Saturday, March 7, 2009

Take a Stand Against a Star

REM once sang to "stand in the place where you are," while the inspirational movie about Jaime Escalante, the barrio math teacher who willed his flunky students to learn calculus, showed us how to Stand and Deliver. Today let's just simply take a stand against Stardom Bound.

A few weeks ago I responded to a few Thoroughbred bloggers on the silliness of trying to pick against odds-on favorite Georgie Boy. I argued that sometimes we spin our wheels going against logic trying to pick against dominant types like the '72 Big Red Machine, '86 Bears or Pete Sampras of the early 90s. But today, I spin and contradict myself.

Sure, Stardom Bound will likely be the heaviest favorite of the day. There is no doubt this filly is talented and already good enough to take on the weak crop of California three-year-old colts in next month's Santa Anita Derby. To date, she's displayed the scary, push-button type of acceleration that defines a champion. The only reason to take a stand against her today is her reliance on the one big move to get past her opponents.

In this afternoon's Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, Stardom Bound casts a deep shadow over her nine rivals. The two-year-old champion filly has won four straight Grade I events; her competition zero. Her morning line is an absurdly low 2-5 and will probably creep closer to the bottom line 1-9 odds that mark all champions. 

I am not saying to bet the house against Stardom Bound, just take a shot. So who's worth a modest play - let's say a $20 win wager - against the champ? I say, if you going to go, you might as well go long. I'm taking Burg Berg.

Burg Berg is a total unknown at the 1 1/16 mile distance, on the synthetic surface and in graded stakes company. With only two wins from three turf races, she also comes into today very lightly raced. (Haven't exactly won you over yet?) But what I do like is her ability to get to the front and lead from start to finish - a difficult undertaking on the grass, but something that's been happening with a little greater frequency of late on Sanita Anita's fake stuff. I also love her jockey, Tyler Baze, on the front-end, nursing the fractions.

If, and it's a big if, Baze can lull the competition to sleep traveling unabated through a half in :49 and three-quarters in 1:13 with just a enough left in Burg Berg's tank, he may just get the jump on Stardom Bound and hold her off until the wire. Stardom Bound's jockey Mike Smith, another great front-end rider, may have to deal with traffic, getting his filly off rail and moving sooner than normal. 

Hey it's just a thought for a small win wager and inclusion of Burg Berg in some Pick 3s. If you beat the single everyone is playing (Stardom Bound) you'll be in for a decent score with a small bet. My $18 Pick 3 for races 7-9 at Santa Anita will be 1-2/1-3-7/5-7-11. If you check the entries, you'll see I'm picking against the other favored lady of the day - Ventura. 

Along with the races 7-9, I see Santa Anita's Pick 3 sequence in races 8-10 providing an opportunity for a score, if you can get the Big 'Cap winner. I'll be playing a $1 Pick 3 of 1-3-7/5-7-11/5-7-9-11 for $36.


  1. Good call trying to defeat STARDOM BOUND today.

    Thanks for reading my post and your comment. I'm dead against her going in the Derby as of today. Her style will need a ton of racing luck and the five or six wide she was today will find her in the grandstand at CD. In a big field, it's unlikely she'll get a dream run a la STREET SENSE.

    I like your suggestion of keeping her w/ the girls one more time instead of trying the SA Derby.

    As an aside, do you really think the West Coast Derby contenders so weak after I WANT REVENGE ran away with the Gotham???

  2. Thanks right back at 'ya - you'd be my first non-family member commenter.

    I think the New Yorkers who own Stardom Bound can't help themselves and want another piece of the Derby pie. I mean Stardom Bound was an almost $6 million purchase and then IEAH buys a majority share - there's a reason for that. Unless she's hurt or bounces horribly in her next race, I say she's going to the Dance. Remember Bobby Frankel hasn't won a Derby yet either and was none-too-happy to lose his best chance with Empire Maker a few years back.

    As far as the Left Coast competition, I stand corrected. I should have said what's left of the 3-year-olds in California. I Want Revenge looked like an absolute monster - working off solid fractions to absolutely destroy the field in the last furlong looking like he wanted more. I knew his connections were serious when Talamo followed along, just as I knew with Dunkirk when Gomez flew out for the Thursday allowance.

    Don't you think Stardom Bound might have a chance vs. Pioneerof the Nile and The PampelMousse?

  3. On my old blog, I commented after EIGHT BELLES' tragic demise:

    I agree wholeheartedly, from a selfish and humane perspective, about the fillies staying out of the Derby. I disagree with your R2R assessment...she never raced again after outrunning the now-seemingly unbeatable CURLIN. She was later diagnosed with a fracture. Listening to the first bit of Steve Byk's show today, he said that EIGHT BELLES stood 17 hands and filled out every inch of her ample frame. She was seemingly as robust as R2R. The best 3y.o. filly in my lifetime, WINNING COLORS, was never the same after narrowly holding off FORTY NINER to win the Derby, the second of two wins over colts. RUFFIAN. I believe that after they start to stretch out farther than 7f, 2y.o. fillies should not run against the colts just like girls are eliminated from baseball, basketball and football against boys after a certain age. That isn't sexist, just prudent.

    My memory failed me regarding RAGS TO RICHES not running after the Belmont S. (reviewing her PP's, her final career start was like she never ran again). My point is unchanged.

    It's my opinion that fillies should not be allowed to compete against the boys after age 2 and/or beyond 7f*. The asterisk being for special distaffers in my lifetime like GENUINE RISK, ESTRAPADE, ROYAL HEROINE, MIESQUE, WINNING COLORS, GOLDIKOVA, and ZARKAVA. I'm not ready to put STARDOM BOUND into that category and believe she has no business running against the boys.

    If she does something incredible vs. gals in the G.1 Ashland, where I believe she should be pointed, I may change my mind. The 2009 STARDOM BOUND doesn't have the same pop, not yet.

  4. There are many colts that didn't race after the Triple Crown trail...Smarty Jones among them or weren't the same afterwards. For better or worse, the build up to and racing in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont is just too much on some Thoroughbreds - male or female. Also some horses fill out and develop as great 2-year-olds, but don't race well at 3 while it also happens among 3-year-olds trying to race into their 4-year-old seasons...

    Don't you think Eight Belles could have hurt herself grinding it out with her female counterparts like Proud Spell the day before in the Oaks? Why did running with the boys cause her injury? She had to try harder, maybe, but did that cause the injury - unusual and a freak even among Thoroughbreds. Offspring of Unbridled/Unbridled Song are known, breed and purchased for their heart and effort.

    Across the pond males and females race against each other well into their racing careers (since there is no such purse structure like North America where a filly and/or mare can earn multi-millions of dollars racing against her own sex). The only reason for Stardom Bound to race in the Derby is the chance to win the Derby, period. She could earn almost as much running in the Oaks then the later races in the season written for her gender and age.

    On the furlong front your argument sounds reasonable, but what about some Thoroughbreds that take time to develop their stride during a race and need the longer distances to do, how about the fact that the rate of sprinting can be a lot more demanding in shorter distances vs. the slower paces of races all the way up to and beyond a mile and a half?

    Racing secretaries might have a hard time writing races beyond 7 furlongs if they only do so for special occasions and/or for fillies someone decides can do it. The fact of the matter is putting a race horse on the track each day puts the animal in danger. The industry can't even get together to limit race day medications, I can't foresee placing limits like you suggest on fillies and distances, worthy as they might sound.

  5. Tony,

    I'm all for doubt having a filly good enough to beat the boys would be a compelling story. STARDOM BOUND hasn't proven herself a "special" filly, at least not yet as a 3y.o.

    I don't think you run STARDOM BOUND against the boys just for the sake of running. I believe another start vs. the gals would put to rest in my mind where she belongs, Oaks or Derby.

    Here are two "special" fillies who won TRIPLE CROWN races:

    RAGS TO RICHES won a troubled Las Virgenes by 3/4, took the SA Oaks by 5 1/2, then the Kentucky Oaks by 4 1/4 before her Belmont S. win.

    WINNING COLORS won the SA Oaks by 8 and the SA Derby by 7 1/2 prior to her Derby win.

    I believe EIGHT BELLES embodied everything you said the UNBRIDLED/UNBRIDLED'S SONG offspring possess. I concede that her injury may have happened in the Oaks. I also believe that she was by no means, head and shoulders better than the other 3y.o. fillies heading to CD. PROUD SPELL's form was hidden by her polytrack 3rd in the G.1 Ashland and won the Oaks by 5 on a sloppy track.

    EIGHT BELLES "hopped, came in late" in her G.2 Fantasy S. win suggesting there might have been something amiss prior to the Derby. She literally ran her legs off, in a career-best race, while trying to catch steroid-enhanced BIG BROWN in the Derby.

    A tragic loss, no matter how it's viewed.

    Conversation for another day: Can these injuries be predicted?

  6. Well said. I agree with "special" tag for fillies that can compete in the Derby. Eight Belles' connections were faced with having a stable mate likely winning the Oaks in Proud Spell, so I believe they went after the Derby for that reason and the lack of strength in the colts. Regardless, a tragedy for horse, connections and a sport that is in desperate need of a hero or heroine.

    I would love a greater discussion around the possibility of predicting and preventing injuries.