Friday, February 27, 2009

Let's Talk Betting Angles

For Saturday's card at Gulfstream, allow me to tackle to different angles in two different races.

First let's turn our attention to race six on the card, an allowance race on the turf with a money restriction, non-winners of $7,500 twice. It's a full field with plenty contenders who usually show up and finish, if not at the top of the field at least among the top three. The main threats according to the morning line are:
  • Big Stick (7-2) a four time winner last year who just missed in his debut with a similar crowd on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream
  • Baletti (4-1) who took five tries to break through the "non-winners of one" ranks
  • Expansion (5-1) a five-time maiden who finished second and first by a head in his last two 
The problem is all three close from either a stalking or closing position. The rest of the field only shows two possible candidates to take the lead Broad River (12-1) and Artic Cry (10-1) While both have toiled and won in allowance company their latest and perhaps best performances came against lower level claiming horses ($35,000 to $30,000 N3L), thus the prices. 

We all know most grass races aren't won in wire-to-wire fashion, but sometimes horses who gain easy leads while clicking off 24 second quarters can either get really brave or lull the competition to sleep. I'm not thrilled with Bravo in the saddle on Broad River, but I believe he is worth a moderate win play. At the very least, he'll give you lots of action for your wager leading into the stretch.

I'll most likely box Broad River, Artic Cry and Expansion in an exacta, as well.

The feature, the Grade II, recently shortened, 1-mile Fountain of Youth should set up just the opposite of the sixth race - lots of speed setting up a strong closing run from the back of the pack. At least half of the 12-horse field should be within a length or two of the lead at the first two calls. This means a strong chance for a hotly contested pace going in under 44 seconds for the half and a sub-1:10 at three-quarters. 

There are one of two scenarios that we'll all see at the three-quarter pole:
  1. a total implosion up front
  2. one or two horses maturing into their speed by gunning and holding
I'm betting on option number one. I really like Theregoesjojo and Beethoven to close strongly and pick up the pieces. Of the two, Beethoven intrigues me more. Trainer John Ward probably already has enough earnings to get into the Derby gate and didn't rush Beethoven back in his three-year debut (a fourth place finish in the Holy Bull). He's probably not fully cranked up for this race either, but will likely be presented with the proper pace to close stoutly into. 

The only other option I see is Capt. Candyman Can sitting just behind the fast fractions while beating Beethoven and Theregoesjojo to the punch.

Unfortunately Notonthesamepage, Taqarub, Quality Road and This Ones for Phil have no graded earnings as of yet and have no room for error. All do their best work up front. 

I fear most of my handicapper counterparts will fail to see the forest for the trees and take a sprinter with gaudy speed numbers. Of course, Gulfstream usually favors speed, so my analysis could end up looking silly, but I'll stick with the closers here.

Theregoejojo, Beethoven and Capt. Candyman Can will be part of a modest Pick 4 ticket that will look something like this: 4/7-11/2-7-9/7-8-9-10.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Win A Chance to be at the 135 Kentucky Derby

He's the link:

Twenty dollars a pop and only 7,500 raffles sold. I'm going to buy at least one ticket, maybe two!

Derby Sorting in FOY and Sham

Two Derby preps bring two fields of 12 together. I know one thing both races will show - the 20 or so horses that don't have the chops to become the next Derby champ. 

Check the other blogs for deep analysis. I won't bother with such probing diagnosis here because the Fountain of Youth is too tough to single a winner out and the Sham really doesn't show any real competition for The Pamplemousse. 

The Fountain of Youth has several horses with limited experience, but with very fast Beyer speed figures:
  • Notonthesamepage - 114 Beyer winning the Spectacular Bid Stakes
  • Capt. Candyman - 101 in winning the Grade II Hutcheson
  • Taqarub - 103 in winning Winkfield Stakes
  • This Ones for Phil - 116 in winning the Sunshine Millions Dash
The problem, all of the above speed figures were earned in  sprints - nothing beyond 7 furlongs.

My Road to the Roses stable has Notonthesamepage, so I'll be routing for him, and he just might have a chance if the horses to his outside encounter some trouble into the first turn. The rail and the lead are two advantageous positions to hold at Gulfstream.

If I bet on the race (and I probably will include at least four horses in my pick 3s and 4s), I'm lookng for Theregoesjojo and Beethoven  to pick up the pieces if a three- or four-way speed duel presents itself. 

In the Sham,  with just one graded stakes winner entered, even horses coming off a maiden special win have lined up with a chance to earn a Derby post. While there is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing, it might take The Pamplemousse to fall down to lose the Sham. There is no other proven front-runner and every Tom, Dick and Harry just seem to be taking a shot here. If he is anywhere around even money, The Pamplemousse is a steal. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Equation for Derby Contender

$3.7 million purchase price + sired by Unbridled Song + out of an A.P. Indy mare + Todd Pletcher-trained + owned in partnership with Michael Tabor + single day, cross-country flight for rider Garret Gomez + troubled, six-wide trip for win + 2-for-2 record = Kentucky Derby contender. 

His name is Dunkirk - one of 378 "Other Than" entries from Kentucky Derby Future Pool #1 that will be heard from before and even possibly during the first Saturday in May. Dunkirk will attempt to follow the road left by last year's Derby champ (Big Brown), taking on all competitors in the Grade I Florida Derby after two consecutive wins to start racing career.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Features

Look to your left and you'll see some additions this week - 
  1. The video bar will be updated to show the weekend's biggest stakes races. Just click on anyone of the small windows and you'll get a race you may have missed. 
  2. 10+1 - will be a feature in which I speak with someone in the horse racing world each week. It will consist of 11 questions with answers transcribed verbatim. Hopefully, we'll learn something about the Thoroughbreds and the people who own, train and ride them.
Thanks for stopping by...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Fashioned Stays Perfect in Southwest

Despite a 71-day layoff and sitting off fast early fractions, Old Fashioned won his three-year-old debut in workman-like, well, fashion, defeating 10 overmatched foes at Oaklawn Park on Monday afternoon. Returning 50 cents on a dollar, Old Fashioned, covered the stretch-shortened mile course in 1:37.41.

With the win, Old Fashioned is a perfect four-for-four and a two-time graded stakes winner. At this point, the one chink in his formidable armor, is the slow final quarter mile time of 26 seconds on Monday. While dirt racing usually results in a slower final quarter mile compared to the first, quarter times of the Southwest were increasing slow - 22.5, 23.5, 25, and 26 (approximate times). In a bottom-level claiming race at 1 1/16 miles prior to Southwest, the 3/4 to 1 mile spilt time was a comparable 26 seconds. Oaklawn also appeared to favor those running at or the near the front of the pack.

Unless he takes a misstep in his tour-de-course, Old Fashioned is likely to exit Arkansas (whether he goes in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby or just the Derby), as the Kentucky Derby favorite. It is not an unfavorable route for Derby contenders in recent years - Afleet Alex and Curlin both finished third at Kentucky, while the unfortunate Eight Belles finished second last year. And Smarty Jones connected Arkansas to Kentucky Derby winner dots in 2004 on his way to failed Triple Crown attempt. 

The story most likely to grab the front page headlines is that of Old Fashioned's trainer, Larry Jones. A self-made trainer, who became caught in the cross-hairs of  the 24/7 media cycle and the nonsensical PETA protests following the horrific fall of Eight Belles, Jones does not delight in the spotlight. He contemplated retirement last year and will find himself as a most uncomfortable favorite.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"All Others" Chalk in Future Pool

So all 378 nominees for the Triple Crown, except the 23 listed in Kentucky Derby Future Pool #1, are favored to win this year's Derby. When betting closed Sunday night the "All Other" bet was at 2-1, probably what you'll get on the first Saturday in May, if you bet the favorite - whoever that we'll be.

The only other single-digit play, Old Fashioned (7-1) is due to run Monday at Oaklawn in the Grade III Southwest. Next was Risen Star and Lecomte winner,  Friesan Fire at 18-1. The plays I suggested last week and their closing odds:
  • Beethoven: 31-1
  • Haynesfield: 24-1
  • Flying Pegasus: 28-1
  • West Side Bernie: 40-1
Who do you like?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let the Fantasy Begin

I've got my Road to the Roses stable in and here it is...
  1. Notonthesamepage - ran out of his shoes in a sprint, triple digit Beyer and comes back on Gulfstream's speed favoring track in Fountain of Youth
  2. Old Fashioned - what the hell, I'm on the bandwagon, races on Monday in Southwest
  3. Patena - great stride and new trainer Dutrow Jr. who knows how to get them ready
  4. The Pamplemousse - silly name but just might be talented enough to place in a few preps along the way
  5. Wall Street Wonder - taking a chance in Grade II San Vincente Stakes this weekend
  6. Flying Pegasus - dark horse with lots of upside points toward Louisiana Derby
  7. Giant Oak - gets a chance again in same LA Derby
  8. I Want Revenge - another up-and-comer or potential flop, willing to take a chance
  9. Haynesfield - counting on him stepping it up in Gotham as competition gets tougher
  10. Pioneerof the Nile - strong kick can't be overlooked
Jocks are Garret Gomez, who rides for everyone and Kent Desormeaux, who rides for Rick Dutrow Jr. get my first and second call. Trainers are Dutrow who has two new arrivals readying for the Derby, and Steve Asmussen who has a lot of underrated and inexperienced charges that will race everywhere. 

That's my single stable. Last year, I had two stables and was in top 100 the first few weeks before finishing in top third. If you want to play go to and check it out. Good luck!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jumping into the Pool?

"Do you feel lucky, punk?" Dirty Harry asked a sweaty, overwrought would-be bank robber in Clint Eastwood's precursor to his current hit, Gran Torino. Of course the crook doesn't know what to feel, all those years ago, but Dirty Harry knew there were no bullets left to end him on that sweltering sidewalk with fire hydrant bursting and alarms sounding in the background.

I ask, "Do you feel really, really lucky?" If you do, take a shot at the first of three Kentucky Future Pools. Where as Clint's character knew the answer to his "lucky" question, I assure you that you don't have a clue who will win the 135 Kentucky Derby... yet. And neither do I.

Oh, you may have a notion, but you don't know. At this point, 11-weeks out, it's far more likely that the winner does appear as the other 378 Triple Crown nominated three-year-olds not on the list of 23. As I write this Thursday night, the odds are currently less than even money for the ALL OTHER THAN entry, an indication of the sparse betting public's disbelief in the choices and the timeframe given. 

What's harder than picking a Derby winner from 20, still developing three-year-olds yet to run a 1 1/4 miles? Picking the winner almost three months or even three weeks in advance. Want a challenge, try picking the right commodity to go up, while the rest of the economy tanks. Oil, corn, pork bellies, give it a shot. You're odds may be just a bit better on Wall Street than at or the Internet account wagering companies taking the future book.

My advice, dip your toe in the waters if you really feel the need take a plunge. This means take the $10 or $20 you bet on lottery tickets and choose a bomb. The five choices worth a shot are:
  • Beethoven - troubled, wide trip in Holy Bull stakes, but finished fifth
  • Giant Oak - tight traffic, strong, willing fifth-place finish in Risen Star
  • Haynesfield - has beaten nobody, but might be somebody
  • Flying Pegasus - second place in Risen Star in first start around two turns
  • West Side Bernie - came from eighth in Holy Bull finishing third while going four wide
At this point, anything less than 30-1 is not worth a play. Just remember to count your Derby wagering budget and don't blow it all before the big dance because no matter how lucky you feel you're going need a few bullets in the chamber, if you want to cash on Derby day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Road to the Roses Begins

One way to shake the winter doldrums off is to play a game that will lead you to the first Saturday in May. It's also a great way to keep track of all the action leading up to the 135 Kentucky Derby.

I urge you to check out Churchill Downs' Road to the Roses online fantasy game (and if you're a horse racing fan it's worth a few minutes of your time - The game is as follows:

You pick 10 Thoroughbreds from the 400 that have been nominated to the Triple Crown, two jockeys and two trainers. Then you amass points if your horses, jockeys and trainers win in the stakes races leading up to the Kentucky Derby - the bigger the race (stakes races are graded three, two and one - one being the best) the more points for horse, jockey, trainer and ultimately you. 

The Road to the Roses follows all the Derby prep races from February 14 to the big race itself. Grand prize is a VIP trip for two to next year's Derby. First prize is a $1,000 win wager on the this year's Derby. I say give it a play. Heck, the game is even free.

My plan for playing this year will include some version of the Derby Baker's Dozen you see on your left. I'll probably leave off Stardom Bound because now her trainer is backing off racing her against the boys in the Santa Anita Derby. I'll also check early entries for three big races this weekend: Grade III Sam Davis and Southwest and the Grade II Sam Vincent. I'll probably take one horse from each race, since I know they will start (having been entered) and are likely to race again.

For trainers I've narrowed it down to five: Steve Asmussen (he runs everywhere), Bob Baffert (a few threats with Pioneerof the Nile his biggest), Larry Jones (Friesan Fire and Old Fashioned), Rick Dutrow Jr. (remember Big Brown?) and dark horse, Kenneth McPeek (he always seems to have a few good three-year-olds in Florida this time of year).

In the jockey category, I think I'm going with Ramon Dominguez (he rides Old Fashioned and last week's winner, Haynesfield) and then one of these three: Robby Albarado, Garret Gomez or Kent Desormeaux. They're all big names that get big rides. I'll make my decision after I see this weekend's entries. 

All the rules for the game are at - take a look and build a stable. If you're like me it's the only way you'll ever afford it. And good luck!

This weekend... a stakes preview and strategies for playing the Kentucky Derby Future Pool #1.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Triple Crown threats listed and tested

The list for Triple Crown nominees came out this past weekend. No red carpet, $10,000 dresses or enough makeup to patch a hole in your wall - just 401 hopefuls. While other award shows disappoint, the road to the Kentucky Derby is based a horse's talent and earnings, which typically go hand and hand. (In Hollywood, gross revenue isn't naturally tied to talent, but simply what's hot at a particular time of year. But, I must admit in a few cases an undeserving, lucky and hot horse or two makes it to Churchill's starting gate the first Saturday in May).

With just 20 spots open for the Derby (14 for the Preakness and 14 more for the Belmont) there'll be lots of siphoning of the Thoroughbred talent pool before May rolls around. So just around 10% of those nominated will actually start a Triple Crown race.

You may think, why are so many owners willing to nominate a horse that is more likely ready for an bottom level allowance race than Derby or Triple Crown greatness? Well, it's only $600 to enter early and the price goes up 10 times to $6,000, if you wait another month. Even millionaire owners can do that kind of math. 

So of the 401 horses awaiting their chance at history, quite a few received some much needed seasoning by racing this past weekend. The three major (OK two major and one minor) contests for colts were run in New York, California and Louisiana and here were the results:
  • Haynesfield - won in what turned into a public workout over five overmatched opponents at Aqueduct's Whirlway Stakes. He paid $2.90 to win. A minor award in a minor stakes.
  • Pioneerof the Nile (that is not a typo) - took the Bob Lewis Stakes with an emphatic late run after having some traffic trouble entering the stretch. He paid $5.40. He galloped out like he'd want to race the Derby's 1 1/4 mile distance.
  • Friesan Fire - encountered similar traffic trouble in the Risen Star but made it two-for-two at the Fair Grounds. He provided a $7.60 return. I like him, don't love him.
While the boys were duking it out, a filly stole some of their thunder and headlines. Following her fourth consecutive Grade I victory in the Las Virgenes on Saturday, Stardom Bound's connections announced that their recently purchased two-year-old champion filly will race against the boys in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Of course Stardom Bound's new owners, IEAH Stables, know something about purchasing Kentucky Derby Champions - Big Brown anyone? A filly taking on the boys is big news, especially after Eight Belles' fatal attempt last year. Let's hope for a better ending to Stardom Bound's date with destiny.

While the winners are setting their pre-Derby plates with much needed earnings, some of last weekend's losers will have something to say down the road:

  • Giant Oak - My Risen Star pick had to put on the brakes in extremely tight quarters, swung five and then seven wide to make a run at Friesan Fire, finishing a game fifth.
  • Flying Pegasus - Another Risen Star starter I liked a lot finished a game second in going two turns for the first time after a five-month layoff. 
Later this thoughts on Churchill Down's fantasy game Road to the Roses.