Sunday, May 24, 2009

Met Mile Day Pick 4

Here's why: big fields + three turf races + a contentious stakes race= big payout. If only I could hit it. 

Here's the strategy:

Leg 1 (conditional claiming turf sprint): These races always call for a spread and usually come up with a longshot on top. Here are mine: 
  • Lemon Shore - second off layoff with little success of late, but two wins at distance, surface and track (8-1)
  • Day Dee - Although not a sprinter an angle I like to play, route horse usually ahead at the six furlong marker. I don't care that he's jumping up in class...(9-2)
  • Snowstalker - first time lasix, second off layoff (3-1)
  • Others I considered but may dismiss or include: Marq of Love - one hole will force him to go and Edloktori - new track, distance and rider may be too much to overcome
Leg 2 (N1X - statebreds - yikes): Favorites usually don't win these, but this field is crying out for a short price winner and I'll go with:
  • Relatively Ready - was when he ran into/caused a bid of trouble in his first start in five months. Previously stakes-placed he should win this (5-2)
  • Straight Story  - with no real speed in this race this one-time turf winner could take them all the way around (3-1)
  • Considered - Magical Devotion interfered with by top choice in last and Piazza Di Spagna who always seems to rally for just a piece
Leg 3 Met Mile Grade I: Premiere event for horsemen, especially in the breeding shed. This year's race has a lot of speed even with Mr. Fantasy scratched out. For this reason I'm going with a group of stalkers:
  • Smooth Air - Multiple stakes-winner from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, including a listed race on turf, he's very versatile. He'll have Acrredit to track from his inside and should get a great trip. I even considered singling him (4-1)
  • The Roundhouse - A lightly raced Pletcher colt who missed all of last year, but is stakes-placed at 2 and 4. Second off for suddenly hot Pletcher (12-1)
  • Mr. Sidney - Another lightly raced one who won Grade I on the turf in last and just might have the same versatility of the top choice (10-1)
  • Others considered: None
Leg 4 (conditional claiming turf going 1 1/16 miles): Several question marks in this one, but I'll go with these three - if AE #13 gets in:
  • Manitowish Waters - Two consistent turf races at Gulfstream before dull effort on poly at Keenland. Lots of upside for the chalk (2-1)
  • High On Candy - Will press top pick and could get the better of him, if not so ready (10-1)
  • Chinese Whisper - Yet to find winner's circle on this side of Atlantic, but has faced much better (4-1)
  • E Z Dollar - Only if Chinese Whisper doesn't get in (5-1)
The Pick 4 play looks like this:
  • The cheapo: 7-9-11/2/2-6-8/4-8-13 for $27
  • Middle ground: 7-9-11/2-3-6/2-8/4-8 for $36
  • Grande: 4-7-9-11/2-3-6/2-6/4-8-13 or 3 for $72
Earlier this week a Pick 4 with two chalks, 10-1 and 12-1 shots paid more than a grand for a $1, I see the same type of payout for Monday.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Off the Snide

It's been a few weeks and many bets coming, but I hope I've turned the handicapping corner with a modest win yesterday at Belmont. My Triple Crown performances - the big dances and their undercards - have been abysmal. Yesterday I had some time to look at Belmont's final four races. With Wishful Tomcat, almost a sure thing in the feature, I tried to nail down races six, seven and nine in short order, since I only had $12 in my wagering account. 

Alas, I missed race six, but came home in time to catch the last race. I would have missed the Pick 4 - one that was hittable since Wishful Tomcat won - but arrived home in time for the nightcap -  state bred, NX1 dash on the turf. Two overriding reasons for landing on the eventually winner, Princess Maura:
  • Loose on the lead type speed in a paceless race
  • My good friend's oldest child's name - Maura
At 12-1, I simply clicked $2 win and played two, $1 exactas. The win and half the excata returned $80 for my $4 wagered. Finally!

By the way the Pick 4 with a horses odds - 10-1, 3-2, 8-5, and 12-1 returned a $1,050 for a $1 bet. With the free space of Wishful Tomcat, an investment of $36 to $48 would have been enough to hit it. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

For Kicks and Giggles

Since I've had little luck at the windows this Triple Crown season, I figured why not take a stab at the possible Belmont Field - with odds. You'll note, I'm not much of an odds maker...

  • Mine That Bird........... 2-1
  • Charitable Man........... 3-1
  • Dunkirk..................... 5-1
  • Chocolate Candy........ 10-1
  • Flying Private............ 10-1
  • Summer Bird.............. 20-1
  • Mr. Hot Stuff............. 20-1
  • Miner's Escape........... 30-1

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is the Belmont Necessary?

Rachel Alexandra proved her new owners, trainer and regular rider right - she is much the best of this somewhat depleted crop of three-year-olds. 

With Big Drama the only other horse to break for the lead (after stumbling and then heading out to the three-path) Rachel Alexandra's hustle to the front was not as difficult as it could have been. Pioneerof the Nile, Papa Clem and Friesan Fire could have made the filly's trip to the front more challenging by breaking cleanly and contesting the early pace. (Why they didn't is my $64,000 Question for the day after). 

Even though jockey Calvin Borel said his horse did not handle the track, her race was won heading into the clubhouse turn and then, when none of the colts contested her heading into the stretch. 

The second big question is why should Rachel Alexandra's connections bother with the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. There really is nothing left for the filly to prove. Why not point her to the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. For me, the mid-summer Derby has a lot more intrigue and possibility of victory than the difficult distance and timing of the Belmont.

For the record my top choices (Musket Man and Papa Clem) were right were I expected them, behind the first flight. Papa Clem didn't fire and Musket Man was courageous and all heart as always. As a final back up trifecta, I put Rachel Alexandra on top with Musket Man and Papa Clem in the second spot with seven others for third, including Mine That Bird. So within four jumps to the wire I had the tri. Oh well - that's why they call it gambling.

It will be interesting to see where Rachel Alexandra heads next...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Preakness Plays

I'm sticking with my toss on Rachel Alexandra. If she beats me, I'll tip my cap and applaud her efforts. She certainly is good enough, but...

...I'll go with a stimulus-package, on the cheap special.

In the Pick 4 starting in Race 9, I'll play it like this:
  • Leg 1: (4) Beacon Hill Road and (8) Affirmatif, hoping the 4 scores the upset over the heavily favored 8.
  • Leg 2: (5) Ah Day and (8) Ravalo are the class horses of this stakes race filled with allowance caliber horses.
  • Leg 3: (3) Parading, (7) Wesley and (8) Strike a Deal among a handful that could win it.
  • Leg 4: (3) Musket Man and (7) Papa Clem in what is wide-open race.
Total cost for $1 play is $24

In the Preakness I'll stick with Musket Man and Papa Clem for first and second play them over seven others. My $1 trifecta part wheel will be 3-7 with 3-7 with 1-2-4-5-8-9-13 for a total of $14. 

Good luck to all!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Play or Pass?

Now that the evil plot to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness has passed, it is high time to draw some conclusions on how to bet the race. I see it two ways:
  1. You either single her in Pick 3s and 4s or wheel her on top of exotics or
  2. Toss her 
I really, really like the filly, but we all must consider if a step up in class and change in division are worth short odds, breaking from the final post (13). She certainly has the tactical speed to find a spot in the field, unfortunately it may be four to five wide. A repeat of Big Brown's Derby is possible, not probable. 

Although for some romantic reason, I'd like to see her win, I'll take a stand against Rachel Alexandra. I'll likely go with four from the Derby - Musket Man, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem and Pioneerof the Nile in Pick 3s and 4s and possibly box the four in a trifecta. At least that's what I'm thinking right now. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Keeping Rachel Alexandra Out

OK, now we have something more to talk about than whether Mine That Bird will win the second jewel of the Triple Crown. The ongoing development on whether Rachel Alexandra will run or a group of owners will stack the starting gate to keep the phenomenal filly out of the Preakness will be the talk of the horse racing world until the race itself next Saturday.

Allow me to repeat myself, I thought Rachel Alexandra was good enough to win the Derby, so I believe she is good enough to win the Preakness. (Winning the Kentucky Oaks by 20 was good enough for me to think she would have outraced Mine That Bird the next day in the Derby). The fact that her former connections did not nominate Rachel Alexandra for a measly $600 or even the late Triple Crown nomination fee of $6,000 is coming back to haunt the current Jess Jackson partnership.

Due to dated and arcane rules for starting in the Preakness, a bunch of owners can actually keep out Rachel Alexandra by bringing their less than renowned and Triple Crown nominated horses to race. 

Strange, fascinating and par for the horse racing course... 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Onward to Pimlico

And so we go on to the second crown in the jewel. Here's what I think a little more than a week out for the Preakness Stakes:
  • If Rachel Alexandra enters she's either the favorite or second choice.
  • Pioneerof the Nile will be favored.
  • The top three finishers are likely to be from the Derby field.
  • Mine That Bird either stakes his claim as a super horse or goes the route of Lil E. Tee. I didn't have him in the Derby, and I'll take a stand against in the Preakness.
  • Big Drama poses the biggest "outsider" chance...besides the filly.
I'm feeling Papa Clem right now, but it's far too early and interesting to start handicapping.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Derby Hangover

The intoxicating build up is months in the making, then it's over in two minutes. Following the buzz, I'm left wondering why should I even bother.

This year most were beaten by a horse almost no one figured would win. But that's the beauty of the Derby, horses that should be 150-1 are underlays at 50-1 because Aunt Betty has a parrot that says, "Mine that bird," or your daughter was born on the 8th, so his odds creep downward to 50-1!

Here's what Mine That Bird had going against him:
  • A highest Beyer speed figure of 80
  • No graded stakes earnings this year
  • No winning racing this year!
  • A late foaling date in May
  • A low purchase price of $9,500
What he did have was owners, trainer and jockey who believed in him despite the long odds.

Here's what I learned about my Derby handicapping:
  • I was wrong about Pioneerof the Nile, Regal Ransom and Friesan Fire
  • At least I had Papa Clem and Musket Man underneath in trifectas and was alive with a Pick 3 and Pick 4 going into the Derby
As Steve Crist wrote right after the race, "This game will sure keep you humble."

Thankfully, jockey Calvin Borel's excitment was truly geniune and infectious. We all should be so lucky! Maybe later today at Belmont. But man does my head hurt.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Channel the Derby - Fini

I've read and seen all I want of the Kentucky Derby. I have followed the races from afar (HRTV, TVG and ESPN), watched interviews, read DRF daily and checked in on my favorite blogs like Kennedy's Corridor. I also stayed abreast of all the late works, the defections, I Want Revenge's late scratch and current track conditions.

Here's what I have surmised just hours away from the race. I'm tossing all synthetic surface horses - Mr. Hot Stuff, Advice, Hold Me Back, Chocolate Candy and Pioneerof the Nile. None will show up on my tickets. 

The inexperienced and overmatched are out as well - Mine That Bird, Join in the Dance, Atomic Rain, Summer Bird, No Where to Hide and Flying Private.

These leaves West Side Bernie, Musket Man, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, Regal Ransom, General Quarters, Dunkirk and Desert Party. 

Due to track conditions which appear to favor inside speed horses, Friesan Fire is the pick. I will single him in a Pick 4. I will also use him to key over several of the horses above in trifecta. 

The Pick 4 for a $1 will be:
  • First Leg - Lemon Chiffon
  • Second Leg - Informed Decision, Secret Gypsy and Game Face
  • Third Leg - El Caballo, Proudinsky, Court Vision and Enstein
  • Final Leg - Friesan Fire
The trifecta part wheel will be:
  • First - Friesan Fire
  • Second - Musket Man, Papa Clem, Regal Ransom, General Quarters, Dunkirk 
  • Third - West Side Bernie, Musket Man, Papa Clem, Regal Ransom, General Quarters, Dunkirk and Desert Party
The saver exacta will be: 
  • First - Friesan Fire, Papa Clem, General Quarters and Dunkirk
  • Second - West Side Bernie, Musket Man, Friesan Fire and Dunkirk
Total Derby Bets: $12 Pick 4, $30 Trifecta Part Wheel and $14 Exacta Box

Good luck all! Let's hope for a safe trip for all.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Derby and My Dad

As noted in the Foolish Pleasure blog, the Kentucky Derby is one of the Top Ten Traditional Sporting Events. Every horse racing fan should make the mecca to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. I had tickets once, but never made the trip from my Boston-area home.

In the winter of 1995, the winter of my family's discomfort - the year my girlfriend, now wife and father both were diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer - I was hoping my dad would just get off the life support that kept him living day-after-day through 103 degree fevers and average heart rates of a marathoner.

He had been lying flat since a surgery of early October of 1995 - a surgery that was originally slated to remove stomach cancer, which, in turn, ended up being terminal pancreatic cancer. Ten days after surgeons removed part of his pancreas my father lay unconscious and unresponsive, so doctors went back in to remove all of his pancreas and quite a bit of his intestines. These were the events that lead up to my daily search for signs of life beyond the rhythmic rises and falls of the breathing machine or maybe just the hope of a peaceful death.

Meanwhile, my 26-year-old girlfriend had been receiving chemotherapy strong enough to kill her immune system and the cancer that grew along with it. She received a stem cell transplant (her own clean bone marrow) on the very day my father went into surgery...the first time. She alternated between restless sleep and bouncing off the walls that kept her safe from airborne infection for the next 28 days.

And I got to know the cleaning ladies, nurses and doctors at two city hospitals. I also dreamt of better days at the beach with Kara, going to Red Sox spring training or maybe making it to the Derby with my dad. 

Since he'd taken me to Suffolk Downs as a kid, one hoping to win a few bucks on a few nags, I'd been in love with horse racing. This love blossomed every year when my dad made his annual August trek to Saratoga - where the best in racing gathered every summer along with the pageantry and disappointment that are synonymous with Thoroughbred horse racing. 

Each year my dad would call me before the Travers Stakes and ask who I liked. In the summer of 1981 when I was 13-years-old, I picked Willow Hour because I liked his jockey Eddie Maple. Of course he beat that year's Derby winner, Pleasant Colony by a narrowing nose.

I made it to the beach with Kara. It's a place I would propose to her some 18 months after her stem cell procedure. I even made it the Red Sox spring training home, Fort Meyers, with my dad and sister just two months after he miraculously awoke from a nine-week coma. Shortly thereafter, I figured why not try make that Derby dream come true. 

As someone who enjoys writing, I can be persuasive so I wrote a letter explaining my dad's plight, our love of horse racing and my desire to get him to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Surprisingly, someone from Churchill Downs replied with two tickets for the Kentucky Derby, dated May 2, 1996.

My father died two days prior, on a beautiful, cloudless May day. I gave the tickets away to a friend of my dad's, who never made the race. I should have just kept them.

While preparing to wake my father, I took some time to read the Daily Racing Form and snuck away to Suffolk Downs to bet on the Kentucky Derby. I narrowed the field of 19 down to three potential winners and placed the minimum wager of $2 to win on each. One of these three, Grindstone, nailed Cavonnier at the finish line to win by the slimmest of margins - the length of his nostril. The win paid $13.80, but I never cashed the ticket.

Instead I brought the winning ticket to my father's wake and tucked into his jacket pocket. He went out a winner.