Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stepping Stones

Today's two biggest stakes on both coasts look like paid public workouts for Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. The biggest question is: Where does each go next?

Jess Jackson's preemptive Preakness plan was a huge hit for his newly-owned filly and the sport. While the Moss' curiously cautious charting of their champion leaves me deflated with each, empty Left Coast win. Their super horse doesn't go on wet tracks, rarely leaves fake dirt and won't ever, ever race against the boys - even last year with a retreating Curlin coming to California to race on Zenyatta's preferred surface. Last year Breeders' Cup should have been her place to take on the boys. Oh well.

Now it sounds like the two super girls will never face each other. So much for running the best against the best. Hopefully, Rachel Alexandra takes on the boys at Monmouth or Saratoga. Meanwhile Zenyatta beats Dawn After Dawn again....yawn.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In the Interim

In between the Triple Crown and the boutique meets of Saratoga/Del Mar not too much happens - at least to the casual horse racing fan. The only thing of real interest will be next weekend's media friendly build up towards a Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyetta Breeders' Cup match up. (Rachel taking on a few brave fillies at Belmont and Zenyetta a similar, small group running for second at Hollywood Park.)

Sure there's been a few nice races with some nice horses in the last few weeks (Macho Again upset in Stephen Foster among them), but there has been a lull that will last until the third week of July when Del Mar opens. With Rachel Alexandra falling back into class she has dominated and Zenyetta unwilling to race outside hers, there maybe a chance both meet in the Distaff or Female Classic or whatever the heck they may call it in November. (Can you imagine running that race on Friday with the Not-Ready-For-Primetime handicap horses getting top-billing on Saturday?)

At least Rachel Alexandra may go outside her comfort zone again at Saratoga and/or Monmouth Park to take on the boys - that would give both hardened handicappers and infrequent viewers something real to root for.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Tried the 50-cent Late Pick 4 at Churchill for $4 on Saturday - that's a 1x2x2x2 play.
  • I was alive with a neck win in first leg with Successful Dan holding on and winning in coast-to-coast fashion
  • Miss Isella hit the fence on her way through to win leg two
  • Macho Again got a good pace to run at while Einstein had tons of trouble in the feature.
  • I found myself alive to about an $800 return with The Best Day Ever and a little less to Hot Cha Cha. They both finished necks behind the winner Keertana. If the race were just a few jumps longer The Best Day Ever would have gotten to the winner. Oh well...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Triple Crown Redux

Besides taking a beating on each Triple Crown race day, here are some of what I learned or relearned:
  • Mine That Bird was an example of how dramatically three-year-olds can improve between races
  • New ownership belonging to the 21st not 19th century showed that fillies can best the boys, if given the chance. As a sidebar Rachel Alexandra's win also put all the PETA bull on the back burner.
  • Like other jocks before him, Calvin Borel was fooled by the top-of-Belmont's stretch. In my opinion, jocks are used to turning for home with far more horse under them after traveling far less.
  • While Jess Jackson was all class in challenging the boys and deferring from the Belmont, Chip Woolley soured on Borel within seconds of defeat and sounded like a jilted prom queen. Hey Chip next time save the criticism for an after the race discussion or just employ another rider.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brooklyn Key to Belmont?

Last year Delosvientos scored a coast-to-coast victory in the Grade II Brooklyn Handicap - an older horse race contested at 1 1/2 miles the day before the Belmont Stakes. The next day Da' Tara lead all the way around the Belmont oval shocking heavily favored Big Brown and Triple Crown fans everywhere.

This afternoon, Nite Light was on or close up to the lead in the Brooklyn churning out quarters just around 25 seconds. He shook off favored Rising Moon only to be nipped at the wire by fast closing Eldaafer. Eldaafer slowly chipped away at the leaders coming from 9, 4 1/2, 3, and 2 1/2 lengths behind from the quarter pole to the top of the stretch.

If, somehow today's Brooklyn shines a similar light on tomorrow's Test of Champions, you'd have to go with Mine That Bird. I'm just saying...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Belmont Stakes Day Plays

Let me start backwards from the Belmont Stakes for a late Pick 4 for Saturday.

Leg 4 - The Belmont Stakes

Instead going with a chalky closer - Mine That Bird or a second choice closer in Dunkirk, I'd recommend going with a horse that will be able to click off 24 to 25 second quarters for 10 furlongs. Remember Birdstone blowing by Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones? It wasn't a case of Birdstone accelerating, as it was Smarty Jones getting leg weary to the winner grinding out consistent speed throughout the race. (Smarty Jones went through his final quarter 27 seconds.)

The mostly candidates for this would be:
  • Charitable Man - big on talent, short on experience; two-time stakes winner at Big Sandy
  • Miner's Escape - five-time maiden suddenly two-for-two; big improvements happening and if you discount Nick Zito in this race, you do so at your own expense
  • Mine That Bird - in case Borel is right
Leg 3 - The Manhattan Stakes

You could easily land on any one of eight horses here and get no argument from me. But this is horse racing and each handicapper's opinion counts, so...
  • Gio Ponti - likes to win including at the 1 1/4 mile distance; fired big in his second race as a four-year-old and could be a monster this year
  • Conmonaut - surprisingly there's a lot of speed in this race and all of it breaks outside of Cosmonaut, whose rider has the opportunity to either force the issue or find a good spot along the rail waiting to make his move
  • Champs Elysees, Wesley and Cowboy Cal - I may include one of these three as a back up with such a big field going forward.
Leg 2 - The Acorn Stakes

The big question here, Is Justwhisstledixie a bet against at a short price or a single. Here are my choices:
  • Justwhistledixie - a potential single with speed, power and record that over matches these
  • Four Gifts - the most likely candidate to upset the chalk, which guarantees a bigger Pick 4 payout
  • Funny Moon - a bomb with potential since the Beyers have jumped up with each victory
Leg 1 - The Woody Stephens Stakes

Another race that comes down to three betting choices for me. The Stephens usually brings together horses that tried stretching out for the Derby, but have snapped back to reality at shorter distances.
  • Regal Ransom/Everyday Heroes - both have shown great speed from day one, so it will be interesting to see which of the two tries to strike the front.
  • This Ones for Phil - ran a courageous race in Swale and then stretched out a little too far in Withers; main threat to top pair.
  • Munnings - saw and bet against him in Saratoga maiden win; looked impressive and could improve off three-year-old bow
My cheap Pick 4 play with be one of the two following tickets:

1/4-8-9/5-6-9-12/6-9 for $24 or 1-2-4/8/5-6-12/6-7-9 for $27

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pretty Close

It's been awhile since my last post, sorry for that. If you look at my early Belmont odds from a few weeks ago (May 18), they're pretty close to Mike Watchmaker's DRF Belmont odds.

Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes
1Chocolate CandyJ. HollendorferG. Gomez10-1
2DunkirkT. PletcherJ. Velazquez5-1
3Mr. Hot StuffE. HartyE. Prado15-1
4Summer BirdT. IceK. Desormeaux10-1
5Luv GovD.W. LukasM. Mena20-1
6Charitable ManK. McLaughlinA. Garcia3-1
7Mine That BirdB. Woolley Jr.C. Borel8-5
8Flying PrivateD.W. LukasJ. Leparoux12-1
9Miner's EscapeN. ZitoJ. Lezcano20-1
10Brave VictoryN. ZitoR. Maragh20-1

Odds by DRF national handicapper Mike Watchmaker