Friday, May 18, 2012

Preakness Stakes - The Bets Part I

There are two potential bets I will make on Preakness Day depending on what I'm feeling or where I am at (soccer field, baseball field or friend's party). In this installment I'll go after the guaranteed $1 million Pick 4. Later the Preakness trifecta. Before I get to the plays, I have to say it's hard for me to believe it's been a year since I visited Pimlico and watched Shackleford blow up all my tickets. Pimlico is definitely more down and dirty than Churchill, but far more fun than my old Kentucky home.

JW Murphy, $100K on the turf at a mile

Way to kick off any Pick 4 on the turf, where usually five to six horses finish within a length of each other.

I'll include Easy Crossing, who I think will sit a near perfect trip; Lemon Juice a late runner that might relish a little extra distance than he is used to; Shkspeare Shaliyah, who belongs in with these after an ambitious Grade 1 effort and clunker in his last, Two Months Rent, a potential loose-on-the-lead candidate and Achilles, coming off back-to-back wins.

That's 1-3-5-8-12

The Allaire DuPont Distaff, Grade 3 at a 1 1/16 miles

In a pretty even field, I'm going with a single, an almost insane stab in what could be another blanket finish.

Awesomemundo finds her way as the only lady on my ticket here. I'm guessing she just didn't like the fake surfaces out west since she demolished a decent allowance field on Santa Anita's dirt. It was a career best and Baffert has given this miss the proper layoff following the 7 plus length blowout. She should get first run on several vying for the lead. I'll cross my fingers and hope.

That's 5

The Dixie Stakes, Grade 2 going1 1/8 miles on turf

I almost went with the "All" button in this one, but I'll take more than few shots, instead.

Humble and Hungry goes for a trainer that shows great returns on his horses running the second time after a layoff as Humble and Hungry does today. If I like Humble and Hungry, I really need to include Hudson Steele, who beat him in his last start in a very matter-of-fact win. I've wavered back and forth with Straight Story - I like, I don't, I like, I don't - and with so much indecision, I feel he needs to be on the ticket. Trend almost always finishes second, but with great improvement in his last two places, a win could be in the cards today. Smart Bid is always trying hard; I like that. Air Support placed in four straight important three-year-old turf races and has every right to improve off his return. And I simply cannot leave an improving Chad Brown trainee off the ticket, so Casino Host gets on.

That's 2-3-4-5-7-9-11

The Preakness, Second Jewel in Triple Crown

Speed is a factor in the Preakness - Shackleford, Rachel Alexandra and Big Brown have proven such in recent years. And with Bodemeister unlikely to be challenged early or least by any horse that can hang with him, I can't see me going anywhere else on this ticket. Sure I'll Have Another is a worthy Derby Champ, but one of these days he'll run into trouble or just won't be able to keep pace. I say that day is Saturday.

That's 7

So for 50 cents on 1-3-5-8-12/5/2-3-4-5-7-9-11/7 it will cost me $17.50

Good luck in whatever direction you choose!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kentucky Derby Dreams Cashed

There are very few times in life when one can say, "My dream has come true."

Last Saturday as I readied myself for the 138 Kentucky Derby I realized that yes, I was going to be sitting under the Twin Spires for the biggest race of the Thoroughbred season, nay the biggest race of my life.

When you start laying down horse racing wagers at 10 years old, well, let's just say attending the Kentucky Derby becomes an automatic. So, for some 34 years I've dreamt of seeing 20 hopefuls burst through the starting gate as more than 100,000 fans cheer them on.

Over the course of my young life I've dreamt of making such a trip with my grandfather, who first peaked my interest in betting; my father, who in so many ways made me who I am today and my uncle Pete, who became a second father and a comrade-in-betting-arms during many weekend trips to Saratoga. Unfortunately, I've attended each one of their funerals, thus I made my pilgrimage last Saturday without them in person, but very much on my mind.

Waking up in Clarksville, IN under the comfort of someone else's home with the fresh dew of the previous night's thunder storms slowing evaporating into the sweet smells of a new day, "a winning day," I thought. And so it was.

The day before I made my initial trip to Churchill to watch the Oaks. (There's more on that at my video and blog post at Horse Racing Nation.) By the way, not only was my maiden trip to Churchill, it was also as completed as a "media member," thanks to Brian Zipse, managing editor of Horse Racing Nation. Now picture this if you will:

  • I found my seat in the media room with a welcome sign from Churchill Downs
  • I was amongst media members like Jeff Siegel of Horse Racing TV, Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form and "Hammerin" Hank Goldberg of ESPN and Todd Schrupp of TVG to name a few
  • Our view of the track from the 6th floor of the track including air conditioned accommodations, our own betting windows, complimentary buffets and drinks and a bulls eye view of the finish line
So for day two of my Oaks-Derby experience was more of the same of the previous day - a feeling of incredible good luck just to be here. Cashing winning bets was gravy. This kid-in-the-candy-story state of mind pervaded my thoughts throughout the day. Those being paid to do similar work for much more money (I was rewarded in so many more ways than monetary compensation) and much bigger institutions, didn't seem to have the same zeal as me. Maybe I was simply caught in my happy bubble of dream.

And I shared my rose-colored view with my Horse Racing Nation buds - Zipse, Mark Midland, Jasen Mangrum and Kevin Kerstein. As any of these bettors-turned-insiders can tell you, I pretty much talked non-stop in both sensible and nonsensical ways - think Jack Kerouac with his scroll and meandering thoughts. A few around me were kind enough to tolerate my stream of consciousness and laughed along the way. A few wished they were seated somewhere else. 

I soaked in as much as possible and even did a little work, shooting and editing a Kentucky Derby Pick 4 video with Brian and Jasen. (Hey, I needed to earn my spot.) I drank my Mint Julep, watched many ladies walk by in their Derby hats, noticed a few celebrities and failed to cash a ticket all day.

No matter, the day quickly melted away to the Derby - a race, as you know, in which I placed a near-miss $406 superfecta bet down. I also had a $50 win bet on Bodemeister.

The memories will stick for a lifetime, as I find it hard to believe my experience was just a week away....

My drink and my view

My greeting

Ladies in hats

Oaks Boys

Crowded paddock

Had to take this photo

A garden on a hat

Derby Winner's Circle

168,000 trying to leave at once

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kentucky Derby Bet Near Miss

If only I'll Have Another didn't run his race...

...and Went the Day Well didn't nose out Creative Cause for the show, I would have had hit the superfecta. Actually, I'm glad I'll Have Another won, because at least it saved me from being painfully close to hitting. So the elusive dream of cashing that big Derby bet will have to wait another year.

Later this week, I'll be posting some photos from the unbelievable Derby experience I shared with the Horse Racing Nation Team.

Looking ahead, just box the Derby horses in the Preakness - exacta or trifecta...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kentucky Derby 138 - The Bet

With about 90 minutes to go to the 138 Kentucky Derby, I will share with the few, the proud, the followers of this blog - a Derby bet I'm making with some friends of mine. But I get ahead of myself...

First and foremost, you need to decide the type of bet you're making today. For me, the Derby is all about the superfecta - trying to correctly pick the top of four finishers. It is an difficult extremely bet and one, in which, I have just missed the last two years, correctly picking three of the top four. (Check out my blog post from Kentucky 137, when had all but Mucho Macho Man in third in the superfecta that cost $216.) The bet, by the way, has paid anywhere from $3,500 to more than $200,000 the last 15 years. So with a few near misses in hand, I came up with a strategy - bet many more and include my friends to support the ticket. 

Today, I have a $406 bankroll (8 of us at $50 a piece for $400), and I am actually tossing in the extra  $6 for the play including the following horses...

My top four:

#6 Bodemeister (4-1) - named after the trainer's son, Bode. Run away winner of Arkansas Derby...the only draw back, he'd be the first Derby winner, not to have won a race at 2 years old since Apollo in 1882.

#8 Creative Cause (12-1) - never out of the money in eight lifetime starts

#10 Daddy Nose Best (15-1) - two-time stakes winner, running under the radar and we'll probably be closer to 25-1 or higher; he's my big bomb

#15 Gemologist (6-1) - five starts, five wins - enough said...

All six of these will occupy spots in the bet:

#3 Take Charge Indy (15-1) - must include because his jockey has won the Derby 3 of the last five years

#4 Union Rags (9-2) - possible favorite, never out of the money in six lifetime starts, $1 million winner

#5 Dullahan (8-1) - reluctantly I put him in, sometimes you have include those you don't necessarily like

#11 Alpha (15-1) - good bet to make a move into contention late in the race

#13 Went the Day Well (20-1) - I can't quite decide on this one, so he's got to go on the ticket

#14 Hansen (10-1) - 2-year-old champ, almost ghost-white in color, maybe overlooked because he lost his last race

There's 20 in the race, but if we bet them all, we'd have to come up with $166,000...

Just a note, speed is holding up, so I feel fairly confident that the speed with hold for second, third and fourth. 

Here's the play and the combinations that will cost $406:


Good luck with whatever you play...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Five Reasons to Play Against the Kentucky Derby Favorite

Following up last year’s Five Reasons to Get Off Uncle Mo’s back, the then prohibitive early Kentucky Derby favorite, I am providing my five reasons to play against Saturday's likely favorite, Union Rags. While I find Union Rags to be a much more deserving favorite, there are chinks in his armor and enough doubts about him being a clear winner that I need to share with you. Without further ado and in no particular order…

The jock – Listen I love Julien Leparoux. He’s a much accomplished jockey, who rides well on turf, dirt, fake stuff, sprint, route, from behind, on the lead, etc. etc. It’s not his talent that concerns me this Saturday; it was his reaction after Union Rags finished third in the Florida Derby. There was a cryptic tweet along the lines of, I’m signing off from Twitter for awhile. It sounded like whatever criticism Leparoux heard either online, from the stands or questions from the media affected him. He’s human, he’s allowed. Whether it was the trouble that Union Rags found getting bottled up, behind and leaving him with too much work left to do or it was Leparoux’s fault/over confidence thinking he had enough horse to win no matter what, is not the point. The point is that the criticism hurt and you can’t have a sensitive/indecisive rider on Derby Day.

Stretch runs – Have you watched Union Rags run? The boy finds trouble in almost every trip, winning or losing. Watch his Champagne Stakes’ win, it’s almost a carbon copy of the Florida Derby. While finding trouble and winning shows grit, continuing to find trouble and losing shows lack of maturity. Usually troubled trip notes aren’t written alongside the Kentucky Derby winner.

Favorite Status – Almost the surest bet to be made each Kentucky Derby Day are the ones that don’t include the favorite. Seriously, favorites win the Derby at an alarming low rate. In the every day world of Thoroughbred horse racing, favorites win at about a 30-35% rate. Over the last 30 Derbies run, favorites have won four for a paltry 13% win rate. You don’t need to be a math major to figure that's some poor odds.

The Post – C’mon you can’t dismiss that post-position draw. Yeah, yeah it’s not the rail, but it is not an easy assignment to win from the four-hole. He does get Take Charge Indy to his inside and a possible horse to follow, but in a race seemingly filled with speed there are several more crashing down towards the rail and in Union Rags direction. If he is taken back and forced to go five-wide like the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile than he’s not a winner.

Strong Competition – There are far too many good horses in here to single Union Rags. You can include him, if you’d like, but a single on Union Rags equals wagering suicide. Bodemeister is faster. Dullahan and Daddy Nose Best are closers worthy of consideration. Gemologist has yet to lose. While being overlooked, Hansen should be considered. Creative Cause wasn’t cranked for Santa Anita Derby, but he certainly is now.

So take the favorite. He’s good looking, fast striding. His trainer is a class act. Nothing wrong with any of that…but I just don’t see him winning. There, you’ve been told. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kentucky Derby 138 Field Just About Set

What follows is your likely Kentucky Derby Field in order of graded stakes earnings - the top 20 get in. Of course, I provide a brief commentary on each entry. Enjoy...

Hansen – fast, sometimes too fast and headstrong; he almost guarantees a fast Derby pace

Daddy Long Legs – the Dubai to Derby record is poor; for me he’s a toss

Union Rags – beautiful specimen, never out of the money, but sometimes erratic stretch runs make me nervous

Dullahan – I think he’s grossly overrated; this field is much better than the one Animal Kingdom beat moving from turt-to-synethtic-to-dirt

Creative Cause – blinkers on-blinkers off never a good move before Derby Day just ask Stay Thirsty

Gemologist – unbeaten and solid Churchill Downs form, he’ll be on top of my tickets

Sabercat – Delta Downs winners usually don’t make it this far, so consider this a moral victory

Take Charge Indy – Calvin Borel in the saddle guarantees low odds for FL Derby winner

Bodemeister – speed figures say he just might break the “no win at 2” jinx

I’ll Have Another – two straight Left Coast stakes victories, but also two dream trips

Daddy Nose Best – beat second-tier Derby contenders in New Mexican desert, but I like him

Liasion – lots of success at two; none at three

Alpha – any setbacks on the way to Derby bother me; like him, don’t love him

Prospective – no horse has won Derby finishing less than fifth in final prep; he finished sixth in Blue Grass

Trinniberg – looks like, runs like and was breed to be a…sprinter; which means he probably finishes in the money

Done Talking – will have no say in outcome; too slow

Went the Day Well – I bet on Animal Kingdom and you sir are no Animal Kingdom

Rousing Sermon – the connections take him because has the earnings, never a good idea

Mark Valeski – nothing wrong with two strong seconds, except Fair Grounds doesn’t really produce Derby winners

El Padrino – failed to fire in FL Derby when caught wide, needs a perfect trip running with 19 others...doubtful

Well, that's it for now...I'll be blogging and producing video for Horse Nation from Churchill...just 10 days away 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Getting Your Kentucky Derby Zen On Part II

In my second installment of Debry Zen, I make the case for not loving your Kentucky Derby horse too much...

If you’re practicing the art of Zen along with me for the next few weeks until May 5, you need to know that such matters don’t always unfold peacefully. Sure, you can cross yourself up into the lotus position along a babbling brook and gather the energy of the universe through each cleansing breath. For the rest of us, such quiet moments of reflection come somewhere between the second cup of coffee and the third time through the past performances. 
The truth of the matter is enlightenment usually hits you between the eyes with a hypothetical hammer as your handicapping budget becomes lighter, two times over. Learning from the experience in front of us is just as important as the reflection – sometimes hundreds of times over – from a distance. The problem is sometimes it takes us far too long to learn and/or apply what has been learned. Today’s moment of  Derby Zen concentrates on the most basic, yet complex feeling of love, as in loving a horse so much you’re blind to other evidence around you spelling the horse’s defeat. With 20 steeds starting from Churchill’s main gate love is probably what you don’t need clouding your wagering judgments.
Read the rest at Horse Racing Nation...