Friday, October 26, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Dirt Mile

We now move on to the last of the Friday races, the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Also a new addition for this year, it gives a spot to run for those that aren't swift enough to make the Sprint and aren't stout enough to make the Classic. A more cynical view is that it's for horses that aren't top-tier and need an excuse to run on Breeders Cup weekend. Whatever. It's an interesting field, so let's take a peek at it.

Conditions: 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt, 3yos and up, $1 million purse. This race is supposed to be a flat mile, but Monmouth's track configuration makes that impossible given the location of the finish line, so they added 70 yards for this year. A more sensible approach would've been to move the finish line back 70 yards as well (something that Keeneland does), but nooooooo.

What works here: Previous success at a mile is probably key. A dirt mile race is a hybrid of a sprint and a route, and it usually takes a stout sprinter to win the race, rather than a turning back router.

What doesn't work here: My inclination is that cutting back in distance to severely will be fatal, as will having little or no success at 2 turns.

On to the analysis...

No thanks

9. Forefathers. This horse, through a goofy loophole, is cross-entered in both the Dirt Mile and Sprint. If you can't figure out where the hell you're going to run him on Breeders Cup weekend, you can't like his odds in either race.

8. Wanderin Boy. Cutting back from routes, routes and more routes, you have to think this is being treated by his trainer (also the trainer of Forefathers) as a silver place medal for the weekend. Problem is he's not that fast, and while he's 3-for-3 at a mile, those are starts from over a year ago. Not interested.

7. High Finance. His figures are brilliant, but they're all at 1-turn races, usually at 7 furlongs. The Cigar Mile, where they run only around 1-turn, is a more interesting spot for him. The other problem is that he seems to run well in easy spots and fizzle against top company, the Tom Fool excepted. Can't endorse.

6. Park Avenue Ball. Some folks like him because he's a Monmouth specialist. Whoopee. So's Cable Boy, and he'd finish 20 lengths behind the winner here.

Exotics Possibilities

5. Lewis Michael. This is his first true dirt start since running badly in last year's Sprint, as he's had nothing but Polytrack and turf since then. He's improved a bit in his 4-year old season, but there's nothing on paper that indicates that he's sitting on a nice race or has moved forward enough to challenge the big boys here. Coupled with the fact he's between a pair of speedballs, he may get trapped into running too fast too early here.

4. Gottcha Gold. Speed factor that could hold on for a price. Hey, he did beat Lawyer Ron in an eerily similar spot this summer, and followed that up with another front-running win. On the downside, I don't like that he's been on the shelf since, and his workout pattern makes me think he's really going to be winging it early, and backing up late.

3. Xchanger. Now here's someone that's made tremendous strides this season. Recall his Preakness debacle, where he set an insane pace with Flying First Class, and basically set the table for the real horses doing the running. He looked like a foolishly overmatched colt at that point, and his Haskell was no better. Since then, though, he's put together a pair of big efforts, including a sneaky-good 3rd to Diamond Stripes last out. I don't think that's enough to beat the main contenders here, but at 15-1 or so, he's a definite use in the exacta.

The X-Factor

2. Discreet Cat. I've watched a lot of horse racing and I have never, EVER, seen a horse as brilliant as this guy was in his first 4 North American starts. They were all things of beauty. Which is why his last effort was so disappointing, it's not that he lost, it's that he showed next to nothing off a layoff, a stark contrast to last year's comeback where he ran a 112 Beyer, er, Gowanus speed figure. His connections say he's working out great, but big deal, they always say that. He's the 2nd-most likely winner, and a total toss for me. Too bad.

The Pick

1. Corinthian. Here's a horse with the talent, style, and perfect opportunity to win this race. He's a Miler by nature, given his gorgeous Met Mile win back in the spring. I'm willing to toss his next race, where he stupidly chased a somewhat-quick pace in a route, and his last race was actually much better than it appears on paper; he made a nice middle move on the turn and just flattened out. It's exactly the kind of race you can build off of. To top it off, he's going to be an acceptable 4-1 or so on the board. Love him.


3rd--Lewis Michael
4th--Gottcha Gold

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Juvenile Turf

We're churning these babies out like there's no tomorrow, which is probably good, since we've got three races tomorrow. Up next is the much-maligned Juvenile Turf, which has been described by racing folks as stupid, irrelevant, premature and impossible to handicap. Personally, I think it's a fun race. I also don't think it's quite the clusterf*ck that everyone else does; there's a clear line between the haves and have-nots.

Conditions: 1 mile, turf, for 2 year olds (male and female), with a purse of $1 million. Oddly, this race caps out at a max of 12 entrants, which is a bit silly. Is it that hard to expand the gate by 2?

What works in this race: We're going off no history here, so let's apply logic and say good breeding, good training, and a good post draw. Wow, that's insightful Angelo.

What doesn't work in this race: If a horse wires the field here I'd be shocked. That's usually the case with older horses, and I can't see why it's going to be any different here with the youngsters, especially with a bunch stretching out for the first time.

On to the good, the bad and the fugly:

No Way in Hell

12. Preachin Man. Man, this is a great time to make your turf debut AND to stretch out from 6 to 8 furlongs, especially while being a speedball in all your earlier races. First early, last late.

11. Texas Fever. The only question here is why the hell Garrett Gomez is on this horse. Did he lose a hand of Seven Card Stud to Mike Stidham?

10. Nownownow. This guy's got a double-negative: my aforestated anti-Biancone play, on top of the fact I steadfastly refuse to endorse horses that have names mushed together into one word. The fact he stinks isn't hurting.

9. Your Round. This guy hasn't been close to a real contender in his previous races, the inside post isn't where you want to be, and his turf breeding is suspect. Outside of that, he's great.

8. Cannonball. Wesley Ward wasn't sure this horse was going to make it into the race with about 8 horses ahead of him in priority, so he ran him last Saturday in the King Cugat stakes, where he won a hard-fought victory. So he's wheelling him back 5 days later. While I think trainers do adopt a bit of a kid gloves approach on horses, this is ridiculous.

7. The Leopard. Huh? Yes, I'm tossing him altogether. The Pilgrim has become something of a negative key race, as every horse he beat in his last has come back to royally suck in their next start. To top that off, he's either going to get caught in a pace duel that he won't win, or worse, he'll get taken out of his game by rallying, something he's been reluctant to do. No thanks.

Exotic Ideas

6. Domestic Fund. From here on out, any of these horses could win, but I'm drawing lines where I think is appropriate. And I'm starting here. This horse hasn't done much wrong, and he's bred nicely. So why the downgrade to here? First, the 12 post is an absolute killer, as it robs him of any use of tactics to his advantage, especially since all indications are this horse likes to run closer to the pace than most. Second, I'm sure Dermot Weld is a prince of a guy, and I know he's a good trainer, but he's an absolute money bit on Breeders Cup day. With 11 starters, he's got 1 show finish, and that's with the immortal Brief Truce in the 1992 Mile. Can't see this guy being the guy to break the streak.

5. Gio Ponti. I thought I was going to like this guy more, but I can't place him ahead of the rest in this race. I'm also fairly dubious of his turf stakes victory---the pace was so eyepoppingly slow, it had to have inflated his speed figure to a level that's deceptive. When he's 9 lengths back tomorrow, how's that going to work?

4. Strike the Deal. This guy was my pick yesterday. Today, he's down to my triple fodder. What's the matter? I don't distrust the breeding (I think Van Nistelrooy is going to be a nifty little sire) or Noseda, who unlike Dermot Weld, has a Breeders Cup winner. No, I'm more skeptical of the stretch out factor, and that he'll be going from full sprint mode to 2 turns, which may not be his game just yet. It's more likely that he'll be hanging and fading late than striding to victory, methinks.


3. Prussian. See, this guy's a worthy favorite, but I'm somehow not totally sold on the hype. His maiden win was tremendous, but much like The Leopard's Pilgrim, it hasn't exactly produced a number of studs afterwards. And his Canadien score was pretty good, but I'm wary of the fact he beat Your Round by under 2 lengths, and I'm pretty sure that horse sucks, as evidence by his trouncing to Gio Ponti next out. You cannot tell me this guy's worth 2-1 odds. However, I can't tell you to throw him away either; if you're playing Pick-Whatevers, he has to be used defensively.

2. Cherokee Triangle. Quick, Sheets gurus---who's got the best turf numbers? No, it's not the Euros, it's not Prussian, and it sure as shit ain't The Leopard. It's this guy, who's put together a pair of big numbers in a row. I'm not a Sheets guy, so I don't know if that means he's going to bounce to the moon and he's a play-against. My hunch is the opposite--he's purely faster than most of the field, and is worth a win bet and a prominent place in all your exotics. Still, can't take him on top.

The Pick

1. Achill Island. Let's note his comment for his last race: "wide in 10th, progress in traffic 2f out, gamely". Let's interpret that: he had a shitty trip last out, and still managed to run a huge figure and finish a close second to a horse that'd be favored in this race (City Leader). He's impeccably bred, and he's from the O'Brien stable. If he's not the favorite, he should be. On paper, there isn't a flaw with this horse.


1st--Achill Island
2nd--Cherokee Triangle
3rd--Strike the Deal
4th--Gio Ponti

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Filly and Mare Sprint

We now jump to one of the new-fangled races on Friday's card: the Filly & Mare Sprint. We've been saved the embarrassment of having the top contender La Traviata give this race the middle finger and embark on beating the boys, as the connections wisely decided that a horse who's never won a graded stakes might be a bit over her head in her 4th start to try the fastest males alive. Instead she comes here, where she'll take a ton of money, and be a great bet-against.

Conditions: $1 million purse, 6 furlongs on the dirt, for female horses 3 years of age and up. Stupidly, they designed this race to be at 7 furlongs every year, which makes no sense to begin with. Why go for a weird distance? To top it off, they can't run 7 furlongs at Monmouth anyway, so we're at the distance it should be. Maybe they'll fix this in the offseason.

What works in this race: Damned if we know, they've never run this race before. I dunno, being fast and good at 6 furlongs? That seems like a sound strategy.

What doesn't work in this race: Outside posts and lack of any early foot are deadly at Monmouth Park in general, so let's apply that to this as well. And let's make sure you're a specialist at the distance, as we'll discuss in the Real Sprint, it's rather key. And without further ado, let's break this down in reverse order, once again.

Thanks, but No Thanks

10. Shaggy Mane. She's a speedball that's never won a stakes race open to horses not bred in very hot places (Florida & California). On top of that, she's got the outside post and has to clear the field early to make any sort of headway. Unless there's a persistent track bias that's insanely speed-favoring, she'll finish closer to last than first.

9. Miraculous Miss. Has repeatedly been trounced by other members of this field. See, this is the other problem with this race: there are so few filly sprints out there, that the same group of horses are competing against each other all the time. I'm all for rivalry building, but it's impossible to do that when the horses are boring.

Worth Trying to Beat

8. La Traviata. Ever the contrarian, I'm putting the second-choice in the race as an also-ran. And with good reason. This is her fourth (4th!) start ever, and if we learned nothing from my handicapping of the Derby, I'll be damned before I take a horse that's proven absolutely nothing against real horses. To make matters worse, her trainer, who's already been barred from two continents, just got a 1-year suspension for having cobra venom in his barn. I'm betting against all his horses this weekend. So while we're at it...

7. Baroness Thatcher. Much better. Outside shot to run 3rd, but forget about anything else.

6. Wild Gams. She's getting some interest from the racing world because she ran a nice 2nd last out and may sit comfortably off a scorching pace. Here's the thing--while she had a nice 3yo season, her two "dirt" starts this year were utterly blah, and she moved up significantly on synthetic track. Seems to me like she's become something of a polytrack specialist. Seems to me like she's a waste of money.

5. Dream Rush. Remember how Better Talk Now was dismissed rather quickly here because he hadn't run since July? She's not quite as bad, as it's only 11 weeks since her last race. However, she's had a panoply of annoying odd injuries to the point where you have wto wonder about her fitness, though she's sporting a series of nice workouts. Still, I can't help but feel that she's still a bad favorite, as she's never competed against elders, and has had somewhat elevated figures from pedestrian opening quarters in he last couple of races. Also worth trying to beat.

Exotic Fodder

4. Miss Macy Sue. Tricky horse to figure out, because she's having a great year, but only ran fast in her last race...which was a polytrack effort. Hmmph. We're also not seeing a win at anything higher than a Grade 3, and while I mock the quality of these horses left and right, at some level, you have to beat the best of the bunch. She hasn't done so, outside of the last race, and I don't like Wild Game either. Away with ye.

3. Maryfield. This gal looks tremendous until you realize that she's not really a 6-furlong specialist, she's a seven furlong horse who runs passably well at 6 panels. That makes her useful for exactas and triples, but a terrible win bet. Poor Doug O'Neill, he has to wish this was actually at 7 furlongs this year.

2. Jazzy. Now here's a fun sleeper. After 9 turf starts, they swapped the South American queen onto the dirt, and she took the Gallant Bloom with some resiliancy in her last start. She's working out smartly, and not only has an underrated trainer in her corner (Mark Hennig, who's long overdue to win a BC race), but also gets the highly underrated David Flores in the irons. Yes, I realize she's got some of the negatives that the other horses above do (lack of a 6f win, one dirt start in her career), but she's going to be 20-1, and has a lot in her corner. Her price versus her chances clearly indicate she's a play.

The Pick

1. Oprah Winney. The fact that a New York bred is the selection in this race in and of itself makes me question its necessity. At any rate, throwing her last start out (which was a pure prep for this, something Rick Dutrow's pretty good at, a la Silver Train in 2005), she's coming off some verrrry nice efforts, and will flash enough speed to sit off the pacemakers, who as indicated, should burn each other out by the far turn. Her turn of foot and closing speed are good, and she's burning up the track in the morning. The thought is Garrett Gomez pounces on the turn and holds off the closers, and we've got our first Breeders Cup winner of '07.


1st--Oprah Winney
4th--Miss Macy Sue

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Turf

We're going to take a look at all 11 races here before they go to post on Friday and Saturday, though I can't say we're guaranteeing a real in-depth look on Friday races, mostly because I can't really compel myself to give a crap about Maryfield. Let's start with one of the least interesting races on Saturday's card, the Turf.

Conditions: This is 1 1/2 miles on the turf, which at Monmouth is 3 laps. It's a long enough race that post position shouldn't matter a lick. Race is open to 3 year olds and up, and it's got a nice hefty purse of $3 million.

What works: A key to this race is having success in a Grade 1 stakes during the year and having success at 1 1/2 miles during the year. It seems pretty stupid to say this, but you'd be amazed as to how many times you get hosses at short prices here that don't fit those descriptions. If you're taking a horse that doesn't hit those two bars, demand a good price.

What doesn't work: Long layoffs used to be a hex, but Better Talk Now and Red Rocks dispelled that the last 3 years (and coincidentally, they're both here). Front runners are epic disasters here, with only Bucks Boy and Great Communicator (at a gazillion to one) being the only "wire" horses that have won. And American 3yos are sucky bets as well. Fortunately we don't have any of those this year. Lastly, horses that have won the Prix d'le Arc de Triomphe, the premier grass race in France, are 0-for-4 in this race. That's more relevant, if a small sample size.

Given that background info, let's take these horses in reverse order of usefulness. For this and other races, we'll be distinguishing between horses that have a shot to win and those that have a shot to hit the board, for the benefit of horizontal and vertical bettors.

Absolute Shockers

8. Transduction Gold. Owner/trainer John Glenney's got his first Breeders Cup starter here off his upset win in the Sycamore, which marks this horse's first graded stakes victory. He's made progress this year, but that progress would make him a longshot in a conventional Grade 1 race, let alone one against the Arc winner.

7. Fri Guy. This front-runner alternates useful efforts with crapfests. He's due for a crapfest. Even if he isn't, his useful efforts aren't any good either.

Bad Ideas

6. Shamdinan. This second-tier Euro won the Grade 1 Secretariat in August, a race that shouldn't be a Grade 1, over a bunch of American stiffs. He backed this up by failing to do anything against elders in the Man O'War, and then flopped miserably in the Jamaica against 2nd-tier 3yos. The fluke is the Secretariat, not the last two. Bet against.

5. Better Talk Now. Last year's runner up and 2004's winner (at 27-1) actually started off the year well, and clearly likes the distance. The problem is this 8-year old eunuch hasn't run since Independence Day weekend, due to a myriad of injuries. Trainer Graham Motion tried to get him into the Sword Dancer, Arlington Million, Man O'War, Turf Classic and about 43 other turf races, but he wasn't healthy. Why on earth should we think he'll be healthy here?

4. English Channel. I remain thoroughly unimpressed by this horse, which is probably good, because he's going to be 5-2 in this race. The competition this year is better than last year, he's a step or two slower...and we're to expect he'll improve off a 3rd place finish last year? Please. This is Pletcher hype gone awry. This colt has one thing going for him: he likes Monmouth. Beyond that, he's no faster than the others in the field, he'll probably be just off the lead too early, and 12 furlongs isn't his ideal distance. Play against him.

Price Plays

3. Red Rocks. The defending champ's a price play? Well, when you've done absolutely nothing right the entire year, that will ensure at least 6-1. Hell, I think he'll be the 4th choice actually. He's coming into this race in remarkably similar form to last year, and his trainer has been pointing for this race all year. The big difference is that he isn't facing a bunch of over-the-hillers and Twinkies, there's a legitimate giant in the field. And a nice American sleeper...

2. Grand Couturier. This horse has shades of Better Talk Now Version 2004 written all over him--upset in the Sword Dancer at a price, then an nice if underrated effort in the Man O'War, and some rest. Now comes the big dance, and he's probably going to be last early, but flying late. He's already shown he's okay with American courses and tighter turns than he was used to in Europe, and the distance is NOT a problem. And he'll be at least 10-1, and possibly closer to 20-1. What's not to like, outside of the fact he's facing...

The Pick

1. Dylan Thomas. There's time to go against chalk, and this isn't it. Here's how this horse can lose: (a) He gets injured; (b) he gets a bad ride; (c) he doesn't like the softer turf after rain pelts Monmouth all week. You can't predict the first 2, and the last one may not matter. He's simply one of the better turf horses to come stateside the last few years, and he should win going away here. I am not trying to beat this favorite.


1st--Dylan Thomas
2nd--Grand Couturier
3rd--Red Rocks
4th--Better Talk Now

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Quandry of Additional Breeders Cup Races

There's been a mounting of criticism of the new Breeders Cup races for them cheapening the Breeders Cup brand, and a thoughtful retort by Steve Crist in the Racing Form, noting that if the new races were simply called anything but the Breeders Cup XX, they'd be welcomed by the general public. Maybe. Here's my biggest complaint about the new races: they're taking away from the already existing Breeders Cup events by siphoning off good an interesting horses into second-tier events.

(Unlike Crist and most people, I have zero problem with the Juvenile Turf; I think it's fun, interesting, and will pro-actively lead to an expansion of the 2yo turf racing schedule, not to mention bringing more Euros over for October, as I noted here.)

As it currently stands, the Sprint this year is a wholly uninteresting affair, with a couple of flashes and oddities taking on Midnight Lute, a horse that doesn't love 6 furlongs. True, some of this is because of the unfortunate injuries to Fabulous Strike and Mach Ride, but the race kinda stinks. Let's, by contrast, take a look at the potential field if there were no F&M Sprint or Dirt Mile with morning line odds (which I had way too much fun making):

1. Kelly's Landing........12-1
2. High Finance...........15-1
3. La Traviata................8-1
4. Benny the Bull.........20-1
5. Midnight Lute............3-1
6. Attilla's Storm..........15-1
7. Bordonaro.................30-1
8. Dream Rush..............8-1
9. Greg's Gold.................10-1
10. Park Avenue Ball.......20-1
11. Discreet Cat................7-2
12. Commentator............20-1
13. Smokey Stover...........5-1
14. Idiot Proof.................8-1

The horses in blue are the ones that aren't being pointed for the Sprint. Eliminate those other races, and suddenly, we're rid of a pair of uninteresting races, and have gained a pair of fun fillies, the most interesting horse to run on BC Day (Discreet Cat), and a pair of curious longshots in High Finance and Park Avenue Ball. It sure beats the hell out of seeing Talent Search run 9th.

Sadly, the cat appears to be out of the bag with additional races, and it's only going to expand on Friday's card. How do we keep the primary Saturday races from being watered down? Easy--make them worth a helluva lot more money than the Friday races. You could jack all the Saturday races up by a million dollars, but that seems excessive. Instead, knock all the Friday races down to the $500k level, and give the owners a real question to ask. Do you want to run for $500k in the Dirt Mile/Filly Sprint, or 4 times as much money in the real deal? I'd also try to keep all the Friday races a Grade II events (I can see the argument for the F&M Sprint because they get an Eclipse Award, but that's it). It's important that Saturday's card resembles top-shelf racing, and not just a few great horses. The yearly calendar is watered down enough with stakes races and fields that don't match the best against the best, we don't need to make it worse.

For what it's worth (zippo), here's one man's proposal for a great two-day card with full and exciting fields that keeps Saturday as the epicenter of the weekend:


BC Juvenile Sprint; 2yo, 6 furlongs, $250k
BC Marathon; 3yo+, 14 furlongs, $250k
BC Turf Sprint; 3yo+ 6 furlongs (turf), $500k
BC Filly Mile; 3yo+ f&m, 1 mile (turf), $500k
BC Juvenile Turf; 2yo, 1 1/16 miles (turf), $500k
BC F&M Sprint, 3yo+ f&M, 6 furlongs, $500k
BC Decathalon, 1 1/4 miles (turf), $500k
BC Dirt Mile, 3yo+, 1 mile, $500k


BC Juvenile Filles; $2 million
BC Juvenile; $2 million
BC F&M Turf; $2 million
BC Sprint; $2 million
BC Mile; $3 million
BC Distaff; $3 million
BC Turf; $4 million
BC Classic; $6 million

This would not only make for a fun Friday, but it'd also give horses that don't quite have a spot now in pretty much all divisions a place to run for less money, while keeping the integrity of Saturday's card. And that's what matters most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Morning Line/Value Odds

As most handicappers know, to compute a morning line, a fair way is to approximate how many times you think each horse would win a race if they ran it 115-120 times (you go over 100 to account for the takeout. People like Senor Watchmaker do this all the time. So why not give it a shot here? These are a few morning lines that I'd set up based on what I think a horse's chances are in the big races. Please note these are not remotely what I think their betting odds would be, or what a real morning line should look like. Instead, view this as a "value" line---if a horse's odds are higher than I've posted them, I think they're a bargain.


Street Sense: 2-1
Curlin: 3-1
Any Given Saturday: 4-1
George Washington: 12-1
Hard Spun: 12-1
Lawyer Ron: 18-1
Tiago: 20-1
Awesome Gem: 50-1
Diamond Stripes: 50-1


Dylan Thomas: 3-5
Champs Elysees: 8-1
Grand Couturier: 10-1
Red Rocks: 10-1
Sunriver: 12-1
Better Talk Now: 18-1
English Channel: 18-1
Honey Ryder: 30-1
Shamdinan: 30-1
Fri Guy: 100-1
Transduction Gold: 500-1
Icy Atlantic: 1000-1

Pre-Entries are Out!

11 races, 141 horses, a Derby winner, an Arc winner, and a horse named after a Pearl Jam song. Man, you have to love when they announce the Breeders Cup pre-entries. Here are ten quick thoughts after perusing them rather swiftly:

(1) There are 23 horses pre-entered in the Juvenile Turf, of which just over half will start. This race is going to be an even bigger bear than we initially thought.

(2) Barclay Tagg smartened up and entered Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Mile, presumably partially because of the withdrawal of Shakespeare. I can't say he's going to be my pick---he's going to be a really short price versus his odds, a la Peace Rules in 2003 and Artie Schiller in 2004---but he makes a rather blah affair a lot more interesting.

(3) Dylan Thomas is coming for the Turf, great, blah blah blah. Much more interesting is the presence of Champs Elysees, who's a full to Dansili (sire of last year's Arc winner Rail Link, and loser of the 2000 Mile by two noses) and out of the same dam that's produced BC F&M Turf winners Intercontinental and Banks Hill. I'm not convinced that 1 1/2 miles is his best distance (witness the lackluster performance of his brother Cacique last year), but he'll be a veeeery intriguing alternative to Dylan Thomas at a square price.

(4) Speaking of Euros, not a bad group this year. I can't say I'm overwhelmed, but better than early reports were indicating.

(5) There are NINE horses entered in the Breeders Cup Classic. Nine. That's it. Of which two of them (George Washington and Diamond Stripes) are cross-entered in other races. My guess is the former stays and the latter goes for the Dirt Mile, making this field hideously small, if contentious.

(6) No Darjina, but a pair of interesting fillies in the Mile in My Typhoon and Precious Kitty. With the successes of Six Perfections and Gorella in recent years, they have to be taken seriously.

(7) Where the hell is Shakis? Bah.

(8) The trickiest betting proposition of the day will probably be how heavily to use Midnight Lute in the Sprint. He may not be a true 6-furlong horse, but that enormous Gowanus Speed Figure in his last looms large.

(9) If Oprah Winney wins the F&M Sprint, I officially disavow that as a legitimate Breeders Cup race.

(10) Last but not least, the Dirt Mile features two of the most fascinating talents in racing in Discreet Cat and Corinthian. On talent alone they should run 1-2, but nobody would be surprised if they ran up the track either. That's gonna be fun.

Previews and more thoughts to come....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


We're getting this site moving again, what with the Breeders Cup coming up this month, and 11 fricking races to preview. In the meantime, on our sister site, we already hit on the Breeders Cup in an overview. Coming up once the PP's are out next week: a look at all the races in depth. Yes, even the Filly Sprint.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Today's Stakes Races

I was going to do a whole piece on how the "Win and You're In" concept is silly, but time is dictating that I do the picks and move along, so that's for later. The late Pick Four today is absolutely fantastic from a betting perspective, and is going to offer great value. Let's look at the big 4 races, assuming dirt is fast for the last 3 races:

Diana: How you play this race really comes down to what you do with My Typhoon, who's having a great year for Bill Mott (who's won this race the last two years with Sand Springs and Angara). Pat Biancone is sending out Countess Scala solely to soften her up, and it's not a terrible idea, as My Typhoon is a fairly committed front runner. It may not even matter anyway; while her local record is very good, she's still 1-for-7 at the distance, and may at heart be a miler (which is a tad puzzling, given she's a half to Galileo and Black Sam Bellamy, both of which were Grade 1 winners at 12 furlongs). So if she's weakened up, you have to like Makderah's chances, who's done absolutely nothing wrong in the States and showed a titanic closing kick in the New York Handicap at Belmont. (Only real negative is Alan Garcia, but we said the same thing about Fernando Jara last year.) Equally intriging is Danzon, who ran 3rd against the boys in her last, and who Biancone said didn't like the turf last time out. Have to think she's sitting on a big race here. This looks like a good spot to play against Pletcher, as Magnificent Song hasn't looked quite as good since winning the Garden City last year. Argentina will probably need a race, and Mauralakana isn't fast enough to win. If you're looking for a fun bomb at a price (12-1 or so), Meribel should be flying late, is 2-for-2 at Saratoga, has a great set of connections, and has run pretty well all year. Picks: (1) Makderah; (2) Danzon; (3) Meribel.

A.G. Vanderbilt: The easy way to play this race is to note that all but one horse is a front-runner, so they should cancel each other out and let Benny the Bull sweep by and take it with ease, much like a bunch of other races this week. Piece of cake, right? Um.....not so sure. Call me crazy, but I don't trust the speed figures in the last two races, especially when he received what the commenters call a "perfect trip", and when one's from Iowa. If anyone's going to close into the pace, it's most likely to be Diabolical, who will be able to sit a little and get first run on the leaders. I also like that he's clearly been pointing for this race for the last two months, albeit perhaps as a prep for the Grade 1 Forego. Ditto for Saint Anddan, who's improving nicely and may actually sit a good trip. Commentator has to be used in Pick-everythings defensively, as he's the fastest on his best day, and may just survive a pace duel as there's no High Finance to challenge him here. As this race's bomb du jour, Simon Pure may really appreciate the cutback in distance to six furlongs, and could be sitting on a nice effort. Picks: (1) Diabolical; (2) Saint Anddan; (3) Simon Pure.

Go For Wand: What do you do in a race where there's a horse who's clearly going to be the favorite but is wholly unappealing? (And not in a Circular Quay-in-the-VA Derby way where it's an obvious bet-against, I mean in the sense where you could see the horse win, but the entry is wholly uninteresting.) Play against it! And I'm looking, Ginger Punch, who's out of the old stalwart Nappelon (contemporary of luminaries Kashetreya and Trucking Baron), and has earned a pair of big numbers under suspicious circumstances; the former when having her own way in a 7 furlong sprint, the latter closing in a bizzarely run Ogden Phipps where the middle fractions made no sense. Can't use her. I can use Ermine, but she's hardly exciting as well, as her last at Churchill was pretty mediocre, making me wonder if she's a California success story. Most of the rest of the crowd will flock to Jerkens' Teammate, but I'm much more interested in the "other Jerkens" (tm Progressive Handicapping)---Miss Shop. She's had something of an odd New York campaign, with two lackidasical turf efforts followed by a quick wheelback in the Ogden Phipps where she showed nothing. Understandably: it was 7 days after her last race! Jerkens has freshened her up a little for this race, and she's got a tremendous number with her last Gulfstream race, under similar conditions. I like her to spring an upset here at 10-1 or so. For the 3rd slot, I'll give the nod to the bred-for-the-distance Soul Search, who may be able to close into a fairly honest pace. Picks: (1) Miss Shop; (2) Ermine; (3) Soul Search.

Whitney: We now come to the big race of the day, which, as Steve Crist accurately said, has 11 horses you can make a case for. (I presume he doesn't like Student Council.) If you thought the Vanderbilt had a ton of speed, that's a trifling compared to the scramble for the front we'll see from Wanderin Boy, Fairbanks, Flashy Bull (they probably have to send him from the inside) and possibly Papi Chullo as well. Of those, I could see Fairbanks pulling off a Roses in May in 2003 and surviving the battle, based on his breeding and past performances, but I don't like the winner to come from that group. Nor do I like Awesome Twist, who's shown absolutely no evidence that he'll like 9 furlongs. Lawyer Ron is theoretically intriguing, but the 11 post may require him being used too early as well, and if not, he's going to be outkicked by a bunch of others. I have bet Ass Hat precisely two times, and in both races, he flopped miserably and got hurt. For his sake, I will not use him here. Sun King is doomed to be the Don Mattingly of the class of 2005 and will not get a Grade 1 win. That leaves us with three ponies, of which I like Magna Graduate the most. Had he gotten up in the Stephen Foster, he's be the probable favorite here. Instead, thanks to a poor trip and a head bob, he's more likely to be sitting at 6-1 or so, and I think is Pletcher's best horse. Diamond Stripes is very intriguing with 5 nice starts under his belt and nowhere to go but up; my question with him is whether or not Notebook is the ideal sire for a Grade 1 9-furlong race. Lastly, Dry Martini has been consistent all year, but the real question is what caused that bump in speed figures in his last: Barclay Tagg or the Bute? I'm leaning towards the latter, and thinking a regression is in order. Still, he's tough to leave out of serial wagers. Picks: (1) Magna Graduate; (2) Diamond Stripes; (3) Fairbanks; (4) Dry Martini.

It's a fun card today (which is more than I can say about tomorrow), so play it well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

July 26's fun early Pick Three

Well, Wednesday's pick went tremendously well---Minister's Appeal scratched and negated the fact he was a great pick. Bah. Here's a few impressions after watching replays from Wednesday's card:

(1) Speed was getting killed all day today on the dirt track favoring closers. Or was it? In the 2nd race, potential star Sargent Seattle stalked the pace pretty well, and the horses that were 1-2 early finished 2-1. Closers took the next three dirt affairs, but the early fractions were all sub 22 2/5, at which point it's only natural for closers to horn in. It's worth keeping an eye on front-runners that did well today; namely, Garifine in the 8th and Brilliant Son in the 3rd.

(2) I Promise deserves her own paragraph with her fantastic effort in the Schuylerville, which was more impresive than Subtle Aly's tight photo win. After setting blistering fractions, she had every right to turn it in at the eighth pole, only to re-rally late in resiliant manner against the winner while in somewhat tight. Her cause was helped somewhat by According To Plan getting a hideous start and losing most chance she had to win, but nonetheless, the runner-up is the one to watch next out.

(3) Steve Crist was right, I was wrong. Borobudor did absolutely nothing in a meh-rific 4th place finish in the 5th race. Warn ran fine in victory, but watch out for Terror On Track in his next, who was closing stoutly on the rail and was stopped by a tiring horse lugging in.

(4) Lastly, Sargent Seattle throws his hat into the ring for flashiest 2yo to date, looking nothing shy of great in a lengthening victory. I'm not quite ready to draw the Discreet Cat comparisons, but he looks like a good one out of one of the "Big Five" freshman sires in Vindication. (The other 4 being Sky Mesa, Aldebaran, Mineshaft and Empire Maker.) Let's compare his time and Beyer versus Thursday's Sanford.

Speaking of Sky Mesa, let's look at tomorrow's Pick Three. We start by turning to the 2nd race on Thursday's card, a maiden race for 2yo fillies which strangely only draws a field of 7---you'd think more owners would be chomping at the bit to get their little fillies out at the Spa. The first-timers will have to be something special to overtake either of the duo of Cozy Mesa and Twisted Tale, each of which ran races that would be winners 85% of the time in their debuts. I'm generally of the opinion that a 2yo that's already run an impressive race once is an infinitely better bet than a first time starter, so I'll toss Pletcher's Alachua and go with the two with experience for Pick 3's here. If you're looking to spread or take a flyer in the trifectas, the Shugster sends out Forest Trail, who's a half to the improving Carriage Trail and whose dam is a multiple G3 winner, and may be precocious enough first time out (though that's rare for McGaughey), as she's by Forest Wildcat.

The 3rd is the overnight Dancing Renee stakes at the quirky 6 1/2 furlong distance for NY-bred fillies. What could have possibly convinced the braintrust at NYRA that this was a necessary stakes race is beyond me, but here it is anyway. Gary Contessa's doing so well that you'd automatically upgrade Gold Like U first off a claim, but query whether the Dutrow-to-Contessa move is even a plus for a horse that's prime to regress off a good effort. Ignoring the hopeless entries by stalwarts Charlton Baker and Patrick Kelly, which makes this more Aqueduct style than Spa style, and the standouts are John Kimmel's Stolen Star, who's developed a hideous case of seconditis, and John Ward's Lovely Dream, a deserving favorite that's tough to get past. I'm amazed that John Ward, a trainer of top quality in my estimation, has had a mere thirty-three starters this year. That's astoundingly low. And this hoss is three of them, none of them out of the money efforts, and it almost looks like Ward's using this effort to prep her for something better down the road. Coupled with the fact that I still can't figure out how someone paid $220k for a New York bred filly, and I have to conclude that this is one pretty damn nice looking horse. Single her in the Pick 3, and if you want to spread, backup with Stolen Star.

Which brings us to the 4th race, a fun maiden turf route race for 3yo fillies. Any perfunctory analysis comes up with Stage Dream and Queens Full as the must-use horses, but they're not exactly laying over the field, so this is a good place to spread for a price. Star Dixie may very well be the favorite here, and she has to be included in the Pick 3's as a saver, but I'd much rather take a shot on either Elizaveta, who's coming in with a bullet workout for the always dangerous Jonathan Sheppard, and as a total bomb Silver Moonshine, who improved nicely with the addition of blinkers for the underrated George Weaver at Colonial last out and just may steal this one on the front end.

In an effort to maximize return when a pair of favorites are liked, I would try to press hard on getting the preferred horse in the 2nd race (to me, Cozy Mesa) along with Ward's charge, and go heavier on the spead in the last race. Here's a thought on maximizing Pick Three value via multiple wagers:

$1 Pick 3: 2,3 with 2,4 with 1,3,6,7,8 ($20)
$2 Pick 3: 2 with 2 with 1,3,6,7,8 ($10)
$2 Pick 3: 2 with 2,4 with 1,7 ($8)
$2 Pick 3: 2,3 with 2 with 1,7 ($8)

The strategy keeps you in if either of your "backups" hit in the first two races so you can at worst break even in the 4th, and allows you the possibility of catching a bomb at the end. The latter two bets are if you think that Mott & Clement own the race and you need more money on them to get the proper payoff. If you don't, then they're excludable, and I'd instead up the dollar amount on the middle wager singling in the 2nd & 3rd. Of course, you could also bet less money, which is never a bad idea.

And onwards to Saratoga we continue!

July 25, 2007 Saratoga Race of the Day

There's a bunch of races today that reek of blahness, and a bunch that are quite interesting. Falling squarely into the "interesting" category are the 2nd and 9th races, but since I'm well aware of my limitations when it comes to handicapping and analyzing 2yo races, I'll pass on those for now. Our newest member of the blogosphere, Sir Steven Crist, has already done a fine job with the 5th race, so while I disagree with his conclusions (I like Borobudur), I won't repeat his analysis. (BTW, congrats to Alan for the well-deserved shout-out on the DRF blog.) And while I like the 3rd race more than a little, especially since I think once again Deadly Dealer is a bet-against at a short price, I'm going to say let's look at today's 8th as the Race of the Day, since it comes square in the middle of the late Pick-everythings.

The race marks the, um, return for Incriminate, who won impressively first time out on Travers Day last year for Godolphin, and followed that up with a pair of uninspiring 4th place finishes in graded stakes. Freshened for Saratoga by resting for 10 months, he's back at the site of his best race, and he's coupled with the interesting Blue Sky God, who ran his last in Dubai. The jockeys are notable here, Luzzi is riding Blue Sky God, which strikes me as the oddest pairing we'll see on opening day, and Velazquez is on Incriminate, and not Garifine. I realize Pletcher's gotten the services of Gomez on Garifine, but you have to question the horse's ability when even Velazquez jumps off him to ride a steed that hasn't been out for 3/4 of a year and has never ridden before. I'll play against Pletcher partially on that theory, and partially because I'm always wary of big Beyers in maiden races earned by front-runners---often that doesn't reveal that the horse is a speed champ, it just means he got the race his own way, especially when there's no proof of any other races in that echelon.

Baby Rusch is an elder against 3yos here, but I feel like his best is going to be on an uncontested lead, which he won't get here. And while the horse may be quick, Joseph DeMola needs to start winning races before I'm going to bet someone like Jamaica Kev. Mr. Rowdy will take some action based on being a beaten favorite twice in a row, despite not showing much in his last two and getting the estimable Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons. Color me unimpressed.

So for a price play, why not Minister's Appeal, who's 15-1 on the morning line and has superb connections in Mott and Prado? His last two races are almost total toss-outs; his previous was on the turf, and he got a hideous start in his last race, both of which may have cost him any chance. This slightly goes against what I said earlier about betting a horse who's earned a huge Beyer front-running in a maiden race; however, the 81 he ran the race before that indicates to me that he may have just move forward in his last.

So the play for me is a strong wni bet on Minister's Appeal if he's double-digits (I think he will be), and using him in exactas both ways with the Godolphin entry, Irish Ace, who broke his maiden here, and Pauillac, who should be flying late. Hopefully the prices will be solid.

Enjoy opening day! It's possibly the best day at Saratoga each year, as it's ripe with the promise of great racing and a lucrative August. It isn't usually until the Alabama that we realize the latter isn't in the cards, once again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's Coming Up for Saratoga

Here's what you will NOT find on this blog about Saratoga:

(1) Tales of woe regarding bets gone wrong and times that so-and-so screwed you out of a twin trifecta because of a lightning storm that struck the canoe and set fire to the starter's knickers. Or some other tale of hyperbole and windbaggedness, a la Plagarizing Andy Beyer.

(2) Yet another tale about the beauty and history and charm of Saratoga. Here, I'll just say it now---Saratoga's pretty awesome to be at in August. Case closed. I refuse to turn into Steve Rushin.

(3) Tales of times in Saratoga with my buddies. It's boring enough when Bill Simmons does it, the last thing you need is stories of my friends, who are even less interesting than J-Bug.

(4) A recap of every race. Steve Crist does such a tremendous job in his Saratoga Journal that I'm not even going to fathom emulating or duplicating it.

(5) A look into the scenes and news surrounding the track. Again, Alan's so good at it, why duplicate something that's tough to build on?

(6) Discussing TVG. If you want to hear incessant negativity, there's about 5000 racing writers I can put you in touch with.

Okay, so is anything left? Yes! What I'd like to discuss about Saratoga here:

(1) Previews and analysis of the interesting races each day. These may be the stakes races, these may not be. For example, Wednesday's card has a fine stakes race, but the 3rd and 5th races are vastly more intriguing and will get a full treatment here.

(2) Recaps of important races. Again, this could be stakes racing, it could not be.

(3) Attempting to spot trends, myths, and angles, both from a handicapping and betting perspective.

(4) Identifying horses to watch in the future, then actually following up on what happens with them, both during Saratoga and afterwards. The great thing about the Spa is trying to see who becomes the next star; a particular weekend in 2003 yielded wins by Purge, Read the Footnotes, Roses in May and Clock Stopper before anyone had heard of them. There's something immensely entertaining and gratifying about seeing a future star breakout.

Real analysis coming tomorrow. Promise.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Racing Recap, or Why My Picks Stunk

Let's take a peek at the picks for this weekend's primary stakes races:

CCA Oaks: (1) Octave, (2) Humble Janet, (3) Wow Me Free
VA Derby: (1) Blazing Dynamo, (2) Summer Doldrums, (3) Duveen, (4) Strike a Deal

Let's now compare with the actual results:

CCA Oaks: (1) Octave, (2) Lear Princess, (3) Folk, (4) Humble Janet, (5) Wow Me Free
VA Derby: (1) Red Giant, (2) Strike a Deal, (3) Soldier's Dancer, (4) Summer Doldrums, (5) Blazing Dynamo

So what happened? Well, picking Octave right wasn't exactly an accomplishment, she was 1-2 and won with little difficulty. The problem in both races was imagining a pace scenario that didn't happen; namely, that certain horses would ensure a prompt pace in both races and enable closers to do their thing. That didn't happen at all, making Red Giant's task easier and taking a horse like Humble Janet out of the equation. Note to self for next go-around: try not to infer that there's a pace meltdown out of nowhere.

Lastly, as a note regarding the tenor and substance (such that there is any) of the blog, my writing style and analysis assumes that you know something about racing, but isn't written for someone who's a total savant in racing. Instead, I'm writing for someone of the knowledge level of my buddy Teddy from the Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette: familiar enough with the basics of racing to get it, but not quite nuanced in the details. And I'm hear to educate and discuss those very details. If desired, I'll go more basic need be, but I feel like that's just not necessary at this point.

Saratoga's card for Wednesday has been released! To say the least, the Spa will dominate posts here for the next 6 weeks. Can't wait. Coming up soon: thoughts on Saratoga prior to the meet, some things to watch, and of course, the Wednesday card in glorious detail.

Stakes Analysis: Virginia Derby

With all due respect to Belmont and Del Mar, the real fun race for the weekend is the 10th running of the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Colonial is an interesting course for the States--it's all turf! Located in Middle of Nowhere, Virginia, it was designed in the 90's to emulate European racing, where the dirt is the anomaly. The inside fence is moved in and out of the course of the days and meet to make "new" courses each time, and to avoid too much wear and tear on the grass. And the centerpiece of the meet is the Virginia Derby, a Grade 2 on the grass at a mile and a quarter for a cool million dollars.

Much like the race analyzed yesterday, the CCA Oaks, this race is part of a greater series
of races. Unlike the faux Triple Tiara, this one has a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: sweeping the Colonial Turf Cup (run last month), the Va Derby, the Secretariat (next month at Arlington Park) and the BC Turf results in a $5 million bonus. That'll keep your attention if you're an owner.

So let's start with the horse that's eligible for the bonus: Rick Violette's Summer Doldrums. A son of Street Cry (same sire as Street Sense), he's taken well to the turf since a poor showing in the Wood Memorial, with a nose loss in his turf debut, followed by winning the CTC by a head in his last. His breeding is strong for the turf and the distance, and he's got good tactical speed to sit off front runners Inca King and Red Giant and get first run on the closers. Making his case even a little bit better is the fact he didn't have the best trip in the CTC by going 6 wide on the far turn, and was still able to turn the tables on Strike a Deal, who beat him in his turf debut. He's a tough customer that's going to be heard from, even if he does have the utterly uninspiring Jose Lezcano in the irons.

Despite all this, he's not the morning line favorite and probably won't be the post-time favorite. Those honors will fall to Circular Quay, a veteran of the Triple Crown who was last seen running an uninspired 5th in the Preakness, following his uninspired 6th in the Derby. Super trainer Todd Pletcher now switches him to the turf for the first time, and goes back to 10 furlongs for the million dollar purse here. Is this a good idea? Well, chasing a good purse isn't a bad idea, and he's got the fastest Beyer Speed, Gowanus Speed the race, albeit all on dirt. How's he going to translate to turf? Lauren Stich posits that Thunder Gulch is a "hidden turf sire", which he is to some extent, though he's clearly preferable on dirt. Circle of Life, Circular Quay's dam, never tried the turf, but with her background, it's not unfathomable that she'd be okay with running on the grass.

But even more of an issue than his questionable ability on turf is the fact he may not be a horse for a mile and a quarter. Circular Quay has failed to finish within 6 lengths of the winner in a Grade 1 route race, and his only success at a route race was in the Louisiana Derby, where he beat absolutely nobody. And while Thunder Gulch should sire a distance horse, his mum, Circle of Life, was a sprinter at heart when she ran. (Granted, she retired a tad prematurely with an injury in the Test, but she was still best at shorter distances.) So what we've got here may not be a router, but really a miler at heart. This is the type of favorite you're suppose to play against, and I think he's a good bet-against.

So who are our other options? Inca King and Red Giant look like they're speed factors only. Soldier's Dancer isn't fast enough. Neither is Love Dubai, though he closed stoutly in his last, and could catch a piece at an okay price. Top Cross has the Pletcher factor working for him, but seems to be a cut below. Let's look at the remaining three horses in turn:

Strike a Deal has yet to finish out of the exacta in a turf race, and is out of Smart Strike, the same sire as English Channel, the 2005 winner. He's exchanged tight finishes with Summer Doldrums in his past two, so if you like Summer Doldrums (as I do), you really can't put Strike a Deal too far out of the picture either. The only real "issue" I can find with him is that I don't love Alan Goldberg as a trainer, but I'm nitpicking.

Duveen may be the forgotten horse on the tote board, as he won the Crown Royal American Turf on Kentucky Oaks day, then fell asleep behind Inca King in his last. He's bred superbly to hit 10 furlongs on the turf, and should get excellent tracking position just off the leaders and near Summer Doldrums. And his trainer won this race 3 years ago with Kitten's Joy. Have to include him in everything.

Most intriguing of them all is Blazing Dynamo, who appears to have finally woken up and is living up to his excellent breeding. He's a dead closer who will be absolutely flying late and will relish the extra distance here. Given the fact that there may be a stiff pace here that may even involve Summer Doldrums and Strike a Deal, he's a closer to watch and see if he improves. Let's take a stab with him at 20-1 or so.

So after all that analysis, the picks are:

(1) Blazing Dynamo
(2) Summer Doldrums
(3) Duveen
(4) Strike a Deal

For those betting the race, I would focus on Blazing Dynamo and Duveen, but would back up those bets with Summer Doldrums and Strike a Deal on top of exactas and trifectas as well. Getting Circular Quay out of the money will add so much value to the exotics that they'll be worth it.

Enjoy the race!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stakes Analysis: Coaching Club American Oaks

Apologies for the paucity of commentary and posts this week, but it's been a doozy at work, what with the torrential downpours that we had on Wednesday, the blast of the steam pipe on the East Side (a block from our NYC office), and the vagaries of just work in general. Regardless, let's get to one of our tasks at hand here: analyzing a New York stakes race. I'd look at the entire card for Saturday, a/k/a, Ladies' Day at Belmont, but with the exception of Shug McGaughey running Parading in the 3rd race, it's a pretty uninteresting card. (Can't we do something to minimize the number of New York-bred races on a Saturday, for crying out loud?) So let's go to the big one, the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Run at a mile and a quarter, the "classic" distance that's also the same length as the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic (along with many other races of note), the CCA Oaks was once the 3rd part of the Triple Tiara, the NY version of the Triple Crown for 3-year old fillies, coupled with the Acorn and Mother Goose, both races run earlier in the meet. The Triple Tiara was changed a few years back to instead consist of the Mother Goose, CCA Oaks, and the Alabama, which is run on the 4th Saturday of the Saratoga meet. There was some chatter about this new series of races when Spoken Fur won the first two legs in 2003, but she flopped miserably in the Alabama to Island Fashion. Smuggler also won the first two legs in 2005, but was injured and retired soonafter, and I'd be lying to you if I said there was an iota of hoopla over the fact she won the first two legs. Which is something of a shame, because the old Triple Tiara was won by some great fillies, including Sky Beauty, Open Mind, Davona Dale, Mom's Command and the incomparable Ruffian (left).

Is there a similar potential for greatness this year? Well, originally this was the spot for Super Girl Rags to Riches to make her next start after her historic Belmont, with the possibility of another run against the males in the Travers being in the offing. Sadly, though, she was declared from the race with a fever, and will instead be pointed for the Alabama. Result? Todd Pletcher goes to his #2 filly, Octave...who won the Mother Goose and is thus the lone girl eligible to win the new Triple Tiara. And she's a pretty bonafide favorite; she's run a pair of very nice races in a row in finishing 2nd in the Kentucky Oaks to Rags to Riches before taking the Mother Goose over 3 other fillies. Prior to those two efforts, her other 7 races all resulted in her finishing first or second, and if she had a pair of head bobs come out differently, she'd have 3 Grade 1 wins under her belt. Much as I like to beat favorites, this isn't the spot to try.

So there's no money made in the race? Hardly! This is where the beauty of exotic betting comes into play, because the second choice in the morning line, Lear Princess, is extremely vulnerable. She's 3-for-3, with all wins coming over either the grass or Polytrack (a synthetic clay-esque surface whose analog is closer to grass than dirt often), and is by Lear Fan, who's a great turf sire, but NOT a dirt sire. To top it off, the horse is owned by West Point, a syndicate who's often known for spotting their horses a tad overambitiously, often to say they've competed in Grade 1 stakes races for the sake of their clientele and/or to recruit new clients. At 3-1, she's worth passing on in search of a better price.

Much tougher to analyze is Folk, the third choice on the morning line, who comes off a horrendous run in the UAE Derby, where she took on males and got thumped to the tune of 25 lengths. She bred ok for the distance, but appears to be a need-the-lead type who may get hooked up with Coy Coyote (longshot on the rail) from the outset, softening her up for the end. It wouldn't surprise me to see her run well, but I'll try something else. Instead, let's take a stab with longshots Humble Janet, who's got amazingly obscure breeding but comes off a big effort in her last; and Wow Me Free, who has interesting breeding for the distance but obscure connections. Both should be at least 20-1 and could close into a fairly brisk pace and catch money.

So the call for the Belmont's final Grade 1 until September:

(1) Octave
(2) Humble Janet
(3) Wow Me Free

Enjoy the race! Time permitting, I'll be back tomorrow to take a look at the weekend's most interesting race, the Virginia Derby.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mission Statement

Hello! If you've found this blog, then welcome! Perhaps you've gotten here through our sister site, the Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette, or perhaps you just love racing, much like me. No matter. This is going to be an occasional blog, with updates hopefully a few times a week, with the variables being work, life, and whether or not they're racing at Aqueduct. (Hint: if they are, it'll be less often.)

So who am I? I'm a New Yorker with a big interest in thoroughbred racing from all angles. But I'm not going to be thorough and comprehensive about the news that's going on in racing; Alan does such a tremendous job of that, it'd be stupid to replicate his work. Instead, I'm looking to focus on a few areas of racing, such as....
  • Stakes racing in general, with a huge emphasis on the New York circuit. I love all types of races, but I'm by far the best at analyzing and deciphering better horses, so we'll get into a lot of that here.
  • New York racing as it pertains to the racetrack, and less so to the business/financial aspects.
  • Discussion of betting methods for players out there that want to hit the track with more than $20 but less than $200, and aren't interested in the Dave Litfin approach of saving it up for one leg.
  • Full discussion and analysis of big days at the track and the Saratoga meet specifically. There's nothing better than Saratoga.
  • Snark, criticism, observations and thoughts regarding the oddities and silly people in racing and moronic observations you see made on a daily basis, be it from a trainer or the Daily Racing Form. If you haven't seen our GRBG work, that's roughly what we're looking at here.
  • Updates and looks at all the divisions in racing, with thoughts on where we're headed in the Breeders Cup.
  • And last, some research projects from time to time into various ideas and debunking (or proving) myths.
So buckle up and let's have some fun. Comments and thoughts are welcome, as is criticism--I'm not an expert by any stretch, just a guy who loves racing and has opinions that are as baseless as the next guy. (Well, okay, hopefully a little more soundly based.) Coming up soon: thoughts on Saratoga before the meet starts.