Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Channeling the Derby Part Two

As cliche as it sounds (and is) pace makes the race. And in the Derby, the pace begins when the gates open with 20 fast, energetic horses charging into the first turn.

While my karma and choices haven't changed much with today's draw, I did see some curious post position choices. Pioneerof the Nile and Dunkirk at posts 15 and 16 with much of the board open either speaks to extreme confidence or fear of inside posts, which in this case means anything under number 9 or 14-12. Now last year with superior speed and a weak field, Big Brown could have started from the stands and still won, but this isn't last year. I feel these draws help my choices and here's why.
  • All five horses inside Friesan Fire (Post 6) come from well off the pace, meaning Friesan Fire's jock my angle over to the rail while staying as close to the pace as he wants. I find it hard to believe no one else sees this.
  • Papa Clem in Post 7 and Join in the Dance in Post 9 are likely to go for the lead. With a pedestrian work that tired Papa Clem badly, I see him as dead wood and likely starting to back up after six furlongs. Join in the Dance is here to set a pace for Dunkirk, period and he's not particularly fast. Another likely to clog the lanes.
  • Regal Ransom was wisely placed just outside of Join in the Dance and if he's good enough will be following the speed closest to the outside.
  • If all three break alertly - Chocolate Candy, General Quarters and I Want Revenge should be able to fall in just behind the early speed. As long as they have room to move, they will do so as the first stalkers to pounce. 
  • These horses are not Big Brown - Dunkirk, Pioneerof the Nile and Desert Party. Dunkirk will face traffic and is an unlikely winner, but worth some plays in exotics. If Pioneerof the Nile pulls early, he is likely to be caught four-wide gunning for the lead or five-to-six wide in the second flight. He will have an outside chance in the five-path, I just don't think he's good enough. Desert Party will probably be slamming dancing himself out of contention early.
With the post draw behind us, the only remaining X-factor is the weather. At this point, I'm toying with some trifecta par wheels. Something like:
  • 13/6-10-11-12-15/6-10-11-12-14-15-16 for $30 on a $1 Tri Par Wheel
In a Pick Four not yet hammered out and starting with Race 8, I'm thinking something like this:
  • 1-3-6-7/3-5-9/2-6/6-10-12-13 for $48 on a 50-cent bet
More channeling necessary...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Derby Draw Matters

It matters where the horses break. Last year was an aberration - freak horse vs. weak field in winning from post 20. I don't expect the winner beyond post 14 or inside post 2 this year. All picks to this point are the hedge fund variety. The real picking and choosing starts after the draw.

Enough said.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Works Lead to Some Answers

I have never been a big "works" handicapper. I have always figured that the horses before a race are either good enough or they're not. But listening to Mike Welsh's reports from Churchill have been captivating, entertaining and somewhat influential for me in a few ways. Here are some of my feelings based on Mike's reports:
  • Like him or not, Pioneerof the Nile has done nothing wrong in his works...except not work as fast as Baffert horse's usually work
  • Papa Clem, General Quarters, Square Eddie and Win Willy have either looked tired or showed some wear in slow works
  • Mine That Bird and Summer Bird probably just aren't good enough
  • Musket Man and West Side Bernie aren't looking like a mile and quarter horses
  • I'm still not sure what to make of Hold Me Back and Chocolate Candy
  • The Dubai to Derby connections look great
  • Friesan Fire's fast work equals second place again for Jones?
  • Dunkirk and I Want Revenge haven't move up or down for me
Using this data has only really changed my mind to include Hold Me Back underneath and maybe just maybe, based on post position, I'll include Pioneerof the Nile under exacta and trifecta plays.

My top choices are still I Want Revenge, Friesan Fire and Regal Ransom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Who Will Make the Gate?

Looking back over my Baker's Dozen choices the past three months, I really haven't hit the nail on the head. Here's why:
  • From February - Only three horses remain, some awlful choices like Notonthesamepage, Haynesfield and Flying Pegasus.
  • From March - Really not that much better with four horses that remain, three horses on the list were injured.
  • From April - You would think I would have at least named ten starters at this point. I was getting cute with Big Drama and Rachel Alexandra though. 
If I had to pat myself on the back, it would be for identifying I Want Revenge as a possible Derby contender, but that and two bucks gets me a cup of coffee. 

I'll probably end up off Quality Road, even if he goes. To win the Derby there can be no setbacks, no matter how minor.

One final thought, if Rachel Alexandra is in the Derby she'd be third or fourth choice - sandwiched somewhere between Pioneerof the Nile, Dunkirk, Friesan Fire and Quality Road.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Early Decisions

Here they are, but with a chance of late changes depending on weather, post positions and works...
  • Pioneerof the Nile - off all tickets, I just don't think he's fast enough
  • Dunkirk - underneath in exacta and trifecta plays, ala Curlin
  • I Want Revenge - right now, underneath, worried he already ran his races and peaked too soon
These three top the ticket right now:
  • Quality Road - just too hard to ignore three triple-digit Beyer scores
  • Friesan Fire - Jones knows how to get them ready and may get the winner's share
  • Regal Ransom - loose on the lead, desert to bluegrass prep scenario has play out someday
On the fence, somewhere in the top three:
  • Papa Clem - post draw outside Regal Ransom, Quality Road or Join in the Dance (who's likely to get in) enhance chances
  • Chocolate Candy looks to be a useful play underneath
  • Musket Man, West Side Bernie and General Quarters may be used to round out trifectas or superfectas
OK here are my tosses, as in out:
  • Desert Party - beaten by stablemate
  • Hold Me Back - synthetic surface specialist
  • Mine That Bird - really?
  • Pioneerof the Nile - reminds me of Nobiz Like Shobiz
  • Square Eddie - ran out of time and probably needs another race to be at best
  • Win Willy - Arkansas Derby flop despite fast fractions to follow
  • Flying Private, Mr. Hot Stuff and Summer Bird - all still qualify for allowance conditions and will create traffic problems
  • Join in the Dance - possible pace factor up to a mile

Monday, April 20, 2009

People Behind My Handicapping Habit - Uncle Pete

Asking someone, anyone willing to look up from their Form, tip sheet or indescribable computer printout of dots, dashes and numbers, why they're at the track or facsimile thereof, and you'll get a myriad of responses:
  • I like the 5 more than any other
  • My brother-in-law's friend hotwalks for trainer X and expects a big effort from the #2
  • I didn't have enough gas money to make it to the casino
  • A bad day at the track is better than (fill in your own response)
Chances are Thoroughbred handicappers, players, bettors (whatever you want to call yourself) make the attempt to pick a winner from the rail, a duck-taped chair at the OTB facility or from their couch - in one of states that allows you to bet from home - because someone once brought them to the track or in my case the dingy OTB parlor. Even if you are the exception to the rule and wandered into a horse wagering facility of your choosing, you've likely hooked up with a few "track buddies" that have helped you along. The intricacies of putting together a Pick 4 ticket or just being able to pronounce your bets correctly at the window demand help from "others" with more experience than a rookie horse gambler.

I'm going to start backwards with the last of three men who took me to the track, the OTB, the track disguised as an over sized OTB, etc. Peter Foss and I enjoyed many weekends at that "August Place to Be," Saratoga.

He served his country. He served his family. He served his God. These spheres of his life were bound, inseparable as the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost he worshipped so faithfully.

Oh and he was a storyteller and horse player, too. These two elements bound in the same Book of Great Luck - both his and ours for hearing his voice rise and fall with each tale or to see him lean left as several horses vied for for the finish line in his favorite exotic play - the
trifecta par wheel.

Peter Foss was a lucky man. Spend enough time with him and this fact as reiterated over and over again. Through his stories of growing up in the farmland of Minnesota, the compassionate and
sensible leader of boys (himself just a few years older) in Korea and Vietnam or just the latest joy in seeing his grandchild or a former journalism student.

Having heard many of these stories over and over again during our annual 3-hour drives to
Saratoga, I'm not sure were this luck originated. Was it the hard work and high expectations of his Depression-era family? The day he met his bride-to-be, a stewardess, on a plane? Or the time his platoon came into ambush, in which he and an enemy officer both drew guns at point-blank range, miraculously missing each other? Listen to Uncle Pete long enough and you couldn't help but understand his luck began long before he entered any track. And I think he knew it.

Maybe that's why he was such a good handicapper and gambler - he knew how to create and capitalize on his own luck. Uncle Pete's tickets usually included 30-42 possible combinations for horses to finish first, second and third. This is either called a
trifecta or triple depending on where you live and bet. A typical ticket with numbers would look like this:
  • Finishing first: 3-6-9
  • Finishing second: 2-3-8-9
  • Finishing third: 2-3-4-7-8-9
There are 34 possible outcomes for this ticket. Now, he certainly didn't win all the time, but Uncle Pete usually had something to root for. Anytime I was with him, he would average hitting at least three out of the nine races, sometimes five or maybe even eight if he was real lucky. (I was with him on Breeders Cup Day a few years back when he hit exactas - two horse combinations - and trifectas in four straight races. The lowest payout was around $300).

Peter Foss was the patriarch of my wife's family. He lead grace, held court and dispensed equal amounts of kindness, gratitude and humor. His war stories were never about false courage or bravado, but seemed to find the humanity under the most inhumane conditions. He led so well and so easily that many under his command kept in contact with him long after their service to God and country ended.

For me, Uncle Pete came into my life shortly after my father passed away. And my father created the magical and mythical Saratoga of my mind. A place he'd drive every August to play the ponies. A place he played so many trifecta combinations in one race that he unwittingly hit the thing four times. A place he took his last $90 and played the number 9 in race 9 simply because Angel Cordero was aboard. A place where he called to ask what horse I wanted to play in The Travers Stakes, and my reply was Willow Hour because my favorite jockey Eddie Maple was riding. (Willow Hour beat that year's Derby champ, Pleasant Colony by a nose and paid around $50).

I never made the trip to Saratoga with my dad. But Uncle Pete and I made the summer drive 15 straight years. From the hours we spent in the car, at the track and in our hotel, I knew all about his family - nuclear and extended - his exploits in foreign countries under harsh and violent conditions and opinions on everything from presidential politics to who he liked in the fourth race.

At the track, Uncle Pete hit far more often than I did. Win or lose he'd take me out for dinner - the barbecue joint or the Japanese steakhouse on Route 9 were two of our favorite spots. With the next day's Daily Racing Forms in hand we'd head back to our hotel room convenient enough, but far enough away to be affordable. We might watch some pre-season football while handicapping and then off to bed. Since Uncle Pete snored in about eight octaves I tried desperately to fall asleep before him.

If it was Sunday then it was off to church to pray for the daily double (I don't recall ever hitting it), bagels and coffee and another try at the Saratoga nine. I always felt a little smarter, a bit luckier and just damn appreciative that I was at the track with Uncle Pete.

Like my grandfather and my father, my other two handicapping mentors, Uncle Pete is no longer with us. He passed away in the hours following Rags to Riches Belmont Stakes win and this past Friday would have been his 80th birthday.

He is easily missed and impossible to replace.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Channeling the Derby Part One

With less than two weeks to go my process of picking a Kentucky Derby winner has begun. 

The build up to the first Saturday in May comes with so much hype and hyperbole eliminating the static in search of the Derby winner goes far beyond handicapping. To land on the right horse when almost all of America is a horse racing fan takes more than skill, guile and speed figures. It takes karma, chi, balance, harmony and peace in a less than peaceable world. I believe to pluck a Derby winner from a full field with humongous betting pools, I have to work as conduit and channel my strength, energy and ignorance towards a single-minded goal.

This takes work and should not be left to the final minutes before post, although I've seen that work from time to time...for some else. I start by reading everything and believing only some of it. I sort through morning workouts - most which will be good, some fantastic and a couple dreadful. Realizing that most morning works don't translate to afternoon success. 

I also know that any and all analysis will need adjustment based upon post, rider changes and weather. Better to be prepared when conditions require last minute changes, than to be caught flat-footed (unless of course, you're a horse named I Want Revenge, which really didn't seem to matter).

Currently I am pouring over DRF past performances in the first part of my channeling process. This is what I know:
  • There will be at least ten automatic tosses (since the top 20 is still fluid I'll wait to announce who's out in my mind)
  • With connections sending horses that qualify for "non-winners of one" to the Derby there is a chance for real catastrophe at worst and traffic trouble at best
  • At least three horses will be overrated and over bet
  • At least two horses will be forgotten and be an overlay
All this being written, as of today, I'm down to five to top my exacta and trifecta tickets. Without further ado, they are in no particular order and without explanation:
  • Dunkirk
  • I Want Revenge
  • Quality Road
  • Regal Ransom
  • Friesan Fire 
Now I must hit my gong a few hundred more times, practice my Eagle Pose and start watching season one of Kung Fu...

Ready for One More; Possibly Two

Today's Lexington Stakes will probably give us at least one more Derby starter, possibly two.

If anyone but Square Eddie wins the Lexington, it most likely means one more starter in the Derby field since the winner's share is $186,00. Square Eddie has enough graded stakes earnings to get in, so if he wins, it doesn't change anything on the Derby earnings list. But if he finishes a strong second than we'll probably see him and whoever ends up winning in Derby starting gate. If Square Eddie disappoints than it's doubtful he starts two weeks from now. 

There's at least four decent long shots that could win the Lexington:
  • Jeranimo (12-1) has a chance to get in the Derby with a second place finish and finished just 2 1/4 lengths behind Pioneerof the Nile in San Felipe.
  • Omniscient (6-1) three straight Beyer improvements (an angle I always like to play) and skipped through the mud in last on the lead.
  • Pitched Perfectly  (15-1) gets Tagg first time and went fast in last at Big A.
  • Masala (6-1) drilled two works back and gets blinkers for Pletcher who scores at 25% with first blinkers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The 100 Beyer

There are many written and unwritten rules in finding a Derby winner; must start at two, needs three, 3-year-old races (opps, Big Brown), must be a stalking-type and should fire a 100-Beyer or more while routing. Of all these rules, I'm buying the 100-Beyer over all else. Looking at this year's field this would leave me with:
  • I Want Revenge (113)
  • Quality Road (113)
  • Dunkirk (108)
  • Friesan Fire (104)
  • Win Willy (102)
  • General Quarters (102)
  • West Side Bernie (101)
At this point - more than two weeks out - here's my thoughts:
  • Quality Road's quarter crack bothers me
  • Win Willy won't duplicate his Rebel win; he was 50-1.
  • General Quarters' big number was on synthetic, I think? If so, I'll pass.
This leaves me with I Want Revenge, Dunkirk, Freisan Fire (who may go unnoticed on Derby Day) and West Side Bernie. How about a $1 superfecta box on these four? 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Less Than Full???

For the first time since 2004 it looks like the Kentucky Derby will have less than a full field of 20. Here's why:
  • Mafaaz - the win-and-in Kempton Challenge winner ran less than stellar in his American debut finishing a well beaten eighth in the Blue Grass. His connections wanted a good showing to move onto the Derby, so he should be out.
  • Regal Ransom or Desert Party - the sheiks that own Shadwell Stable have said that only one of their two eligible starters will go forward to Churchill Downs...stay tuned.
  • Old Fashioned - the early book favorite is out with an injury.
  • Square Eddie, Win Willy, Giant Oak, Charitable Man, Theregoesjojo and Flying Pirate - none of these really belong based upon recent form. I'm hoping that at least half of the connections will forgo Derby Fever and do the sensible thing by holding back young horses that aren't talented enough for the Derby. My guess is that Win Willy and Giant Oak will go forward and the rest will stay home on May 2.
  • Mr. Hotstuff, Join in the Dance, Summer Bird and Massone - all qualify for a "non-winners of one" allowance condition, not exactly Derby material.
This is good news for phenom, Dunkirk, who most likely gets in and will go off as second or third choice. With front-runner Old Fashioned now out of the race the connections for the fabulous filly, Rachel Alexandra may actually take a shot at the Derby. Rachel Alexandra has absolutely destroyed the last two graded-stakes field she's faced, and she uses her early speed to do so. Like it or not, she's a natural fit for the Derby. 

Even if Rachel Alexandra gets in, I see the field at 17 at most. For more thoughts see graded earnings list below.

  1. Regal Ransom ($1,200,000) Spoiled stablemate's party by winning in Dubai   
  2. Pioneerof the Nile ($1,193,250) Has beaten four on this list; deserves respect
  3. I Want Revenge ($774,000) Showed Derby toughness in spectacular Wood win
  4. Papa Clem ($760,000) Favorable pace helped Arkansas win
  5. Square Eddie ($756,000) Has not returned to 2-year-old form
  6. Quality Road ($600,000) Tough nut; has minor injury to overcome
  7. General Quarters ($595,000) Does Blue Grass win mean anything?
  8. Friesan Fire ($570,465) Training up after Bayou wins
  9. Old Fashioned ($530,000) Hurt
  10. Desert Party ($491,667) Handed loss at less than even money by Regal Ransom
  11. Musket Man ($485,000) Two straight graded stakes wins; maybe for real
  12. Terrain ($448,330) Enough money to get in, but that's all
  13. Hold Me Back ($438,000) Synthetic surface specialist will take lots of money
  14. West Side Bernie ($385,160) Either live long shot or no-show
  15. Chocolate Candy ($370,000) Steady, but is that enough?
  16. Win Willy ($230,000) Overrated 
  17. Giant Oak ($169,256) Always an excuse and never enough to win
  18. Dunkirk ($150,000) Monster in the making will make the gate
  19. Charitable Man ($150,000) One prep strategy didn't work
  20. Theregoesjojo ($133,000) Not enough
  21. Flying Pirate ($124,000) Who?
  22. Massone ($115,000) Not yet nominated
  23. Mr. Hot Stuff ($114,000) Maiden win and that's it
  24. Summer Bird ($100,000) See above 
  25. Join in the Dance ($90,000) If other defections occur Pletcher has rabbit for Dunkirk

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Keenland All Stakes Pick Four

Hey for a 50-cent minimum, why not try the Keenland All Stakes Pick Four? Here's my little ticket:

Leg one (Race 6), Shakertown Stakes: At 5 1/2 furlongs, you better toss a few in the mix. I'm going with three: Hewitts (10-1 ML) and Mr. Nightlinger (5-2) to both go to the front. I'm thinking one of them may hold on, but if not Hero's Reward (5-1) may just pick up all the pieces. Big question: Will Nightlinger fire off six-month layoff?

Leg two, Commonwealth Stakes: Seven furlongs is a tricky distance, so you need to have some success at the distance or at least have lead at seven furlongs when traveling farther. There's five good choices out of the eight listed, but I'm going with Eternal Star (9-2) and Ravalo (5-1). I think one of these two will strike the front and not look back. I'm banking on two things here, that my top choices won't get in a speed duel and Rebellion will not fire back to his '08 form when winning this race. 

Leg three, Jenny Wiley Stakes: I'm thinking all class here with Female Turf Champion, Forever Together (even) and hard-knocker Backseat Rhythm (5-1). Those looking to spoil this leg are the ever-capable, I Lost My Choo and Rutherienne, the former scares me more.

Final leg, Blue Grass Stakes: You can make a case for just about every horse in the field. Hey, if you've got the money, hit the all button in this leg. For me, I'm banking on what, former jockey and current horse racing analyst, Gary Stevens said about Keenland's track - that it's playing more like the old dirt surface, favoring early speed. As a result, I go with Patena (10-1), Join in the Dance (10-1) and Massone (12-1), all who will either be on or close to the lead. 

For a buck, it's a $36 or half that at $18 for 50 cents.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Arkansas Derby/Blue Grass

Arkansas Derby will either show Old Fashioned getting back to his winning ways or another bomb arriving on the Derby Road. 

Old Fashioned has yet to run back to his 2-year-old form (according to Beyer numbers), which is not a good sign. Leg weary late in Rebel, the guess here is that new jock rates behind Papa Clem attempting  to reserve Old Fashioned's fortunes. I give him a 50/50 chance at winning. 

Win Willy is set to bounce, period. 

Danger to Society is trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. and love him or hate him his first-time with a horse win percentage is over 30 percent. That alone gives this entry a chance, so I will.

Among the bombs that might beat Old Fashioned yet again, I like these two
  • Ziegfeld - first time blinkers for lightly raced colt
  • Captain Cherokee - half to Midnight Lute
The Blue Grass is a dart board handicapping event. I see no one as a standout. Besides these tosses - Cliffy's Future, Loch Dubh and General Quarters - anyone of the eight remaining runners has a chance. According to Gary Stevens on HRTV's Pursuit of the Crown, Keenland is holding up speed. If this is true, go with Join in the Dance.

The List Explained

1) I Want Revenge - monster performance in Wood, probable co-favorite
2) Quality Road - winning ways continued, quarter-crack concerns co-choice of the moment
3) Pioneerof the Nile - best chance for Left Coast shippers
4) West Side Bernie - my long shot play at this point, ran well just behind Wood winner
5) Friesan Fire - deserves respect for sweeping Fair Ground preps, right?
6) Regal Ransom - ran handsomely in the desert
7) Terrain - at this point, another long shot choice with enough graded stakes money banked 
8) Old Fashioned - one more chance to show he belongs 
9) Dunkirk - if he gets in the gate, may be second or third choice
10) Theregoesjojo - hard knocker hoping to breakthrough in Blue Grass
11) Big Drama - pipe dream I know, but looked awful talented in last DQed "loss" 
12) Patena - final chance in Blue Grass to make Derby gate
13) Rachel Alexandra - dominating her gender, belongs 

A Possible Solution

With Jeff Mullins sporting the black eye of the week for Thoroughbred horse racing and fellow blogger Foolish Pleasure airing out a passionate plea for changes to our beloved sport, let me offer the following solution.

Horse racing, as we know, is supported by the bettor. Although we are abused with takeout rates that make casinos look charitable, faced with the daunting task of figuring out maiden claimers in the midst of Pick 4 sequences or just plain ignored by crappy service at too many poorly managed tracks, we still love this game and support it. 

The boycott thing will never work because a few too many us may think we've figured out the biggest payoff of our lives, and we're not going to sacrifice it for a lousy, one-day strike that will produce little or no results. Moaning and groaning on our blogs may feel cathartic, but again it won't change much. As with Foolish Pleasure, it will receive widespread support from other fans/bloggers (myself included), but not much else. 

Here's my simple solution, that unfortunately, will involve the federal government - the folks that usually create bigger messes amongst political grandstanding. The federal government allows for interstate simulcasting - something that did not exist more than 20 years ago. This is a big part of the industry, as Churchill officials can attest to after a long standing dispute with its horsemen squashed their signal for a season and track officials had to slash purses in response. In addition to slots (those magic machines that support $10,000 claimers with $20,000 purses) simulcasting (especially on line) is a place for growth in the Thoroughbred industry. One that can be manipulated to help rein the sport in.

My solution is this - use simulcasting to hold the horse racing industry's feet over the fire. By requiring the following:
  • A ban of all race day medications
  • A ban on all steroids and medications (like cobra venom) that disguise pain or enhance muscle growth
  • A ban of horse slaughter companies from entering any horse racing track or training facility
So far so good? Here's the consequences for trainers for not abiding by the rules:
  • First offense: Two week suspension from any horses being entered in any races worldwide through racing stable (including not allowing any current or future employee to enter such horses). The practice of handing over training to an assistant trainer in response to suspensions has to end now!
  • Second offense: Six month ban from training and entering horses worldwide. All horses will have to be physically handed over to another trainer not employed or to-be-employed by trainer of offense.
  • Third offense: One year ban, as mentioned above
  • Final offense: Lifetime ban from sport
For owners:
  • First offense: Acknowledging wrong doing of current trainer with consequences for having ownership, either individual or within a group, with same trainer
  • Second offense: One month ban of racing any horses worldwide for having the same trainer cited for a second time
  • Third offense: Six month ban on racing horses worldwide for having the same trainer cited for a third time
  • Fourth offense: One year ban on racing horses worldwide and horse racing license revoked for a year for same trainer sited a fourth time
  • Fifth offense: Lifetime ban from owning Thoroughbred horses in ownerships of any kind or individually for any offenses numbering five with any number of trainers (i.e. second offense with trainer A and third offense with trainer B and you're out for life).
Track consequences for not following or enforcing regulations:
  • First offense: One month ban on simulcast signal at track regardless of who owns or operates the track (to be considered 22 consecutive racing dates)
  • Second offense: Six month ban on simulcast signal (to be considered 100 consecutive racing dates)
  • Third offense: One year ban on simulcast signal (to be considered 200 consecutive racing dates)
  • Fourth offense: Lifetime revocation of simulcast signal
I know there are some kinks in this plan like:
  • Who makes sure, at the federal level, that rules and regulations are followed?
  • Does there need to be an independent drug testing facility created with all Thoroughbred tracks chipping in to create it?
  • Who pays for all the drug testing?
  • What is the appeal process for trainer, owner or track management? 
But on the whole I think such challenges can be worked out. I think the plan is simple, can easily be written (as easy as Washington pols can do such a thing) and followed. There's real teeth to it and everybody can finally be given a level playing field on which to own, train and race the Thoroughbred.

Just one man's thoughts....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

No April Fools Here

My thoughts on Saturday's races...
  • I Want Revenge - WOW! Left at the gate, unhurried through average fractions, advanced on the turn, blocked and bumped in stretch and found a seam to win in hand. As Gary Stevens said on the televised broadcast, "I love horses that can overcome trouble." I'll add, that was a whole bunch of trouble. He's got to be the Derby co-favorite at this point.
  • Pioneerof the Nile - Just wins baby. I'm not sure if he'll be overlooked (hard to do with Bob Baffert as your trainer) or overbet on Derby Day. The whole fake stuff vs. real dirt discussion will be headed by this guy. At this point, he's a pass for me, but that may change.
  • The Pamplemousse - Disappointed he's hurt. Derby pass, Preakness starter???
  • Musket Man/Giant Oak/Chocolate Candy - A big so what! My second sentiment is: I hope they all get in the gate on May 2 because they'll take lots of money. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Final Derby Sort

Today marks three, well two really, major prep races for horses headed to the Kentucky Derby. (No offense to Keenland's Blue Grass and Lexington Stakes, but these synthetic surface races will not produce our next Derby winner. After Old Fashioned's two slower than 2-year-old performances, I don't have much hope for the Arkansas Derby giving us the next Derby champ either).

I see today simply as an affirmation of leading contenders like:
  • I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial
  • The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby
  • Giant Oak in the Illinois Derby 
Now, there a few horses running today with a win or top three showing that can crack the all important top 19 Kentucky Derby earnings list. (The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, but with the Kempton Challenge win-and-your-in candidate, Mafaaz, pointing toward Churchill, there's 19 remaining spots).

Among those vying, which I think will fall short, are:
  • Imperial Council ran second to I Want Revenge last time out. Problem is he started the stretch run and ended the race 8 1/2 lengths behind  the winner. I don't see how that qualifies as a "strong move." He only beats the top choice in today's Wood, if I Want Revenge bounces hard.
  • Chocolate Candy has taken the overland, northern California route winning back-to-back stakes at Golden Gate. As a two-year-old, he even finished close behind Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge in the Cash Call Futurity. He probably has enough graded earnings to get into the Derby starting gate, but a top showing in the Santa Anita Derby is needed for real contention. I just don't see him getting by the top two choices.
  • If Giant Oak finds trouble...again or just doesn't fire, there are a whole host of long shot choices that could find themselves in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May - at odds of 50-1 or greater, I might add. A Grade II ranking might be high for this race which has produced just one Derby winner in recent memory - War Emblem.