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.


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


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

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

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.

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
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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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
Confidence Rating: 8.9

Good luck on day one folks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Skepticism Warranted for Rodeo Drive Runners in Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf

(written by a friend of the blog, Jordan Miller)

The Rodeo Drive Stakes (previously known as the Yellow Ribbon) has traditionally been viewed as one of the key preps for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. With this year's Breeders' Cup being run at Santa Anita, extra attention will likely be afforded to those runners exiting the Rodeo Drive, given they will own a prep race over the Santa Anita turf course. Of the turf females pre-entered in the BC Filly & Mare Turf, three made their final prep in the Rodeo Drive, Marketing Mix, Nereid, and Stormy Lucy. Marketing Mix figures to garner the majority of buzz from among this trio given her sharp score in the Rodeo Drive and her prior excellent form back East and in Canada. However, an analysis of the previous 13 runnings of the BC Filly & Mare Turf suggests one should approach wagering on Marketing Mix or any of the other Rodeo Drive runners in the BC Filly & Mare Turf with caution.

Skepticism towards the chances of the Rodeo Drive graduates in the BC Filly & Mare Turf is warranted given the anemic performance of other past runners in the 13 previous editions of the BC Filly & Mare Turf. The statistics regarding the ineptitude of Rodeo Drive runners in the BC Filly & Mare Turf is nothing short of staggering. In the 13 previous runnings of the BC Filly & Mare Turf, 24 horses have ran their final prep in the Rodeo Drive. These 24 runners have combined for only one total placing, a 2nd by Banks Hill in the 02' edition at Arlington Park. (The total placings would have been two, but Wait a While, the 08' Rodeo Drive winner, was later disqualified from 3rd and placed last due to a medication violation. A positive that superfecta players should note is that 6 times, a Rodeo Drive runner has finished 4th in the Filly & Mare Turf. What makes the fact that only one Rodeo Drive runner has ever placed in a BC Filly & Mare Turf so significant is that many of these runners were sent off at low odds in the Breeders' Cup. Of the 24 Rodeo Drive runners to have competed in the BC Filly & Mare Turf, half of them went off at 7.50: 1 or lower. More profound, 10 of the 24 were sent off at odds of 5:1 or lower.

That only one Rodeo Drive runner has ever placed in a BC Filly Mare Turf stands in stark contrast to the performance of runners exiting the major East Coast preps, the Flower Bowl and First Lady( run as the Winstar Galaxy from 2000-2005), or those shipping from Europe. The Flower Bowl runners have a 4-4-4-6 record (Win-Place-Show-4th) in the race. The First Lady runners have a 3-2-1-1 record. European shippers have a 5-4-7 record in the 13 runnings of the BC Filly & Mare Turf.

One would expect that the Rodeo Drive runners to have performed better in those Breeders' Cups run over the Santa Anita turf (03', 08', 09'), but this hasn't been the case. Although running right back over the course they just ran over, the 1-2 finishers in the 03' Rodeo Drive could only muster 8th & 11th place efforts in that year's Filly & Mare Turf. Vacare, the 08’ Rodeo Drive runner-up, checked in 4th in the Filly & Mare Turf. (This excludes the previously mentioned DQ of Wait a While) The 1-2 finishers of the ‘09 Rodeo Drive returned to the scene for moderate 4th and 5th place finishes in the Filly & Mare Turf. So much for the theory of needing a prep over the Santa Anita turf course.

All this information begs the question be asked: “Why has the Rodeo Drive been such a poor prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf?” My hypothesis is that the race has been such a poor prep because its inability to draw relatively strong fields. Typically, Rodeo Drive fields are shallow, with at best only a couple truly elite turf distaffers. Structural aspects of the Rodeo Drive like timing in comparison to the BC, course layout or distance (like when the Jockey Club Gold Cup was run at 12 furlongs and produced beaten low priced BC Classic horses such as Slew o' Gold, Vanlandingham, Turkoman, and Easy Goer) have much less to do to account for the poor prep record.

As to why the fields for the Rodeo Drive have been so poor, the main reason is that the local colony of Cali turf distaffers from which these fields have been drawn from the last 13 years have been shallow. The Cali female turf colony has been significantly affected by a general decline in California racing; More specifically, the death, retirement, or decline in top stock of top turf trainers such as Charlie Whittingham, Bobby Frankel, Ron MacAnally, (and to a lesser extent) Richard Mandella and Neil Drysdale. It is significant that the only two horses to ever cross the wire among the top 3 in the BC Filly & Mare Turf from the Rodeo Drive [Banks Hill and Wait a While(before being dq’d)], had shipped in for the Rodeo Drive.

The effect of the weak local female turf colony on the quality of Rodeo Drive fields has compounded by the one structural aspect of the Rodeo Drive that has contributed to weaker fields, purse structure. In comparison to other preps, the race has been losing ground. (Chart below)

The affect of this purse deficit has been a talent drain away from the Rodeo Drive. The already weak pool of local Cali turf females from which the Rodeo Drive primarily draws has not been significantly bolstered by shippers. Instead, what has happened with the Flower Bowl and First Lady offering either equivalent money or more is that some of the few truly elite Cali turf females have bypassed the Rodeo Drive and shipped out for their final BC prep. The two Cali based runners to have won the BC Filly & Mare Turf, Starine (02’) and Intercontinental (05’), prepped in the Flower Bowl and First Lady respectively, while the Cali-based 00’ Filly & Mare runner-up, Tout Charmant, prepped in the First Lady. Furthermore, the Rodeo Drive has been badly outperformed by the Flower Bowl in attracting European stars seeking a North American prep for the Breeders' Cup. With a purse of just $250k and a shallow pool of local turf females, one should expect the Rodeo Drive to continue to have only a marginal impact on the BC Filly & Mare Turf.

The conclusion is simple: Horses that come out of the Rodeo Drive are consistently bet in the BC Filly & Mare Turf, and they consistently have underperformed. The record of Rodeo Drive horses in the Breeders' Cup is nothing short of a disaster. Thus, while Marketing Mix is a deserving top three choice based on traditional handicapping variables, and she certainly looked like a leading contender in winning the Rodeo Drive, at the very least the record of Rodeo Drive runners in past Breeders' Cups should give one pause before placing a wager on her this Friday. However, the past does not imprison the present, and the poor record of the Rodeo Drive as a Breeders' Cup prep does not preclude the possibility that Marketing Mix, Nereid, or Stormy Lucy will run well in the Breeders' Cup. Yet, neither do I think the statistics presented here to be irrelevant or some insignificant anomalies. Ultimately, it is up to the reader to determine how much weight they will attach to these stats.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No Change, Maybe?

(A parody of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me, Maybe?")

I took a stab in the dark
It was just more than a lark
He just showed that certain spark
Bet more than a week's pay.
I'll go to church for a year
Pennies and dimes for my beer
I need this, it's rather clear
Please let this be my day.

That stare was holdin', shagged out, mane was flowin', dappled coat
was glowin', who you think I'm betting baby?

Hey, I just bet you, and this is crazy
but he just won now, huge longshot baby.
He went left and right, acted greenly,
his number's blinking, but no change, maybe?
Hey I just bet him, and this is crazy,
he's ninety-to-one, huge longshot baby.
He beat the other boys, said "Can't catch me!",
his number's blinking, but no change, maybe?

They took their time with the call
Maybe they went to the mall
I don't see nothing at all
But still an inquiry.
Won't need to beg, borrow, steal
If I can cash this for real
Can't see what's the big deal
But still an inquiry.

That stare was holdin', shagged out, mane was flowin', dappled coat
was glowin', why you think I'm bet him baby?

Hey, I just bet you, and this is crazy
but he just won now, huge longshot baby.
He went left and right, act all greenly,
his number's blinking, but no change, maybe?
Hey I just bet him, and this is crazy,
he's ninety-to-one, huge longshot baby.
He beat the other boys, said "Can't catch me!",
his number's blinking, but no change, maybe?

This could completely change my life, I need this so bad,
I need this so bad, I need this so so bad.
This could completely change my life, I need this so bad,
I'm broke, you know that, I need this so so bad...

He shied from the whip, acted greenly
is number's blinking, but no change, maybe?
Hey I just bet him, and this is crazy,
he's ninety-to-one, huge longshot baby.
He beat the other boys, said "Can't catch me!",
his number's blinking, but no change, maybe?

This could completely change my life, I need this so bad,
I need this so bad, I need this so so bad.
This could completely change my life, I need this so bad
Here's the decision
There's no change, baby!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Belmont Stakes Thoughts, Undercard Picks, Other Stakes

The racing world was shocked this morning with the news that Derby & Preakness winner I'll Have Another has been withdrawn from the Belmont Stakes due to an injury. He hurt himself within the last two days of his training. The expected massive disappointed crowd will have 5 stakes appetizers (4 graded) to watch before the now deflated main event. This stakes run the gamut from sprinting on the dirt to long-distance routing on the turf. This blog will offer some brief thoughts about them, then the big race itself, then a brief word about the stakes action at Hollywood Park.

The first stake on the Belmont Stakes card is the Easy Goer Stakes for three year olds going 1m & 1/16th. Created to fill the hole in the all stakes P6 caused by the moving of the G1 Acorn to Memorial Day weekend. This race could be a barometer for the Belmont, as Teeth of the Dog comes out of a 5th place finish in the Preakness. Brimstone Island comes out of a 2nd in an allowance race on the Preakness undercard that Belmont Stakes entrant Paynter won. Skyring completes is his own triple crown, as he ran and won races on both the Derby and Preakness undercards. This race is a tough call because horses come in from several different races, making it hard to judge class levels. This blog has chased Skyring through victory and defeat in the past, but this is his 9th race this year, and sooner or later it has to catch up to him. This blog will pass on offering a selection.

The first graded stake on the card is the True North Handicap (6 furlongs). Five of the eight entrants have won a graded stakes in the last year. Giant Ryan won the Grade 1 Vosburgh last year over this very track. After a failed attempt over in Dubai, he comes back to the states in this race. Smiling Tiger is the morning line favorite in his second race back from an eight plus month layoff. He usually runs better first off the layoff than in the 2nd race back, but he ran very poorly last time out. Hamazing Destiny broke a twenty month losing streak last time out winning the G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap. Like his stablemates Skyring & Belmont entrant Optimizer, he is completing the undercard triple crown. Royal Currier has made his connections a nice living picking off ungraded stakes, but can he handle the step up to graded company this time? This blog is skipping this race as well, as it is a real headscratcher.

The Just A Game is the first Grade 1 on the card and the first leg of the guaranteed $1 million Pick 4. This blog is going to take a stand both against Winter Memories and Hungry Island. Winter Memories has many, many fans as she has overcome some questionable rides to win with a late flourish.But this blog feels she is better around two whole turns than the one-& 1/16th turn the one mile distance is run at Belmont. She figures to be once again at depressed odds. The stand against Hungry Island is a tenuous one as she just won a nice turf stakes on the Derby undercard at this distance. This blog just has a hunch that she will regress on the turn back to from two turns and off a career best race. The two who will be on the Pick 4 ticket are Wallis (the pick) and Sylvestris. Wallis comes off a 5 month layoff after tiring going slightly further in a Grade 3. The cutback to one-turn and to a flat mile will definitely help her. She has an abbreviated worktab but her trainer C. Clement has good numbers off the layoff. Sylvestris stretches off a smashing win over this course going seven furlongs last out. Mike Smith picks up the mount and appears to be on the improve.

The G3 Woody Stephens (7 furlongs) is so hard to handicap that this blog suggests that the reader use as many as he/she can afford. (It's so hard the blog can't even come up with token analysis!)

The Grade 1 Manhattan brings together an interesting lot, including a Southern California invader. The speed of this rather paceless race figures to be Hudson Steele. Coming off a win in the Grade 2 Dixie last out, he stretches out further than he has ever ran before in ten furlongs. His trainer Todd Pletcher has won many Grade 1 in his career, but this race has alluded him. The tenth furlong figures to be his downfall based on his sire, though with the possible easy fractions he could set, it may be within his grasp.Omayad (Chi) is the Southern California invader, choosing to go here instead of staying home for the Charles Whittingham Handicap under the same conditions (but a smaller purse). He won multiple grade 1 races in his native Chile. He had a solid comeback race in his North American debut last time out, though the 3rd place finisher lost a claiming race next time out and the 4th place finisher was well beaten in the American Handicap. This blog feels that Omayad might be the best horse going forward but not today. Brilliant Speed comes out of a good third behind an easy lead gate-to-wire winner in the Woodford Reserve on the Derby undercard. That race looks to be very strong in spite of the winner's trip. He has three snappy workouts since the race and he is the pick.

The complexion of the Belmont Stakes changed with the scratch of I'll Have Another. The probable crowd size will dramatically shrink with no triple crown in the line, which will help the chances of one horse in particular. Paynter is the one horse I thought had the talent to beat I'll Have Another in the Belmont if you had asked me three weeks ago. My biggest reservation with him is that after see him school multiple times over the winter live (and on video before the triple crown races is that he doesn't seem to be all there mentally. Maybe it is his lack of seasoning or he is just that type of horse, but he seems to let little things affect him. This is bad news as he will need all the energy he can save for the grueling twelve furlongs. Union Rags will be heavily backed by his rabid fan base, but this blog's feelings have not changed about him since the Derby. The same reasons this blog did not like him in the Derby (distance, inability to handle traffic) still apply. He will via for favoritism with Dullahan. Dullahan has only two wins, both on Polytrack, but closed with a rush to finish third in the Kentucky Derby. He seems to fit the mold of a classic "Garbage Collector" type. The term was created after this writer's betting of Denis of Cork, who ran 3rd in the Derby and 2nd in the Belmont in 2008. In both of those races, this writer was certain going into the respective races that Denis of Cork would finished where they ended up finishing, and played those races accordingly. This blog will be playing Dullahan in the same way, keying him for 2nd. For a bomber, Atigun might be worth a flier. He is bred to be okay at the distance, comes off a win and has been training at Belmont for the last month.

Possible $1m guaranteed all stakes Pick 4 ticket:
Leg 1: Wallis, Sylvestris
Leg 2: ALL
Leg 3: Brilliant Speed
Leg 4: Atigun, Paynter (for now)
Cost: $20 (for a .50 base)

Patrons who head out to Hollywood Park to watch the Belmont Stakes there via simulcast will get to see three stakes, including the Grade 1 Whittingham Memorial Handicap. Two-time defending champion Acclamation goes for 3rd win in a row, but he will have to get through Slim Shadey (who is the pick and the best bet the whole weekend for this blog), who comes off a good 2nd in the Woodford Reserve on the Derby Day undercard. Two stakes for three year old grass fillies are also on tap. Possibly the best 3yo turf filly in the nation Lady of Shamrock headlines the 1m 1/8th G2 Honeymoon Handicap, a prep for the G1 American Oaks next month. Three races later, the turf sprinters get in the act with Manhattan Beach Stakes.

So there is a look at the action on a big day of action. It is not as epic a day as it was looking it would be, but nonetheless a day filled with stakes action. Good luck folks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Where to Take A Stand on the Belmont Stakes

Betting the 2012 Belmont Stakes is all about taking stands. Taking a stand with or against I'll Have Another being the twelfth Triple Crown winner in U.S. racing history. Taking a stand on whether Union Rags can bounce back from his disappointing effort in the Kentucky Derby. Taking a stand about how much impact any of the new shooters will have on the final leg of the Triple Crown. All of these stands will be based on however the reader handicaps the race and the opinions formed about the horses. To aid you in this process, the chart below lists the top 3 finishers in the Belmont the last twelve years at selected points of call during the race, as well as the post time odds.

The charts show some interesting statistics. First, it shows that until the far turn, the winner and the 2nd-place finisher are likely to be within a length of each other for the first two-thirds of the race. This has been the case three of the last five years (2007, 2010, 2011). Also, only once in the last twelve years has the winner been further than six lengths back after a half-mile (Jazil, 2006). Both of these facts could be considered a negative for Dullahan's chances, but a positive for those who fancy any combination of I'll Have Another, Paynter and Union Rags.

The two most interesting points the chart points out is that the 3rd place finisher tends to lose ground to the leaders going down the backstretch. This makes sense as horses are faster on the straightaway than the turn, leading to more separation of the field. The other thing that catches the eye is that the average odds for the second place finisher is considerably lower than the winner or the 3rd place finisher. This could be a positive for those who will key any of the four lowest odds horses underneath in the place spot.

As with all data, this chart is up to interpretation, but hopefully it will help aid in the cashing of many, many tickets. Good luck this Saturday folks.

Friday, May 25, 2012

American Handicap - Foreigner's Delight?

The stakes action this Memorial Day weekend at the track of the lakes and flowers starts off on Saturday with the Grade 2 American Handicap. This race used to be run on the other national holiday of the Spring, Fourth of July until recently. But with the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile being shifted to that weekend, this race took its place on the calendar as a prep for that race. This mile on the grass brought together a diverse group of runners, some foreign-born and some domestic. This race has a nice mix of established runners and newcomers to the stakes level. Let's get to the action, starting with the morning line favorite.

Mr. Commons looks to rebound after failing as the favorite in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on the Big Cap undercard. He has worked steadily for this race for the last two months for this race after taking a couple of weeks off to refresh himself. His trainer John Shirreffs has said that this is a prep for the Shoemaker, so it is possible that he could not be fully cranked for the race. Mr. C has run well of similar layoffs, winning both times off similar layoffs. He figures to get a nice pace set-up in the race with the presence of several speed horses. He has been heavily bet in most of his races, and he once again figures to be a unplayable price, and this blog will play against him in the win spot.

The other Americans who have a chance are Compari, whose rail draw will force this front-runner to commit to making the pace. He comes off a good effort in the G3 San Simeon H last time, with three turf works since the last race. Calimonco, who has done well at the listed stakes level and run fast enough to win this but has not won in graded stakes company. He finished 4th in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile last time out. He has two solid works since the last race. Mobilized is coming off a smart win in the state-bred Tiznow Stakes. He has done better in extended one-turn races than in two-turn races. He does have two smart works and the trainer was quoted that he entered him instead of another race next week because he was doing so well.

The foreign-born contenders are headed by Tigah (GB). Trained by John Sadler (who also trains Calimonco), Tigah won a 2nd level allowance two races back in nice time. Running an okay 4th off a two month layoff last time out, he comes back 2nd off the layoff, just like his allowance win. He has two solid works since the last race and figures to get a solid pace to run at in here. Barney Rebel (IRE) wired an allowance field last time out across town, running a fast time in the process. Barney gets 8 pounds from the favorite and with his light impost, he will be winging on the front end in attempt to steal the race. Venomous
(GB) looks to return to his first run off the plane last year in the Oak Tree Derby. His trainer has hit for a price with a horse off a similar layoff, with a series of nice works in tow.

Race Analysis: Liberian Freighter is a confirmed need-the-lead type coming off a layoff. His presence ensures that either Compari or Barney Rebel will not get an easy lead, forcing them to rate off the pace. Great Warrior and Calimonco will be in the next flight, with the rest of the runners behind them. It figures to be a trip race, where the runner who can find a way through the pack can get up in time over those who take the overland route. Tigah figures to huge the rail and hope it opens up turning for home, and he is the pick. It will be in a tight photo with Calimonco, Venomous and Mr. Commons, who will all be in the fight for the minor awards.

Good luck folks!

Friday, May 18, 2012

One Drought Broken, Another One In Sight?

I'll Have Another came out of the pack to gun down Bodemeister deep in the stretch of the Kentucky Derby to end the 23 year drought of the Santa Anita Derby winner going on to take the run for the roses. Two weeks later, the North American racing world finds the attention focused on Pimlico Race Course. The Preakness Stakes is the middle leg in the Triple Crown and the next step to see if I'll Have Another can break another streak of futility, the thirty-four year gap since Affirmed last won all three jewels. Many of the top finishers of the Derby come back in an attempt at avenging the loss. Some new shooters will attempt to upset the bid for immortality as well.  Let us get to the action.

I'll Have Another seems to have bounced out of his grueling effort fine. He shipped to Pimlico early to become acclimated with his surroundings before most of the other competitors. He was installed as the 2nd choice on the morning line to the horse who he passed in deep stretch Bodemeister. Bode shipped in this week and has been looking fine over the track, The biggest question for both of these runners is how will they bounce back after their grueling efforts. IHA has only two preps and could be under raced this year to bounce back quickly from such an effort. Bodemeister will be making his sixth start in four months and his third start in 5 weeks. Is it too much too soon?

The others coming back from the Derby in attempt to avenge are Went The Day Well (4th), Creative Cause (5th), Daddy Nose Best (10th) and Optimizer (11th). Many are jumping on the bandwagon of the first two because of their late-running and wide trips in the Derby. CC shipped back to California, then to Pimlico for the race while WTDW shipped home to Fair Hill before coming in for the race. Optimizer is being run into the ground by his trainer, just begging for turf one day in his future. This blog picked Daddy Nose Best in the Derby (but did say that the winner would be on all of the exotics in the win spot), and like him to bounce back from his effort, chalking up the clunker to being too close to hot pace early on in the race, leaving him nothing left in the stretch.

The new shooters seem to be a bit below the runners from the Derby, but some out there like them. Tiger Walk is owned by the one of the best local folks in the business, Sagamore Farm. The distance & class are the question with him. Teeth Of The Dog comes in for Michael Matz, so those who bet Union Rags in the Derby may play him for a chance to make his money back. Pretension is another local horse, but he looks too slow to even clunk up for a minor award, even though he won the local prep. Zetterholm comes in for the crafty Rick Dutrow and steps up from the state-bred ranks. Maybe has a chance to garbage collect underneath in the superfecta. Cozzetti has run some okay race that could maybe earn him a share of the trifecta if things go right.

ANALYSIS: Once again Bodemeister is a play against based on the price and the fact that this feels like too much racing in such a short amount of time. The shipping back and forth for Creative Cause is a major negative for this blog. Went The Day Well will be overbet for what this blog feels was an optical illusion of a fast-closing effort in the Derby based on how slow the final furlong was run in.

Daddy Nose Best was the pick in the Derby and he will be the pick in the Preakness. He figures to get a better trip than the two favorites and will be a better price than WTDW or Creative Cause. But just like the Derby, I'll Have Another will be a part of all tickets in the top spot. An exacta box of these two will be the main play.

Good luck folks!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby Thoughts and Other Picks & Thoughts

With the Kentucky Derby less than 24 hours, the build-up is about to explode everywhere. This blog cannot wait for all the fast racing with huge competitive fields in the Derby and the undercard, plus the other good racing around the country. Let get to some thoughts and picks.

For my detail thoughts on the Kentucky Derby, please visit the Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner, where I eliminate horse after horse until I find the winner. (Short version, I like Daddy Nose Best barely over I'll Have Another, with Creative Cause, Alpha, Gemologist the only three I can see winning.). I sent that along on to the fine folks there at Thorofan on Wednesday night, but since then I have had some second thoughts. After taking another look over the past performances, my thoughts on one horse in particular has drastically changed. For most of the last three weeks since the Arkansas Derby, I had been high on Sabercat to snatch a piece of the exotics at worst, with an outside chance to win. But on the last look, I realized that he his performance looked much better than it probably was in real life. The horse did make up ground late in the stretch, but his closing kick was not as good as it seems. The rest of the field chased after Bode and ran themselves into such vulnerability that Sabercat was able to pick them off. The fact that he could not get by the distance challenged Secret Circle is proof that his closing kick was an optical illusion. Maybe he can pick off 4th, but I no longer think he can hit the board.

For even more thoughts on each horse in the Derby field, take a look at Paul Mazur's blog over at Chicago Now  He and I go back and forth over the chances of the field, disagree over his pick and drop a Simpsons reference that I have been haunted by ever since a certain member of the field won the Breeders' Futurity back in October.

Some quick-and-dirty picks for the stakes on the Derby undercard:
Churchill Downs Handicap: Taking a stab at a big price with Gantry. He is going great right now, riding a four race win streak. He took down Fair Grounds sprint specialist Cash Refund twice over the winter. He figures to be a good price to play against Smiling Tiger (the long layoff raises some red flags), Amazombie (this is not his best distance) and Shackleford (This blog always plays against him at his depressed odds).
Churchill Distaff Turf Mile: Two horse race between Marketing Mix and Daisy Devine. Aruna is better than her last, but this blog is going to take a chance and go against her.
Humana Distaff: Groupie Doll won the Vinery Madison in a sparkling performance, turning the tide against Musical Romance and Hot Summer. She has paired up big performances in the past and has won over the CD dirt. Accepting some sort of chalk in this P5 sequence is necessary, as not every race will be won by a huge longshot.
Woodford Reserve Turf Classic: Slim Shadey and Brilliant Speed are both good prices, both figure to enjoy the pace set-up and both are not on many people's radar. This is not Turallure's optimal distance, even though he does have a win over it.

Good luck folks. Enjoy the great day of racing!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Drought Breaker - I'll Have Another

After a thrilling stretch duel, I'll Have Another preserved and took the Santa Anita Derby four weeks ago. He has trained well since the race, with two solid six furlongs drills at Betfair Hollywood Park before he shipped to Churchill Downs last week. With him earning the "Drought Breaker" title, let us see the recent history he most overcome in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday being a winner of the Santa Anita Derby:

As you can see, it has been 23 years since the winner of the Santa Anita Derby has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. Not since the immortal Sunday Silence has a horse pulled the double. During that time the average odds of the Santa Anita Derby was less than 10-1, yet the average finish was just worse than 7th. Several were heavy favorites, such as Mister Frisky, Indian Charlie and Point Given. I'll Have Another figures to go off at odds higher than the average, hopefully he will finish better than average.

So, what are his chances for breaking the streak? Here are the pros & cons, in bullet form.
  • He has early speed to escape his far-out post, but he doesn't need the lead (unlike others in here).
  • His pedigree suggests ten furlongs will not be a problem, being by Flower Alley (a ten furlong winner) out of an Arch (a ten furlong winner) mare.
  • He's proven in a fight, as shown in his Santa Anita Derby win.
  • His only bad race was in a bog in the Hopeful last year over a track many struggled over.
This blog think he has a strong chance, though with his outside post he could end up being parked out wide for most of the running, with nothing left turning for home. He is the 2nd choice of this blog. He'll need all the luck he can muster from the outside post.

So there is the chance of the Drought Breaker. Can he end it? We shall see. Good luck this weekend folks!

Why A Six Week Break Between Derby Preps is A Bad Thing

In today's racing, everyone is worrying about the "bounce" effect with their horses. This leads to a culture of big efforts and big layoffs, all to keep up winning percentages and avoid scrutiny. But for the Kentucky Derby, is this strategy a bad thing? The chart below shows the horses in the last ten years who have had a gap of 40 days or more in between the penultimate and final Derby prep.

22 horses have run in the Derby in the last ten years under the criteria. The average finish for these horses is tenth, with the average odds being just a shade under 29-1. Horses who fit this criteria (based on the average odds) should hit the board about 4% of the time. So far, given the small sample, the record for these horses is 22-1-1-1. This group has hit the board almost 14% of the time so far, with the shortest and longest prices hitting the board.

Four horses this year fall into this category, each likely to fall beneath the average odds. Those four are Alpha, Hansen, I'll Have Another and Take Charge Indy. Among the five lowest horses in the odds on the chart, the average finish is nearly 9th while the average odds is 11.60-1, though the one winner is among this group. With only 22 horses in the past 10 years that fit the angle, it is hard to make a concrete stand on whether this angle is viable or not. Based on the limited data, it looks like it is a negative, but a few more year's data will answer whether it is or not.

Even though the data is more limited, with just five horses in the last ten years, this blog feels that the stat shown in blue is worth using at this point. That stat shows the average of horses odds & finish who had just two preps. The numbers are worse than the full chart. I'll Have Another and Take Charge Indy both fit that category. Both will be lower odds than any of the previous runners listed, so this year's race will be a stern test of it.

Time will tell whether the early data of this obscure stat will pan out into something usable to take a stand on against a horse in the Derby. Good luck this weekend folks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - Santa Anita Derby

The big one of the meet is finally upon the Great Race Place. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby is the local prep for the Kentucky Derby next month. Such past horses as Sunday Silence, Point Given, A.P. Indy and Affirmed have won this race on their way to later greatness. The last horse to win a Triple Crown race after running in the race is dual champion Lookin at Lucky, who finished 3rd in 2010, then went on the win the Preakness. The last horse to run in the Santa Anita Derby and win the Kentucky Derby was Giacomo in 2005, who was 4th in Arcadia before being first in Louisville. It has been 23 years since a horse has won the Santa Anita Derby and gone on to wear the roses, all the way back in 1989 when Sunday Silence pulled the double. That drought is the longest among ANY of the major preps, and the reason this blog calls the search for the Santa Anita Derby winner the "Drought Report". This year's group of ten runners stretch from a grade 1 winner to a horse with just one start.

The favorite is the multiple graded stakes winner Creative Cause. The winner of the last prep for today's race, the San Felipe, he has been on top of the local division for many months. He built off his 3rd in the San Vicente Stakes to win that race. His works since that race have shown plenty of life and that he has plenty of energy in the tank. His pedigree does not suggests that the nine furlongs of the race will be a problem at all. The only member of the field who is guaranteed a spot in the gate come the first Saturday of May due to his significant graded stakes earnings, so that must be taken into account on whether he will be ridden all out for the win. This idea is bolstered by the fact that his trainer Mike Harrington decided to take the blinkers off of him for the first time in his career. Better to experiment now rather than in the biggest race of the year. With the blinker removal, will Creative Cause be further back than normal off the pace.

I'll Have Another shocked the world when he rocked the field in a stylish win in the Robert B. Lewis at 43-1 two months ago. His connections decided that he needed rest to combat the big effort, pointing to this race since the win. He has several solid works, including a dazzling workout in between races on Santa Anita Handicap day. His trainer Doug O'Neill is high on his charge as O'Neill looks for his first win ever in the race. His pedigree suggests that the extra distance will not be a hint of a problem, as his family is filled with stamina-filled types. He needs a decent chunk of graded stakes earnings to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate with only $151k in the kitty so far. A first or second would guarantee a trip, but a 3rd place finish ($90k) will lead to a few sleepless nights from worrying.

Bob Baffert fires three bullets in an attempt to add to his record 6 wins in this race with Liaison, Paynter and Blueskiesnrainbows. Liasion is the only one of the three to have any graded stakes earnings whatsoever, and he has enough to have already secured a spot in the gate next month. He has slowly been coming along this year,  rebounding from a poor effort (before he fell) in the Lewis with a decent 4th in San Felipe. He seems to have maybe not progressed from his stellar 2yo efforts, but he will get the chance to change that perception. Paynter has but one flashy start at five and half furlongs 7 weeks ago. He worked mostly across town (usually not a good sign) since the race. This feels like "too much, too soon" for a colt who looks like he has a bright future. The way he acted up while schooling this week leads one to believe he would appreciate the time to grow up mentally. Blueskiesnrainbows comes off a drubbing two months ago in an allowance race won by his stablemate Fed Biz. He appears to be in the race as a pace presence.

The others are Longview Drive ( 3rd in the Sham, lacks a real running style); Senor Rain (distance limitations, pace presence); Midnight Transfer (3rd in San Felipe, working well but has physical make-up of a sprinter/miler) and Brother Francis (Still a maiden, but has over $120k in graded earnings).

This blog thinks that Blueskiesnrainbows and Senor Rain duel on the front end, I'll Have Another earns another great trip and kicks clear turning for home. Creative Cause ends up second, with Liaison and Midnight Transfer fighting for third.

This figures to be a good race, and whomever ends up winning will carry the mantle of the "Drought Breaker" to Kentucky to end the near quarter-century drought. Good luck folks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - San Felipe Stakes

The San Felipe Stakes is the last local prep for the Santa Anita Derby. This race will most likely provide several runners for next month's race. This race has produced several Grade 1 winners in its past. It has been 11 years since it produced back-to-back Kentucky Derby winners in Point Given and Fusaichi Pegasus. This year's field is an even matched group of ten runners. To see full analysis of the race, go on over to the Thorofan's Handicapper's Corner, where I wrote about the race for them. Short version: Midnight Transfer earns the same trip I'll Have Another had in the Lewis, wins going away, with the Harrington-trained duo & Rousing Sermon collecting the minor awards.

In other news:
  • Out of Bounds missed this race and is off the trail after suffering an injury in his last work before the race. He had successful surgery and will be back for a 2013 campaign.
  • Fed Biz also missed this race because of a minor issue. He is already back on track galloping, and will be pointed to either the Santa Anita Derby.
  • Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat will make his first start of the year in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, where he could be joined by several others from out here, including at least one Baffert trainee (either Secret Circle or Castaway).
  • Last year's San Felipe winner Premier Pegasus is still on the mend after a setback from his previous injury, We wish him a speedy recovery.
Good luck this weekend folks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Big Cap Day

Santa Anita Handicap day has arrived with three grade 1 races in tow. They anchor the card as the last three races of the day, with the big one going off as the finale. Along with a food truck festival and other good things in the infield, it figures to be a good crowd on hand. Here are some brief thoughts on each stake:

Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes - One Mile - 3yo fillies

The first grade one on the card is for the fillies. This is the first grade one in the division this year and a prep for the Santa Anita Oaks next month. The wagering will be all over place with many options to place your wager. A 3yo race this time of year in SoCal without a Baffert trainee would be like a Los Angeles summer without sun (i.e. a shock). His charge is Eden's Moon. She won a maiden race by open lengths when stretched out to this distance last time out. She was forced to miss the Saint Ysabel S. due to minor illness, but she has worked swiftly since with several bullet workouts. But she will not get the lead. That will be Reneesgotzip. This daughter of City Zip has shown blazing speed each time out. She will be stretching out around two turns for the first time today. Made To Love Her finished behind Renee last time out in the Santa Ynez. She tries two turns on dirt for the first time today as well. Killer Graces is a grade 1 winner across town, but she seems to run better at Hollywood Park then on the dirt. This blog is going to pick Made To Love Her to take a stab at a price. In past years, this blog's pick has been finished second in this race more often than not, so maybe a backwheel exacta is in order?

Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile - One Mile (TURF) - 4yo & up 

Mr. Commons figures to be a heavy favorite against this field of eight. He has been well liked and well-championed by people as the "next big thing". He has strung together two straight wins at the meet, winning the Sir Beaufort (over Big 'Cap favorite Ultimate Eagle) and the Arcadia last time out, winning his first race against older. Jeranimo has beaten the favorite on this course at this trip just back in October. He has been working across town in steady fashion. He does need to come back off a subpar effort in the San Gabriel Handicap, though he was in an uncustomary spot (the lead) early on in the race. Mega Heat is 5-for-9 lifetime and improving each and every start after being dropped in for a tag back in August. Compari figures to be on the lead for today, and he has shown that he has no problem leading the field on a futile chase. The pick is Jeranimo, as he will be a better price and is probably as good an animal as the favorite. Mega Heat can offer value underneath.

Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap - One Mile & One-Quarter - 4yo & up

Setsuko. A horse whose name has been cursed, bellowed, and defamed over the last two years as his near misses in and exclusions from races have caused strife from others. This blog has witnessed this from afar as the horse, while talented and a real looker, never really interested as a betting concern. This blog has witnessed him school & race for three seasons now, but not until before his last race was their a change. Setsuko was gelded after his loss in the Pacific Classic. With that simple act, it seems that light has finally come on mentally for this horse. From the way he schools to the way he acts in the paddock, there is a subtle change for the better in his mannerisms. His "hanging" problem has seemingly been cut away with the ultimate equipment change. This blog witnessed  (and had video of before his camera was stolen) him bouncing back to the barn after his win last time out, acting like the race took nothing out of him. His energy levels caught the eye of everyone who saw him cross their path as they were heading out for the night. The distance is not a problem as well. All of that is why he is the "ALL IN" pick. Either this blog will go home happy or broke.

Good luck folks!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - Catch-Up

Since the last report, the whole picture has changed in the search for the Drought Breaker. A fresh face stunned in the Lewis. The clubhouse leader came back from his layoff to suffer a loss to stubborn rival. Some horses fell off the trail. All that and Bob Baffert won everything in sight. Let's get to a bullet-point style recap of what has happen since the last report...

(Please forgive the time since the last post. I have been dealing with some personal issues that has made hard to blog at all.)

  • I'll Have Another came off a five month layoff to spurt away from the field in the Grade 2 Robert B Lewis S. back on Feb. 4th. He tracked the pacesetter, made his move turning for home and drew off. His pedigree says that ten furlongs shouldn't be a problem, but the fact that his next race will be the Santa Anita Derby is off-putting. Two non-consecutive preps leading up to the Kentucky Derby is serious uncharted territory . He came back to work on 2/23, going four furlongs in 48.60 over at Hollywood Park.
  • The runner-up in the Lewis was Empire Way. This full brother to champion 3yo filly Royal Delta closed from last to get second, picking off the rest of the field without being a threat to the winner. Another horse without distance limitations, he should only get better as the year continues (based on his sister's campaign). He has worked twice since the last race, most recently on 2/25 at Hollywood Park, going six furlongs in 1:14. He is pointing to the San Felipe Stakes.
  • As for the other runners from the Lewis, Sky Kingdom was subsequently hurt and is off the Derby trail.  Liaison bounced off his subpar effort (he was going nowhere when he fell in the stretch) with two works since the race, the latest being on 2/22 at one mile in 1:43 at Santa Anita. His rival Rousing Sermon came back from his 4th-place finish (moved up to 3rd via DQ) with three works, the latest on 2/27 going six furlongs in 1:13.20 at Hollywood Park. Groovin' Solo, who was placed last via DQ after originally finishing third, came back from the race to post on 2/26 a bullet five furlong work in 58.80 at Santa Anita.
  • The Grade 2 San Vicente on President's Day weekend marked the 2012 debut of Creative Cause. The winner of the G1 Norfolk and 3rd in the BC Juvenile, he was the heavy favorite in what turned out to be a four-horse field. He was a little flat and ended up third in the race. His trainer Mike Harrington (who also trains Empire Way) said that he will be headed to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes for his next start. His nemesis Drill was looking to right the ship after a disastrous last few races, and today was his day, as he ground his way past the pacesetter American Act in the stretch. Drill's trainer Bob Baffert said that he will be kept around one turn for foreseeable future. Maybe a possible start in the Met Mile?
  • In other races at Santa Anita, Bodemeister dusted a maiden special weight on 2/11. Named for Baffert's son Bode, his stylish win has his trainer putting him into stakes competition next time out. He worked on 2/26 going six furlongs in 1:14 at Santa Anita. Fed Biz (another Baffert trainee) won a first-level allowance race on 2/9. He is headed for the G2 San Felipe in his next start. He worked on 2/22 six furlongs in 1:16 at Santa Anita.
  • On President's Day at Oaklawn Park, the Bob Baffert show continued, as he won both divisions of the Southwest Stakes. In the first division, Castaway attended a soft pace and kicked away to win. In the second division. Secret Circle sat right on the pace and ground his way to a win. Their trainer said he would be back with a runner for the Rebel Stakes, but no guarantee it would be either of his entrants.
  • Other workers of note are Sabercat, Delta Jackpot winner, who worked on 2/26 five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita; Midnight Transfer, San Pedro Stakes winner, who worked on 2/26 seven furlongs in 1:24.80 at Santa Anita. Both of them are being pointed to the San Felipe Stakes
There is a brief recap of most of the possible contenders for the Drought Breaker. With the San Felipe in two weeks, the picture will hopefully become clearer. Good luck folks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fake Racing Movies Gone Wild

On Tuesday, a racing-based hashtag swept over Twitter with a rush. Following in the footsteps of other hashtags such as #PopSongJockeys and #PopSongHorses before it, #FakeRacingMovies flooded the Twittersphere with funny, pun-charged titles of movies. Everything from the venerable classics of multiple Academy Award winners to absolute bombs of movies that went in and out of theaters in a flash. As of this blog posting, it was just now starting to fade. Here are some of my personal favorites, with fake movie plot synopsis for each:

Fly So Free Willy - The heart-warming story of boy who helps to save a horse from being gelded in order to save his family.
Denman on Wire - This thrilling documentary about the steeplechase star Denman search for the wire against his rival Kauto Star.
The Mucho Macho Man Who Knew Too Little - In this remake, Mucho Macho Man mistakes a spy's ring tone for the call to the post and falls into an international espionage thriller.
Win Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory - In this twist to the classic Roald Dahl novel, 5 people get a chance to win the man behind the famous brand itself as their own personal servant along with his factory of wonderment.
Sex and the City Zip - The four ladies talk about a recent dry spell in the love department.

A Street Cry Named Desire - "Who's Stella?" is the tagline for this imaginative interpretation of this classic story.
Million Dollar Yearling - The story behind how a little filly with a no-name pedigree becomes the sales-topper at the Keeneland September sale.
Under The Tuscan Evening - A divorcee mare hopes a move to Italy will restart her love life. A powerful performance by Diane Lane throughout.
Pletch - Intrepid trainer Todd Pletcher is offered a yearling with an allegedly ho-hum pedigree to train. But after digging into the horse's past, he discovers things may not be what it seems...
Sunday Silence of the Lambs - A young FBI employee is sent to a prison for the criminally insane to befriend a former horse trainer with a medication-positive filled past in a desperate attempt to help stop a vet who is pushing a "killer" performance drug cocktail.

Raiders of the Lost Arch - An venerated racing historian is called upon to stop evil and discover the mysterious Arch of the Covenant, a horseshoe that could change the fate of history.
Yours, Mine and Half Ours - The story of two jockeys who have figure out how to divide their children and possessions during a bitter divorce.
Comma To The Top Gun - A hot shot bush-league jockey is promoted to the McCarron Jockey School, where he tries to overcome his brash attitude, his father's fatal past errors and his inability to use an apostrophe correctly.
Not For Love Actually - Loosely interconnected vignettes about how relationships fall apart, with the racetrack as a backdrop.

Saving the best title for last (via @shesunskippable: )

Weekend at Bernardini's- Two up-and-coming stable-hands discover that their star stallion is dead right before open house weekend at the farm! With the farm in dire financial straits, these two have to pretend their stallion is still the life of the party, with comedic results!

Go ahead and post some of your favorite titles (with plot previews if you want) in the comments section.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sunshine Millions - California Races

This Saturday at the Great Race Place the Sunshine Millions will once again fill the stage with state-bred action. There have been some major changes in the program about what is run and the rules behind it. This year's edition brings together three stakes under the banner to help. There will be the ubiquitous food truck festival, along with a performance by Shiny Toy Guns. A good card all-around on this last Saturday in January. (Also on the card are two graded stakes, the Grade 1 Santa Monica and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes, but those will be talked in a separate post.)

Before we talk about the races, let's go over the changes to the Sunshine Millions, as this year's program substantially different to what it has been in the pass. To put it bluntly, the only thing continuing on from last year is the Sunshine Millions name, at least when it comes to the Santa Anita races. No longer is it Florida-breds vs. Cal-breds like in the past. Now Santa Anita & Gulfstream Park will both hold state-bred races for the state they are located in instead of the two state-bred groups mixing. All six of the stakes that were part of the Sunshine Millions schedule are now schedule to run at Gulfstream Park. In its place at Santa Anita will be run three Cal-bred stakes taken from other parts of the stakes schedule to fill the gap. The three stakes snatched from elsewhere are the Sensational Star, the Crystal Water and the Valentine's Dancer. These stakes were all introduced in the 1990's for Cal-breds, and for this year will be run under the Sunshine Millions banner. Let's takes these races in order, starting with the Sensational Star.

The Sensational Star is a race down the hillside turf course at the about distance of 6 1/2 furlongs. First, let's scratch Luckarack (who will run in the first on the card instead against blog favorite CAPITAL ACCOUNT) and Mega Heat (who is entered in a race on Sunday instead). As this blog was about to be posted, news broke on Twitter that Caracortado is out of the race due to a minor foot issue. This dramatically changes the betting complexion of the race, as he figured to be the heavy favorite. The field is now a group of 5 lead by former graded stakes winner Compari.  This son of Redattore won the 2010 edition of this race gate-to-wire. His early speed is his biggest weapon, and he has used it very effectively. However, he has not shown the ability to pass and win, which is a big problem. Ain't No Other has only one way to go and that is to the lead. He appears to be faster earlier on than Compari, but if ANO's jock attempts to rate him back a bit, it could be to the detriment to both his mount and Compari, as it could lead to a speed duel. The pick is Red Defense (right). This other son of Redattore has won down the hill in the past, has shown the ability to rate and win, and figures to get a perfect stalking trip behind the leaders. The other two in the field are My Summer Slew, who previously won down this hill and comes in 2nd off a layoff; and Tamarack Smarty, who is slightly better at a mile than at this distance.

The Crystal Water returns off a one year hiatus with a surface and distance change. It is now a mile and one-sixteenth on the main track. (It was previously at a mile on the grass) This group of six is evenly matched and each have their own question marks. Legal Separation appears to be the fastest horse early, but can he last in his first attempt routing? Bluegrass Reward comes in off a solid win, and can pass, but can he turn the tide on those in this field who have beat him in the past? Spud Spivens ran a bad race in the Grade 2 San Fernando, but can he rebound off that effort over a surface (dirt) that he has never won over? Thirtyfirststreet just won at this distance at this track and previously won a similar cal-bred stake, but if he figures to be favored, why does the "musical chairs" jockey continue? Holladay Road won his only time on dirt, but can he prevail in his first time against stakes company? Macho Dorado just won here, but can he handle the step up from claiming company? With all these questions out there, this race is a tough one to pick. If you twisted my arm for a pick, I would take the favorite.

The last of the three state-bred stakes is the Valentine Dancer going one mile on the grass. This race was thrown into the air by the scratching of probable favorite Unzip Me, along with Cayanna. It is also being reported that La Sombre will also be scratched. That leaves a field of seven evenly matched females. The role of the favorite now will likely fall to Halo Dolly. This daughter of Popular has won more than 50% of her races lifetime. She won a race similar to this during the summer at Del Mar in the Solana Beach Handicap. She can sit mid-pack and make one run. She did lose to Antares World two back, but that may have been at a distance that is just too far for her. Antares World broke an 8 race losing streak in that win. She seems to prefer a target to run down, and she will get that today. The only horse in this race to defeat open company in a graded stake is California Nectar. She is a speed ball who has only one way to go, and that is fast early. This will be her first route on the grass since a distant 4th in the Miesque S. when she was two. There is not a lot of early speed, but there are serious questions about whether she wants to go this far. Secret Cove is by the underrated turf California sire Tribal Rule. Four of her five wins are on the turf course, and with the cut back to a flat mile, she has a big chance at a bit of a price. She is a must use on the any ticket, including the $250k guaranteed Luck P6 being offered involving these Sunshine Millions race.

For a look at the Florida Sunshine Millions races, please take a look at this post from my good friend Paul over at Picks and Ponderings on Chiago Horse Racing.

So there are some thoughts about the three SoCal races under the Sunshine Millions banner. It figures to be a festive day of racing. Whomever the readers out there land on, this blog wishes you good "Luck".

Friday, January 20, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - 1/20

This week's Drought Report will be a brief one, as there was no stakes action last weekend. This weekend is the ungraded $75k San Pedro Stakes, which should produce a starter or two for San Vicente Stakes next month. First, a recap of the two races mentioned in last week's report, then a few notable workouts, with a brief preview of the San Pedro Stakes to wrap up the report.

  • Sky Kingdom won a first level allowance race on 1/12 that turned into a glorified paid workout when the four horse field (already reduced from five due to a scratch) turned into three when the outclassed runner was eased early on. Sky Kingdom took advantage of his lesser competition to stalk the pace, range up to the outside and win geared down without really being asked. If nothing else, he had another trip out on the track to gain some more experience. It did not prove that he can handle a solid pace routing, as some are proclaiming. 
  • Brother Francis scratched out of a maiden special weight on 1/14 with a slight illness, but his trainer James Cassidy said it was only a minor issue and that he should be back on track soon.
  • Liaison, Grade 1 CashCall Futurity winner, leads off the Santa Anita workers with a bullet six furlong work in 1:11 on 1/19
  • Rousing Sermon worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 on 1/17
  • Chips All In, Eddie Logan Stakes winner, worked five furlongs in 1:03.60 on 1/16
  • Groovin' Solo , half-bro to GSWs Premier Pegasus & Street Hero, worked 5 furlongs in 59.4 on 1/17.
  • Out of Bounds, Grade 3 Sham Stakes winner, worked at Hollywood Park in first spin since the race, going three furlongs in 37.20
  • Creative Cause, Grade 1 Norfolk winner, worked six furlongs in 1:14 at Hollywood Park on 1/20
The San Pedro Stakes is a 6 1/2 furlong race on the dirt that will be run this Sunday. It brings together a mixed bag of 6. Drill looks to right the ship on the cutback after back-to-back dismal efforts routing. Midnight Transfer comes in off a fast maiden breaking score on opening day, while Got Even blitz the field in the Cal Breeders' Champion Stakes last out. Passing Game looks to turn the tide on Got Even after having no chance on the speed-favoring track on opening day. Let's Get Crackin comes in from out of town while continuing his musical chair trainer changes. Coach Sickie returns after failing to fire up north. This will be an interesting race, as no one knows exactly how Drill will run. At least while sprinting, Drill has not shown the need for the lead, so if runs back to any of his sprint wins, he should win. Another big question to figure out is how will the three horses who ran on opening day come out of that race? Midnight Transfer would seem to figure things out, but could it be that he just found a soft maiden group instead? The winner will probably be pointed to a start in the San Vicente Stakes, or possibly a race out of town like the Southwest S. at Oaklawn.

 Good luck this weekend folks!

Friday, January 13, 2012

San Fernando Stakes + Some Video

To see the full thoughts from this blog on the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes, please visit the Thorofan's Handicappers Corner, where this blogger goes over whether or not Tapizar can get an easy enough lead to take this field gate-to-wire. (Short version: The answer is "No".)

But before you go, take a look at what may become a new feature on this blog. Below are videos of the some of the contenders for this weekend's stakes action return to the barn after spending time schooling on Thursday (1/12). The first is of Tapizar, the second is of the Baffert-trained trio Prayer For Relief (San Fernando S.), Ellafitz (Paseana S.) and Candrea (Santa Ynez S.). Good luck this weekend folks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - First Update

With the first graded stake at Santa Anita for the Derby group run, now would be a good time to give a brief look at many of the possible horses who could carry the mantle of the "Drought Breaker" to Kentucky the first Saturday in May. This list comprises a mix of grade one winners, other stakes winners, flashy maiden winners and a maiden. The colts are a diverse group of pedigrees, from sprint-leaning to run-all-day types. Some will be pointing to the sprint (San Vicente), while others will be headed toward the Lewis for their next start, with a few hoping to get that elusive allowance race to fill. Let us take a look.

Note: This post was intended to run before the Sham, as a way to introduce everyone to this group of 3yos, but due to "blog operator failure" it is coming out now instead.

Sky Kingdom gets the first nod solely because he will be the first to race among this group, as the ever elusive first level allowance race was used as the 2nd race on 1/12, even though it only had five entrants (two of them being Baffert trainees). This son of Empire Maker broke his maiden when he stretched out to two turns two starts back across town at Hollywood Park. He followed that up with a solid 4th in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. He will be making his first start on dirt today, even though he has been working over the surface since October. His connections are hoping to take advantage of this rarely run condition to get this charge some more experience before tackling stakes once again. With his pedigree, the Derby distance will not be a problem, as his sire is a Belmont winner and his damsire is a well-known provider of stamina. His works haven't been the lightning quick spins his trainer is known for, but they are still solid works.

Brother Francis gets the next nod because he is entered in a maiden special weight on the grass for this Saturday (1/14). He closed strongly in a MSW and in the G3 Hollywood Prevue to finish 2nd in both races. He then followed it up with a fast-closing third in the G1 Hollywood Futurity. This son of Lion Heart is out of a mare who has plenty of distance in her pedigree, and the sire has produced a 12f winner in BC Turf winner Dangerous Midge. His connections obviously want to get a win while keeping him around two turns, and with the track playing with the way it has (favoring on or near the lead types), they have chosen to go the turf in order to get a win. He has worked in trainer's preferred steady manner since the Futurity.

Liaison won the aforementioned G1 Hollywood Futurity over Rousing Sermon. These two made up the exacta in the Real Quiet Stakes as well. Liaison has three solid 5 furlongs workouts since the race, and is most likely pointing to the G2 Robert Lewis stakes in February. Rousing Sermon has worked four times since the race and could be pointing to the same race, though it is possible that either could ship out of town for their next race. Here is a replay of the Hollywood Futurity:

Creative Cause is coming off a third in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile last time out. He took some time off the work tab after the race to freshen up for the Derby trail, and did not work until New Year's Eve. He is building towards his first start later in the meet, either the Lewis or the San Felipe. He should have little problem stretching out going forward, being by Giant's Causeway out of a mare who hit the board multiple times going nine furlongs. His stable and owner-mate  Empire Way is a full brother to the multiple Grade 1 winning filly ROYAL DELTA, who will most likely wins this year's Eclipse award for 3yo fillies. With her successes going very long, he should not have any trouble with this distance, though he does need to improve to contend with the better runners out here, as he missed the board in both his stakes attempts after his win. He has 3 solid works since the last race. His sister improved as the year went on, so maybe he will as well.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has a few Derby hopefuls as well. Even though his only trainee who is guaranteed a spot in the gate for the Kentucky Derby Sabercat didn't make the trip, he still has such up and comers as Wharton, Unbridled's Note, along with stakes placed Daddy Nose Best. The first two are coming off of maiden special weight wins on the first Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill Downs. They both are training steadily here and will be looking to make their next start at some point towards the middle of the meet. Daddy Nose Best flopped as the chalk in the Eddie Logan Stakes, but his pedigree says that he should be fine routing on the dirt, something he has never done before. With a dearth of turf stakes in SoCal on the schedule, the connections will most likely find out whether he can truly dirt or not very soon,

Out of Bounds is the last one we will talk about, as he just won the G3 Sham Stakes going a mile at 10-1.  He came out of the race very well according to his connections, with plenty of energy. His connections have stated that he will be pointed to the Grade 2 San Felipe in March for his next start. As discussed in the last post, his chances to get 9 furlongs are strong, but that 10f in May will be a bit of challenge. We wish him and all of those on this list good luck and to stay healthy.

These are just a few of the possible horses who could be the one to earn the "Drought Breaker" mantle come the first Saturday in April. It could even be a horse who has not even made a single start yet, like last year's winner Midnight Interlude, who would not make his debut until the end of January. Whomever wins the Santa Anita Derby will earn the right to end the 23 year long streak. Good luck out there.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Drought Report 2012 - Grade 3 Sham Stakes

With the change in the calendar to 2012, the search once again begins in earnest for a three year old who can end the drought. The now nearly 23 year-long drought since a winner of a the Santa Anita Derby has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. The first step to finding who will be the one to carry the chances to end the drought is the Grade 3 $100,000 Sham Stakes going one mile. This race has moved around the calendar the last few years and has replaced the now-defunct San Rafael (which was run at the same distance) with the cutback to one mile after last year's running at 1m & 1/16th. A field of six runners comes together, a mix of stakes winners and horses who just broke their maiden.

The morning line favorite will be Secret Circle. This Bob Baffert trainee was last seen gamely holding on in the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. This will be the furthest he has ever run as he stretches out to two turns for the race. This son of Eddington shouldn't have a problem with the extra distance from a pedigree standpoint, as his sire won several stakes at 9f and further, and his dam having won going two turns as well. He is a horse with ample speed, though as he showed in the Jack Goodman Stakes, he does not need the lead to win. His workouts have been the typical swift Baffert drills in the A.M. He figures to be on the lead or sitting just off a swift pace, a plus on this track.

Out of Bounds (right) broke his maiden last time out across town at Hollywood Park going 7 furlongs. He stalked a solid pace and won at 7 furlongs. He extends another furlong today and returns to dirt in this stake. He loses the jockey who rode him for his first two starts to the favorite, but picks up a more-than-adequate replacement in the red-hot Garrett Gomez, who won several stakes opening week. His workouts have been fast across town at Hollywood Park since the win, which is not the norm for his conservative trainer Eoin Harty. The extra furlong should not be a problem based on his pedigree, as both his sire and dam won going nine furlongs. He is a three-quarter brother to blog favorite Etched, who also won going a mile and an eighth. (Etched is by Out of Bounds grandsire Forestry out of the dam Unbridled Elaine.) He figures to be sitting mid-pack behind the speed and making a run turning for home.

Hierro ships in from Kentucky, along with the rest of the Asmussen contingent, looking to win this race in back-to-back years for the barn. (Tapizar won this race last year) This son of Hard Spun broke his maiden in his third try at the 7 furlong distance last time out. He brings along with him the jockey who rode him in that win in from out-of-town, Julien Leparoux. He is another who stretches out another furlong and goes two turns for the first time. He has worked like clockwork since his arrival, including a bullet two works back. He has been well backed in the future books in Vegas, as he has bet down to a low 25/1. (As a reference point, the favorite is Union Rags at 10/1, Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner is 18/1). His pedigree does not figure to be an issue going one mile, as his sire won going 9 furlongs. He sat off a less-than-blistering pace in his win, so he figures to project to be mid-pack, probably near Out of Bounds.

The other three who make up the field are: Senor Rain, who figures to add to pace, even with the blinkers being taken off; Longview Drive, who comes off a third-place finish in the Delta Jackpot (just like last year's Sham runner-up Clubhouse Ride) and seems to have discovered a passing gear; and Handsome Mike, who cuts back a sixteenth when fading late after setting swift fractions in the Hollywood Futurity. All three have route experience in stakes, with varying results.

The pick is Out of Bounds, as either he or Secret Circle figures to be the one to take advantage of the expected solid pace, and he will be the better price. He will take the first stone of the path to figuring out who will be this year's possible "Drought Breaker".

Good luck folks!