trust Close Hatches going nine furlongs against better horses than she has been facing lately. Princess of Sylmar screams "over the top" in her after this race was added on to her campaign at the last minute. Street Girl is probably not fast enough, but if it all goes to heck, she could pick up a major slice at a big price.
But now that the track seems to favoring speed, I wonder if either Beholder or Royal Delta will get tired enough, even after dueling, for Authenticity to catch them on this track. Authenticity is still the pick, but...
Confidence Rating: 6.5

As for that Arabian race the ends the card, for purely entertainment purposes only I like #7 Ayers A. But that is just purely for fun. Good luck today folks.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Breeders' Cup Friday Thoughts (Undercard Included)

The biggest two consecutive days of racing in the North America are upon us with the Breeders' Cup. Some of the best from around the world have come to go for millions in purses spread over 15 races. Day One will showcase 6 races, with the main attraction being the Ladies' Classic. Two undefeated stars will throw in down with the division leader among others in an epic battle for divisional honors. Four undercard races will be run, with three allowances before the Breeders' Cup races commence and the Twilight (formerly the Oak Tree) Derby will end the card. While most folks will focus on just the Breeders' Cup races, I love the undercard races. Not only are the usually good betting opportunities, there is always a chance that a future Breeders' Cup horse could run. In 2006, Maryfield won a race on the undercard, then went on next year to win the inaugural Filly & Mare Sprint. Also included as a counterweight are thoughts on the BC races from a life-long handicapper and friend of the blog, Chris M.

RACE 1

The first race is a first level allowance going a mile and an eighth over the turf. The favorite is likely to be the European import Saint Loup. He was Group 3 placed after just losing the bob. This is most likely a prep for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby next month at Hollywood Park. His trainer has had success in the past with shippers from Europe, including Breeders' Cup Mile winner Val Royal, and more recently, Loup Breton. He has a steady pattern of works for the race, and gets an out-of-town rider. He is a must use. There figures to be enough pace to make it open for anyone to win. The pick is Segway. This son of Giant's Causeway won first time out over this course. Last time out he finished a flat 6th in first race in 9 months. He was well backed in that race, even though his trainer is only so-so first off the layoff. The horse should appreciate the extra furlong to work with. His trainer has plenty of experience winning on Breeders' Cup days in the past.
Play: Win bet on Segway; Exacta Box of Segway & Saint Loup
Confidence: 7.5 out of 10

RACE 2

There is a ton of early speed in this race. BIG TIZ can take advantage of the expected hot pace. She has enough tactical speed to remain in contact early and inherit the lead from the tiring leaders late in the stretch. MISS OOPS steps way up in class, but can earn the same trip as the top selection. WARREN’S AMBER will be rolling late from the back of the pack and could pick up a slice.
Play:  Exacta of Big Tiz / Miss Oops, Warren's Amber
Confidence: 8.5

RACE 3
NORTHERN IOWA cuts back off a close 3rd in a minor stakes at Fairplex Park. He has a running style would lend itself to this extended sprint. BASMATI was knocking heads with some the best in his 2yo season when last scene. He makes his return off an 11 month layoff in this race. His best is competitive enough to win. SEVEN BRIDGES comes off a maiden win going longer and could clunk up for a share. GOT EVEN is a play against, as there is other speed present to prevent him from establishing a clear lead, which he needs to win.
Play: Win bet on Northern Iowa
Confidence Rating: 7

RACE 4 – JUVENILE SPRINT
The first Breeders’ Cup race of the weekend is the Juvenile Sprint. In its 2nd year, it attracts a compact field of 7. MERIT MAN is a worthy favorite, as he can set the lead or sit just off the pace. SUPER NINETY NINE looks to keep the crown in the Baffert barn for another year with a track-and-attack trip. SWEET SHIRLEY MAE is a filly going against the boys. She has plenty of early speed but showed a new dimension when closing off a hot pace.
Play:  NONE
Confidence rating: 3
Chris M's take: This is a race that should be cut from BC weekend. In two years it has produced two boring heats. After this year the Baffert haters will have good cause to raise their voice again when Super 99 wins by two. Blah.

RACE 5 - MARATHON
The longest Breeders’ Cup race is up next in the Marathon. COMMANDER will have the lead early, but considering his unruly demeanor witnessed yesterday while schooling, one seriously questions his ability to last the 14 furlongs. WORTH REPEATING is the horse most likely to inherit the lead if/when Commander stops. He has a win over the track at a similar distance and looked great during the week. An interesting longshot is CALIDOSCOPIO comes in off a 5 month layoff, when winning a Grade 2 in his native Argentina. He has run well in similar situations in the past. ATIGUN and JAYCITO are Triple Crown refugees from different years who seem like the same horse, one who will just clunk along and end getting a share.
Play:  Win bet on Worth Repeating
Selections:
#12 WORTH REPEATING
#6 CALIDOSCOPIO
#1 ATIGUN / #5 JAYCITO
Confidence Rating: 7
Chris M's take:  Another race to cut. This is the only dirt stake in America where your lone F can have three lengths on the field after a 53 half and be 8th turning into the stretch. If you hit a single here your either a time traveler or a descendant of Charlie Whittingham. If I had to pick one here it would be Fame and Glory as he has run in the last two runnings of 20 furlong Cialis Gold Cup.

RACE 6 – JUVY FILLY TURF
Tough race. SKY LANTERN comes off a grade 1 win in Ireland. She ran well on harder turf in Europe like she will see today. SUSTAINED could try to take the field gate-to-wire from the outside post in a race bereft of early speed. Her trainer is known for such aggressive tactics in paceless affairs. WATERWAY RUN won going left-handed in Europe, and has a very American pedigree. NANCY O could spice up the bottom rungs of the exotics at a big price after a failed attempt on dirt.
Play: Maybe a .10 super using these in a "chuck-and-pray" stab.
Confidence rating: 5.5
Chris M's take: 14 youngsters stacked on the 7F+ green and you better cross your fingers that your selection(s) don’t have major trouble. BC longshots usually blow up the tote when the favorites are closers on the turf and there is a murky pace scenario, which is the case here. Sky Lantern, Watsdachances, and Spring Venture all look formidable and will be on my tickets but the hometown Flashy Ways with Talamo I see taking control early from post 13 and try to hold. If she isn’t sent a five wide trip is likely so @ 15/1 she is a play.

RACE 7 – JUVENILE FILLIES
The tagline for this race could be “Speed, speed and more speed!” BROKEN SPELL will be a huge price, but she would appear to be able to hang just close enough to grind her way to a win in what looks to be a staggerfest in the lane. EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE has done nothing wrong in her brief career, going 5-for-5. But she has looked very flat the last two weeks and could be beatable. DREAMING OF JULIA has shown at least what appears to be ability to rate, though she has never done actually done it.
Play: Exacta boxes keying Broken Spell with the other two + $2 WP
Confidence Rating: 4
Chris M's take: There are two questions here. Can Beholder get the distance and will either of the Pletchers be sent after her? If she can get the trip her last points her as the superior 2yo now. The 44 flat half and 109 final came on roughly the same surface Coil and company ran on two days later when they went 3 or 4 clicks slower at each point of call. True, there was a severe speed/inside bias the first seven days of the meet but if you can recall a better 6F run by a 2yo, of either sex, in the last 30 years I’d like to hear it. Garrett, from the rail, will race ride either of the Pletchers if they try to contest the lead. Executiveprivilege hasn’t looked right in her last two works, beat a poor field in the Chandelier when the start eliminated her primary competition, and she coasted on and easy lead. ExecP is the favorite I least like for the weekend. And yes, as clearly the best horse in the race Beholder can get the 8.5F’s, even with her breeding

RACE 8 – FILLY & MARE TURF
THE FUGUE has been specifically pointed to this race by her connections. Coming off a tough loss in the Yorkshire Oaks to one of the favorites in the BC Turf, she has looked good here in the states since arriving. She seems to prefer little give in the ground. NAHRAIN found her winning form when shipping over for the Flower Bowl last time out. She has won several strong races over firmer turf and should appreciate the shorter distance compared to last year. LADY OF SHAMROCK may be the best 3yo turf filly in America and loves this course.
Play: Some sort of exotic keying The Fugue on top + plus a flat win bet.
Confidence Rating: 9
Chris M's take:  Another deep and contentious turf race complicated by a lack of pace. Going six deep here with Zagora, Nahrain (why the blinks add off a win?), The Fugue, Marketing Mix, I’m a Dreamer, and Ridasiyna. A female Precious Passion would have a two pole backstretch lead vs. this bunch.

RACE 9 – LADIES’ CLASSIC
The Ladies’ Classic is the marquee race of the day. It brings together several stars of the game together it would figures to be a good race. ROYAL DELTA comes off a smashing win in the Beldame. She figures to sit a smart trip tracking 3-4 lengths behind the speed. GRACE HALL comes off a good win in the Indiana Oaks, can sit a similar trip tracking the speed and will offer major value in the exotics. QUESTING could steal the race on the front end if no one engages her early. Both AWESOME FEATHER & MY MISS AURELIA come into the race undefeated, but both are horses who will fade late at low odds.
Play: $1 exacta Royal Delta / Grace Hall, Questing + $1 trifecta Royal Delta / Grace Hall, Questing / Grace Hall, Questing
Confidence Rating: 9.5
Chris M's take: Now here we have a race! There is a lone F here, IF the jock chooses to use it. Questing is flat out faster than Love and Pride and can utilize the existing bias by taking the lead. Of the two undefeated, My Miss Aurelia has the most to prove. She’s only run two turn races and that last no pace, last quarter drag race will not set her up for an effort where she will have to run an entire race vs. a field 3 to 4 times tougher than she has faced. Awesome Feather has a GR1 vs. older but hasn’t faced this caliber either. Both will be over bet. Royal Delta was the beneficiary of  the anti-speed Churchill surface last year and a poor out by It’s Tricky in last @ Belmont. Throw in the abysmal record of Belmont horses going West and she is a play against.  Don’t overlook Grace Hall for the unders as well as the bomber Class Included, who is only 16-10-6-0.

RACE 10 – TWILIGHT DERBY
POWER FOOT had no chance in his last race as the 1-2 runners early finished that way. With a change in venue & trainer, he has a big chance to blow up the tote. GRANDEUR has run well over firm turf and on left-handed courses. He struggled against group 3 types in England, but that may have been because of the course conditions. SPEAKING OF WHICH comes in a graded stakes winner already, having taking a Group 3 at a longer distance. This might be too short of a race for his talent.
Play: $2 WPS on Power Foot
Selections:
#3 POWER FOOT
#7 GRANDUER
#2 SPEAKING OF WHICH
Confidence Rating: 8.9

Good luck on day one folks.