Friday, November 4, 2011

2011 Breeders Cup Saturday Preview

Friday's Breeders Cup had some favorites (Secret Circle) and longshots (Perfect Shirl) win, some champions crowned (see My Miss Aurelia) and some more questions raised.  "Ladies Day" was solid but the big day is Saturday, and what a day it could be for the ladies!
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Classic Preview

Yesterday I got back into handicapping by looking into the Travers Stakes, known as the "Mid-Summer Derby" as it generally features the top 3yos in the country.  Outside of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, the 2011 version was no exeecption.  My top choice Stay Thirsty never let go of the lead and won by a little over a length in a pedestrian 2:03.03.  He paid $6.80, just a tad under the 5/2 I was seeking, but I bet him anyway.

Today's feature race is the $1,000,000 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar in California.  This race isn't quite as balanced as the Travers was, but there are still a few intriguing angles and storylines.

The morning line favorite is the Craig Family homebred Twirling Candy by Pacific Classic winning sire Candy Ride (ARG).  Very popular at the betting window, Twirling Candy has been favored in each of his last four starts, winning two Grade IIs, but coming up short in the two Grade I races he's entered.  While extremely talented and classy, I just don't think he wants to go 10 furlongs as evidenced by his 0-2 record at the distance despite being favored in both contests.  Also he's been unable to beat millionaire Game On Dude, who starts just to his inside in the 9 hole.  

See the replay of the Hollywood Gold Cup below, a key race won by since retired First Dude, with Game On Dude a game 2nd followed closely by Twirling Candy in 3rd and Setsuko a few lengths back in 4th.

Game On Dude likes the lead and has run two monster races at the 10 furlong distance of today's race, winning the Santa Anita Handicap by a nose while narrowly losing the aforementioned Hollywood Gold Cup. Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to win the Pacific Classic having saddled the winner Richard's Kid the past two years. He may get some pace pressure from Woodbine shipper Don Cavallo and turf superstar Acclimation, but he's proven to be able to run on and is certainly a top contender.

Acclimation is a total wildcard in this race. He’s arguably the top rated turf router in the country having won his past 3 races on the lawn, from 9f to 12f, by a combined 13 ¾ lengths. Unfortunately he’s 0-6 on synthetic surfaces with his last race a 3rd in the Grade II Strub at Santa Anita in February of 2010 at 21-1. He’s clearly a much better horse now, and if he can handle the Del Mar Polytrack, I think he’s a top contender.

Other Contenders

Don Cavallo is a nice horse, but is a step below these in class. 6yo Tres Borrachos owns a win over this surface having captured the Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 30 in late running fashion. He actually ran in the 2009 running of the Pacific Classic finishing a tiring 11th after leading from the gate for 3/4 of a mile. He has trouble at the 1 ¼ distance with only a 2nd in 5 starts, and while I don’t think he can win, he may factor in the exotics if the front runners fade. The Richard Mandella trained Setsuko is an interesting horse. His only win was a Maiden Sp Wt over 2 ½ years ago, but he’s won $475k and narrowly lost to Game on Dude by a nose in the Big Cap this March. Dick doesn’t enter his horses in these races unless he feels he can win, and he has won 3 prior Pacific Classics so I’ll go off the assumption Setsuko is primed for a big one. Capable, but no way I’m picking a horse with only a maiden victory to win this race. Jeranimo is another turfer trying the switch to synthetic, but he has had some success on surface in the past having won the Grade II Strub last year, defeating Acclimation in the process. His late running style could prove important as most of the other contenders (Game on Dude, Twirling Candy, Acclimation) do their best running on or near the lead.

My pick is going to be the longshot Jeranimo because I believe the race sets up well for him, and I don’t have faith in Twirling Candy at short odds at the 1 ¼ distance. I think Game On Dude will be game as usual, and Setsuko or Tres Borrachos could factor in the exotics as well.

Bet #2 Jeranimo to win

Bet exacta 2, 9 over 2, 3, 6, 9
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Travers Preview

With all the excitement around my filly Blazing Reflection and her winning debut I haven't thought too much about handicapping, but with the Travers and Pacific Classic this weekend, what better time to get back in the game.  The Travers features the Preakness, Belmont and Haskell winners and could go along way in determining the 3yo champion this year.  Sunday's $1m Pacific Classic features the best of the west with Twirling Candy leading the entries.

The 3yo division can be described both as "modest" and highly competitive.  Last month's Haskell Invitational was a key race with the top 3 finishers coming back to run again in the Travers Stakes.  Video replay below.

Bob Baffert trained Coil ran a big one passing an extremely game Shackleford to win by a neck.  I love Shackleford who won the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles but couldn't quite get extra distance of the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont.  Today's Travers is at the Derby distance of 10 furlongs so the logic would be that he'll take the lead early, but fade late.  I always felt the Saratoga race track favored front runners, and there really isn't another runner with the early pace of Shackleford, so I think its definitely possible he could hold off the stretch runners. Though it won't be my top selection, I will have him in my exactas.

While Coil was able to win the Gr. 1 Haskell, he has run 3 straight 96 Beyers which doesn't exactly set him apart in this field, even from the longshots.  He's really done nothing wrong and is certainly capable, but I'm leaning against him.

Belmont winner Ruler On Ice is the 3rd and final Grade I winner in this field that also competed in the Haskell finishing 3rd, 2 1/2 lengths behind Coil.  His Belmont score was clearly benefitted by a sloppy racetrack, and unless a preview of Hurricane Irene comes prior to post time, I don't see him finishing first or second.

Belmont runner-up Stay Thirsty is a horse I like alot in this race.  He's coming out of an impressive 4 length score in the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, is 2-2 on the Saratoga main track, and is conditioned by leading trainer Todd Pletcher.  He has been installed as the morning line favorite at 5/2, but I could see him starting closer to 3-1 or more as this field is extremely tightly matched.  His sire Bernardini was a Travers winner and I think he does the same.

Of the remaining entries, #5 Malibu Glow is intriguing coming off a win at the Spa, and #6 Raison d'Etat, a Juddmonte homebred by AP Indy out of millionaire multi-G1 winner Sightseek has the pedigree to win this, but will be a longshot.  If the pace implodes #8 J W Blue will be coming late.

#9 Stay Thirsty to win (5/2 or better)
Exacta box #9 with #10 Shackleford
Longshot win bet on #5 Malibu Glow
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Saturday, August 13, 2011


"Blazing Reflection broke with the leaders and stalked the pace from the outside, moved up three wide into the stretch to gain command past the furlong pole and drew clear driving." 

This is the comment from the official Equibase chart of Blazing Reflection's debut race.  What a great day out at Santa Rosa Race Track for the Sonoma County fair on Friday.  My horse ran her first race, and she performed beautifully.  She broke well, attended the pace and grabbed the lead as she hit the stretch.  She "drew clear" at the 1/16th pole and won comfortably by 3 1/2 lengths.  Her final time of 1:13 2/5 wasn't bad for her first race and I expect her to move forward big time after that run.  Incredibly, she paid $43.00 for a $2 win bet, despite the field being modest at best.  Normally I don't bet on horses I own, but in this case I couldn't pass up this underlay of a lifetime. 

Its been several years since I've felt the rush of victory and got my picture taken in the winner's circle.  Even though the purse was modest, the feeling of watching her gain the lead and get the win was awesome.  The next race will be much more difficult to win, but I can't wait for it.  Hopefully she'll come out of this race well and be ready for the next one.  She had only 1 workout at 5 furlongs, so this 6 furlong race will do wonders for her stamina.  She also ran a bit greenly in the stretch, the jockey David Lopez had to straighten her path a few times, but she clearly likes to run as she showed good speed from the gate, and pulled away at the end even after the jockey ceased urging her.  Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Race

Tomorrow at 3:45pm my 2yo filly Blazing Reflection debuts in a $12,500 Maiden Claimer at Santa Rosa in a 6 furlong race.  Below is the entries from the Daily Racing Form.

She's been training pretty well, but first races are always difficult.  How will she run?  Will she be "green"?  What kind of break will she get?  Will she get tired?  I have all these questions which will be answered tomorrow hopefully (I've had a horse scratch at the gate so you never know).  I am hoping she shows some speed, runs well and doesn't get injured.  If she wins that'll just be a nice bonus.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Blazing Workout

The other day I mentioned a new 2yo filly named Blazing Reflection that I've acquired an interest in recently.  Today I went out to Golden Gate Fields to watch her run a 3 furlong workout, her third offical work so far in her career.  I'm happy to say she looked really good and moved smoothly over the Tapeta surface running the 3/8ths of a mile officially in 36 1/5 seconds.  That was good for 4th of the 27 horses that worked that distance today, with every horse ahead of her at least 4 yrs old.  Both trainer and jockey reported that she worked really well and were encouraged by the results. 

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Friday, July 1, 2011

A New Horse Joins the Stable

Previously I've discussed the chestnut filly Incredible Upside and her progress towards making the races.  This 3yo filly showed potential but ultimately injured her hind leg earlier this year and unfortunately has not yet raced.  She is currently re-cooperating in Brentwood, and I no longer have ownership interest but will update her development when she hits the track.

Recently I've acquired an interest in a 2yo filly named Blazing Reflection by Capsized out of the winning Silver Deputy mare Blazing Deputy.  She's a modest sized California bred bay filly who's currently in training at Golden Gate Fields and has already had a couple 3 furlong workouts.    She is inbred to Northern Dancer 4x5 and also has crosses of Bold Ruler, Neartic, and Raise A Native in her fifth generation.  So far it looks like she maybe a sprinter but she does have a dosage index below 3 and her "classic" points dominate her profile.  With the Northern Dancer cross she should handle the turf and her sire Capsized won the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap on the grass in the latter stages of his career.      

I'll try to put pictures up as I go to her workouts.  Barring any setbacks we hope she'll start racing in August.  Wish us luck! Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Belmont 2011

While there is no Triple Crown at stake, the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes (Gr. I) is very intriguing with the winner of the Kentucky Derby (Gr. I) Animal Kingdom, and the Preakness Stakes (Gr. I) Shackleford battling once again in a "rubber match" that could determine the 3yo champion.  Additionally, the top seven finishers of the Kentucky Derby have returned for the "Test of the Champion", a one and a half mile route over what could be a muddy Belmont surface if the morning is any indication.

If the track remains muddy, this may favor speed, and horses coming from well back could be compromised.  We'll need to see a horse that can handle the mud, as well as get the distance, which to me means pedigree will be even more important, as nobody has run this far before, and few have run on an off track.  Let's take a look at the contenders.

The Leading Contenders
The morning line and expected race favorite is the Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who rallied in the Preakness but came up a little short.  The extra 5/16ths of a mile should only help him but the muddy track could be his undoing.  According to Brisnet, his sire Leroidesanimaux(BRL) has only had 7% winners on off-tracks, and his Tomlinson mud figure is only 270, lowest in the field.  Clearly he has the class and stamina to win this race, but I don't make him my top pick because of the muddy track and the likely distance he'll have to make up in the stretch.

Shackleford ran a big race in the Derby but fell short, and a bigger race in the Preakness and held on.  Logically the added distance, 1/4 mile longer than the Derby, will be too much for him.  But let's look at the other factors.  We know he should get the lead fairly early and be on the lead as he approaches the stretch.  If the track is muddy and speed favoring, and he "takes" to it such that he travels well over the sealed surface, he may hang on.  Lesser horses than he (see Da'Tara) have wired the field in this race, and his sire has excellent "mud" stats at 19% winners according to Brisnet.  His damsire Unbridled won the Derby so its not impossible for him to get the distance, and we know he's good enough to beat these.  He appears to be overlooked at the windows as of 3pm EST at 9-1.  Definitely worth a win bet and I expect him to at least give you a thrill in the stretch.

To me Nehro has seconditis (2nd in has past 3 races), and while his closing style would indicate the added distance will help, I think that's a common handicapping fallacy.  He is neither particularly quipped to get 12 furlongs, nor does he appear to be a "mudder" by pedigree.  If speed still holds up like it has, I see him passing tired horses and finishing 3rd thru 5th.

I liked Master of Hounds a bit in the Derby, finishing 5th, and he returns to the states after flying back to Ireland 4 weeks ago.  His pedigree indicates he'll have no problem with the distance and he should handle the mud.  He's not a deep closer so that's a plus too, but I just have a hard time putting him on top after three cross-Atlantic flights in the past 6 weeks.  Wouldn't be a shock, but not my top pick.

The "Mudders"
Ruler on Ice has a 1st and a 2nd in 2 off-track races, but he appears overmatched on both class and stamina.
Mucho Macho Man may have the best mud pedigree with his sire Macho Uno's offspring striking at a 23% clip in the slop.  He is the other horse returning for all three legs of the Triple Crown besides Shackleford and Animal Kingdom, but hasn't run that great or that bad in either race.  He should be forwardly placed, but I think he has distance limitations that will be his undoing.  I see him fading in the stretch.
Stay Thirsty is by young sire Bernardini who's hitting at a 44% clip with his offspring on mud.  Both sides of his pedigree have the stamina for him to get the distance, and his connections are as good as it gets for New York racing (Pletcher/Castellano hitting 33% in past 60 days).  If he moves forward in class a bit, I can see him coming out on top, but he'll need to be more forwardly placed than the last two races.  He maybe the most interesting horse in this race, and could score at a price.

The Longshots I like
The ironically named Brilliant Speed isn't particularly speedy from the gate and he ran a decent race in the Derby after winning the Bluegrass Stakes (Gr. I) at Keeneland.  Joel Rosario is one of the best young jockeys in the game, and skipping the Preakness may have set him up nicely for a big one here.  His sire Dynaformer is one of the best sources of stamina in the game today, and has reasonable mud stats.  The race shape may not be optimal for him, but I do see him running well today, question will be if he has the class to win.

The last horse I'm considering is Santiva, by Giant's Causeway, which is the sole reason I am not tossing him from this race.  Giant's Causeway is an outstanding sire, of both class and stamina.  I'm not sure he's fast enough to win, but I do think he'll handle the mud and the distance. 

The Pick
I really don't have too much conviction in this race so I would approach with an open mind (and deep pockets).  I do think there could be pretty good payouts in the exotics, especially if Animal Kingdom doesn't take to the track.  While he's one of only two of these with a Beyer speed figure over 100, i'm going to only include him in my secondary tickets.

Play #12 Shackleford to "Win".  Play #2 Stay Thirsty to "Win" as well
Exactas:  (4-5-12 with 1,5,12,2,4)
Trifecta: (9, 12 with 5,9,12 with 5,12,1,6,4)

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Preakness 2011: Oh Yeaaaah!

This is about as an easy a wager as there's ever been for a race, assuming there is one and the world doesn't end prior.  If you don't have your money on #9 Mucho Macho Man, given Friday's sad passing of the great Randy "Macho Man" Savage, then you don't understand what a "hunch" bet is.

Besides the name likeness to Mr. Poffo, he also has a decent resume, and has a much better running style for Pimlico than Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.  I also like Shackleford again, he ran a big one at Churchill but couldn't quite carry his speed the full 10 furlongs.  Flashpoint is a longshot pick if he can get away from the field like he did in the Hutcheson (Gr. II). Click Here to Read More..

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Kentucky Derby Predictions

I think the 2011 Kentucky Derby could be one of the more exciting races in recent memory, but assembles one of the least impressive fields in quite some time.  Top contenders and prep winners including Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, Toby's Corner, Premier Pegasus, Jaycito, and JP's Gusto all will be on the sidelines the first Saturday in May.  Who is starting in the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby is a fairly even group with no standouts.  Nick Zito trained Dialed In has been made the morning line favorite at 4-1.

Top Contenders (by post position)
#1 Archarcharch: Would be my top choice were it not for drawing the rail post which could present problems for him as he lacks early speed.  Surprisingly the rail has produced the most Derby winners (12) since 1900 of any post, but only 1 in the past 35 years.  I like his breeding with Arch being the sire of last year's BC Classic winner Blame, and broodmare sire Woodman is solid.  Running style will require a quick pace, which I'm not sure that he'll get, but he closed nicely in both the Southwest and the Arkansas Derby most recently. 
#8 Dialed In:  Visually impressive Florida Derby victory makes him the favorite, but I don't think he closed as fast as it seems as Shackleford was backing up from quick early fractions, and still managed the place.  Scores amongst the top 3 in 4 of the 5 categories I analyze so I have no choice but to put him in the contender mix, although deep down I think he's more likely to encounter a tough trip than not and Zito can add this race to his close calls in the classics in recent years. 
#17 Soldat:  You have to be willing to excuse the Florida Derby, and believe this son of War Front can get 10 furlongs.  I see a potential War Emblem type situation here, who wired a field at 20-1 after getting a clear lead and setting reasonable fractions (47 second 1/2, 1:11 6f pace).  He's the biggest benefactor of the scratch of Uncle Mo who was the most accomplished pacesetter and he now sports the top Beyer Speed Figure in the field at 103 (not unlike W.E.).  He showed class as a juvenile placing 2nd in the BC Juvenile Turf, and solid foundation with 5 starts last year.  If the track comes up wet, he'll be my key horse for first, but either way he'll be in my exactas.

Exotic Fillers: (outside shot of upset, but more likely completing the trifecta)
#13 Mucho Macho Man:  Finished behind a few of these in prep races, but always seems to fire.
#19 Nehro:  Strong closer, but lost by a neck in both the Arkansas Derby and LA Derby his past two starts.  Improving colt may just have seconditis.
#14 Shackleford:  If he can do what Soldat wants to do, he has a shot.  Hung in there nicely in the Florida Derby losing only by a head after leading the whole way with fairly quick fractions.  If the track comes up wet he moves forward with Forestry a good sire of mudders.  Plus, any horse named after Charles Shackleford has my bet.

Wildcard:  #11 Master of Hounds - no prior dirt races, this Aidan O'Brien trainee ships in from Dubai after campaigning in Ireland and Great Britain last year.  By Kingmambo, there's reason to believe he'll like the dirt and his pedigree also suggests he can run all day - the question is will it be fast enough.  Only has a maiden victory to his credit, but did run 2nd on the synthetic track in the UAE Derby in his last start.  With the field lacking much talent, and top jockey Garrett Gomez up, I'll put a few bucks on him to win.

Small win bet on #11 Master of Hounds (30-1).  I'll put a medium size wager on Soldat and Archarcharch at 10-1 or better, i don't think Dialed In to win offers much value.

Exacta:  8 / 1, 13, 19
1/ 8, 13, 14, 17, 19
17/ 13, 14, 1
14/ 13, 17

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