Monday, March 29, 2010

Ten's 10 for the Derby

I wanted to wait a few more posts before i put out my first derby list, but this past weekend's Derby preps has compelled me to put one out today. This list is whom i think have the best chance to win the Derby when the gate opens May 1, not the top ten three year-olds on the trail, nor the top ten 3 year-old males in training. So you will not find Noble's Promise, Conveyance and Drosselmeyer (He will not make it on earnings) on the list. Nor will you find D'Funnybone, who i consider in the top 5 of all 3 year-olds. Without any further ado, here we go....

1. Lookin at Lucky
The reigning champ came back in fine form with a trouble-filled victory in the Rebel. He has done nothing wrong on his quest to become Baffert's 4th Derby winner. Baffert has decided to stay home for Lucky's last prep, but will (dirt-synth-dirt) + (shipping back and forth) = (trouble)?
Next race: Santa Anita Derby, April 3, Santa Anita

1a. Eskendereya
The "most impressive prep on the trail" mantle had belonged to him with his dominating victory in the Fountain of Youth. His victory has been further enhanced by the running of the Florida Derby, in which two horses he crushed, Ice Box (see below) & Pleasant Prince, finished 1-2. His owner Zayat Stables decided to have 6 weeks to his final prep instead of 6 weeks to the Derby, skipping the Florida Derby in favor of the Wood. Will this prove to be a foolish mistake, with Esky in need of some graded earnings to make the Derby?
Next race: Wood Memorial, April 3, Aqueduct

3. Endorsement
He probably shouldn't be this high after winning just a grade 3 (video below), but they way he won the Sunland Derby has just gotten me all a flutter. He has everything you could want in a Derby horse: Great distance pedigree, positional speed and a spurt. His victory was a stylish performance, beating the previously unbeaten Conveyance and nearly setting a track record in the process. The naysayers will say he beat nothing, he got a perfect trip and he hasn't faced any top competition. But when you do it that way, it doesn't matter. As of now, he is my derby horse.
Next race: Kentucky Derby, May 1, Churchill Downs

4. Awesome Act
Pointed to the Wood since he facile win in the Gotham, this son of Awesome Again will be stepping up to face the big boys next time out, going against #1 on this list. Will he improve off his 1st start on dirt, or is he just an one-act show?
Next Race: Wood Memorial, April 3, Aqueduct

5. Odysseus
The winner of the Tampa Bay Derby in an epic performance (below) attended a swift pace, dropped back and somehow came back to nail Schoolyard Dreams at the wire. He's topping a few derby lists at the moment and he is taking the Street Sense route to the Twin Spire. But has he spent his Derby race already and end up a Greek tragedy by being be the first horse out on the graded earnings bubble?
Next race: Blue Grass Stakes, April 10, Keeneland

6. Ice Box
The winner of the Florida Derby in a desperate finish over Pleasant Prince has steadily improving son of Pulpit. The Florida Derby was an absolute perfect set-up for him. Will the 6 weeks off + a 20 horse field be too much heat to handle?
Next Race: Kentucky Derby, May 1, Churchill Downs

7. Mission Impazible
The winner of the Louisiana Derby earns a spot on the list solely for winning the race. The fast early - slow late nature of the race, including a :38+ final 3/8, raise some doubts about over whether he will move up with an additional furlong. At least he can sit close up and pass, a nice commodity to have on the 1st Saturday of May.
Next race: Kentucky Derby, May 1, Churchill Downs

8. Interactif
His valiant effort in the San Felipe against lone speed Sidney's Candy has many offering him a chance to make some noise on the trail. Aiming for the Blue Grass, this son of Broken Vow should have no problem with the added distance. He has handled turf and synth, but can he handle dirt?
Next race: Blue Grass Stakes, April 10th, Keeneland

9. Backtalk
The wildcard of the group, this multiple graded stakes winner at two came back with nice effort in a stakes race at Delta. The pedigree is fine for the distance, and he has been working well towards his next start in Cicero, IL. Will this half-brother of Bsharpsonata move up second off the layoff, or regress coming off the bullring?
Next race: Illinois Derby, April 3rd, Hawthorne Race Course

10. Schoolyard Dreams
The horse who Odysseus nailed on the wire came back with a blistering work in :46 4/5 two weeks after losing the nastiest head bob since Colonel John beat Mambo in Seattle in the 2008 Travers. His connections changed plans to get Ramon Dominguez to ride him by switching from a seeming easier spot in the Illinois Derby to the Wood Memorial. Will the (alleged) bad karma surrounding the Ryan barn over the death of Big Truck come back to smash these Derby "Dreams"?
Next race: Wood Memorial, April 3, Aqueduct

In the "others receiving votes" list, in alphabetical order are:
  • Caracortado - Will the world be his once he takes on the champ?
  • Dave in Dixie - Will dirt be the key to helping him to get that elusive stakes win?
  • Dean's Kitten - Dirt is the question. Can he answer the question?
  • Dublin - Can Terry Thompson keep the Irish eyes from crying come Arkansas Derby time?
  • Pleasant Prince - Ice Box has his number so far. Can he turn the tables AND beat 18 other horses in the process?
  • Rule/Super Saver - These two speedballs once were considered Winstar's best chances at the Derby. Can one of them learn to rate in time, or will one of them be left in the barn?
With the GI Santa Anita Derby, GI Wood Memorial and G3 Illinois Derby this weekend, hopefully the Derby picture will become a little bit clearer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Know Thy Place

Every once in a while, I'll talk about the betting aspect of the game. This is the first post in that vein.)

"I am #1...Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers...."

These words were spoken by the rapper Nelly, who clearly had never been to the track, as you can be a winner without having the winning horse. The place bet is sort of the ill-gotten step-child of the vertical wagering menu. Most people play the win. Some will play the exactas/trifectas/superfectas only. A few fools will play the show only (AKA Bridge-jumpers). But no one ever lists the place bet as their top play.

Why not?

It provides some coverage just in case the picks are close but not perfect. Who wants to bet a 4-5 favorite to win when a 15-1 horse will pay more to place! When there is a huge favorite, the biggest payout can be the place. (Big Brown in the Preakness comes to mind. $2.40 - $2.60 - $2.10) The place bet is a good bet to build your bankroll on those days where you really like one horse late on the card, but still want to play around before on the earlier races. One or two decent price hits can help go a long way to improving the ROI at the end of the card.

Some of the complaints out there about place betting (You turn a 15-1 into a 5-1, you can't make money betting to place, etc.) are just excuses. If a person reasonably knows what the expected payout is for a bet, the price is not an issue. If the bettor knows that he might miss out on a $30 horse to win when the bet is made only for the horse to finish at least second, there is no reason to sneer at cashing a $12 ticket.

Advocating the place bet is a little like asking a guy to look at a picture of a nice, conservatively dressed girl when a world famous supermodel is standing 10 feet away doing a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue shoot. He will not pay any attention to the picture, even though she is likely to give him at least the time of day. The place bet will always be ignored by the more sexier payouts such as the pick four. But which one is more likely to be cashed in at the end of the day?

There is nothing wrong with betting on the 1st loser when the end result is the same: Cashing a ticket.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Zenyatta won. Rachel lost. And?

As the horse racing world hails Zenyatta for remaining undefeated after her win in the Santa Margarita and reels from Rachel Alexandra's surprising loss in the New Orleans Ladies to the John Sheriffs trained Zardana, the reaction to these events has been nothing but disheartening. The sights and sounds I heard on track at Santa Anita and read on the internet make me almost feel ashamed to be a horse racing fan. Something that was already bad for racing was made worst by the actions of inconsiderate people. Now not only will the "Showdown at Oaklawn" not happen, the divide between the "Zenites" (Zenyatta Only fans and Rachelians (Rachel Only fans) will grow ever wider. The chance of these two sides at least begrudgingly accepting that there is a chance that the other horse is better is now been put on the shelf.

There is a difference between cheering for your horse to win and wishing ill will on a another horse. I heard people, some of whom who did not place a bet, absolutely belittle Rachel after her loss. Some quotes from Santa Anita on Saturday (cleaned up to be printable): "Proves what a fraud she is!" "Zenyatta was screwed over for HOTY!" "Put that (bleep) down, she ain't worth (bleep)" and such. This crass behavior does nothing to help our sport. Think how many 1st-time track visitors were out there at Santa Anita, those who only were brought along by others who told them about Zenyatta. Those people saw grown men and women, who claim to love the sport, openly asking for one of their stars to be put down. I heard several people saying to their friends, "She was great and all, but all of that other stuff was a drag. I don't want to be around people like that."

Then I go check the internet, hoping to see at least some rational behavior from people about what happened. But no. What I saw was the Zenyatta fans hurling insult after insult toward Rachel and her connections. It was disgraceful. The Zenites just ripped Rachel fans on everything and anything. Saying things without thinking such as: "This proves Rachel shouldn't have been horse of the year!", "Rachel couldn't hold Zenyatta's souvenirs!", "Rachel is nothing more than a cheap claimer" and such. The Rachelians were just as bad, stooping to the level of the Zenites to defend their fallen idol. The trash talking was so bad, i turned off the computer. I had friends who were wondering what happened to Rachel & Zenyatta, people who I had prodded for years to come to the track, asking if one of them had killed somebody, because all they could find was the negative stuff about them. The talk was so bad, people were having not-so-private meltdowns throughout social media about how their feelings for Rachel were horribly wrong. For no good reason people were doubting that their long-crafted opinion was wrong based on one race. That the actions of Saturday had some effect on what happened on 2009.

There is a difference between being a "fan" and being a "fanboy". A fan cheers for what he loves to do it's best and can accept when they are beat. A fanboy can only be happy when not only his team/horse/club wins, it is belittling the opponent as well. The fan will cheer for the competitor to put up the best fight possible, so it knows that its team earned it. A fanboy will cheer for the worst in the other team, so it has more ammunition to taunt them with endlessly. The way both sides acted yesterday proves that the war between the Rachelians and the Zenites will not end well for anyone, especially the sport of horse racing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When your horse goes off the trail...

(This was first posted on the TVG Community site, but i thought it deserved a place on this blog.)

"William's Kitten off the Kentucky Derby trail due to an injury"

When I saw those words last week, I was crushed. I had fallen in love with William's Kitten from the moment he effortlessly won an off-the-turf stakes on Super Derby day at Louisiana Downs. I followed his every step from then on, from Woodbine to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where I saw him in person and cemented the crush, to his 2nd in the KJC at CD. I checked my mailbox each day, hoping to see a notice that he worked. When he ran in the Fountain of Youth, I was thrilled that he was actually in within haling distance of the leaders, as his deep closing style would put him at a disadvantage come Derby day. I waited for the workout notifications to come, but after one work on 2/10, they just stopped. I hoped for the best but was expecting the worst. Then I found out last week that he had wrenched an ankle in the last work and was off the trail. So now I am "unattached" and flailing in the wind.

What to do?


A) Find a new horse
B) Just enjoy the trail without anyone to cheer for
C) Don't care about the derby and get back to my PP's of the $5kN2L at Philly

A) This is the easiest choice for any of us who find ourselves "unattached". But whom to attach to? A recent big stakes winner, like Eskendereya? A big allowance winner who has the internet ablaze, like Odysseus? Or do you try to find a another horse who was good last year, like Dublin? If you choose the stakes winner, you will be ridiculed as a bandwagon jumper. If you choose the allowance winner, there is no guarantee that he can step up and be as effective versus stakes-level competition. If you choose a horse was good at 2, you run the risk of him not being as good at 3. If you choose this path, pick your hoss and live with it. Maybe you'll get lucky.

B) Going this path means you have just given up on trying to follow the winner, just hoping that the big guns make to the big day. Nothing wrong about that, but don't you want to be the one who said. "I knew way back when that the horse would win the Derby!" This is for those who can just sit back and enjoy the sport for what it is: A majestic splendor. (I can do this normally, but not for the Derby)

C) What kind of sicko are you? Your crush horse should be thankful he's off the trail, with your bad mojo on him. Maybe he will come back a better animal, without your glare upon him. No one can ignore Derby fever, no matter how hard you try. Go back to your PP's you heartless fiend! :-)

So, whichever path is taken, whether it is to find a new one, sit back and let it play out, or just ignore it all together, understand that the road to the Derby is full of detours, and soon more and more people will be "off the trail"

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Post: Key the 99-1 shot

"one small bet to win, one giant price on the 9"

As I shamelessly paraphrase one of the most well-known phrases in American history, i say "Hello, interested one!" to you. This is my first foray into anything even remotely close to this, and hopefully you shall be kind with me early on as i learn the vagaries of blog.

Some of you may be asking, "Why the title 'Key the 99-1 shot'"? That is what the odds were for me becoming a horse racing fan. I knew no one in the business. I had no one who went to the track at all. All i had was a one-off with the game when i was 14. It took three long years before i could go to the track, but once i was there, i felt home.

So if you are willing to follow me on this strange trip, i have no problem with a THE company as long as you're okay with me GIVING MY TEN CENTS