Sunday, January 31, 2010

As Predicted...

The first allowance-winning horse getting serious Derby attention is: Drosselmeyer. The odds-on choice won in a decent time Sunday afternoon at Gulfstream, taking over mid-stretch of a 1 1/8-mile affair finishing in 1:49 and 2/5 seconds.

Drosselmeyer has some pretty good connections:
Ridden by: Kent Desormeaux (three-time Derby winner)
Trained by: Bill Mott (well-known turf trainer and Cigar's trainer)
Owned by: WinStar Farm (perennial, multiple Derby horse owners)
Sired by: Distorted Humor (Derby winner and expensive sire)

Drosselmeyer was purchased for $600,000 last year. An oh by the way, he won a mile, off the turf event, at Churchill drawing off to win by six lengths this past November.

Like one of last year's Florida-based phenoms, Dunkirk (no factor in Derby, second in Belmont) Drosselmeyer's connection will need some graded-stakes earnings to get into the Churchill starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Unlike Dunkirk, Drosselmeyer had four races under his belt as a two-year-old. (Dunkirk had none.) Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunshine Millions/Gulfstream Late Pick 4

With the thermometer straining to reach 10 degrees just outside of Boston today, it's nice to at least have the Sunshine Millions to watch and wager on. With a 50-cent minimum, Gulfstream's late Pick 4 looks to be the most affordable play albeit most likely a modest pay out. I'm looking to limit the play for $2. Without further ado...

Race 7: A N1X Allowance on the turf features a full field of 12. This is usually the type of race I'd like to spread for some insurance, but I'm going to single instead. Dangerous maybe, but when you have the filly who came closest to catching Rachel Alexandra then, in my mind, you've got your single: Flying Spur. Bonus: With a field of 12, you're likely to get better than her 2-1 or 3-1 odds in the Pick 4.

Race 8: The Sprint features two heavy favorites going six furlongs. I'm going to respect both Pashito the Che and This Ones for Phil, by including them in wager. But I'm also going to include Accredit, who with the inside post and the ability to rip off a 22 and change first quarter, might just lead from gate to wire. At 6-1, he will be the key to whether a winning wager will be worth the play.

Race 9: Like the Sprint, the Distaff will have co-favorites in Sweet Repent and Jessica is Back, but I'll only include one of these on the ticket. With the unusual break from just off the clubhouse turn, Jessica is Back maybe put at just enough of a disadvantage leaving from the seven-hole to be compromised for the win. In addition with the lesser known connections of Braddy and Cruz, Sweet Repent will likely be the better price. For kicks and giggles, I'm tossing in Scolara, who makes only her second start on dirt for Bill Mott. The last time she made such a start was at Gulfstream, where she just missed in allowance company two years ago. She's also juicy at 12-1 and could close strongly in the top two or even, if Amazing, gets involved in a speed duel.

Race 10: The Turf will feature overwhelming favorite Soldier's Dancer, who will need at least some speed to run at and might just be caught chasing the likely on the loose leader, Jet Propulsion. If Leparoux can ration off Jet Propulsion's speed advantage through 24 second quarters, the seven-year-old will be tough to catch. While Wolfson, doesn't claim many (o-for-2 in such scenarios the past two years), like Richard Dutrow, he's really tough sending out horses first time (33% the last two years). Pickapocket scares me here and I'll add him just in case.

The play for 50-cent minimum: 5/3-4-6/4-8/8-10-11 for $9 or $36 if you play it for $2. Good luck and let's hope one of the long shots gets through for a decent payoff.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Derby Baker's Dozen

About the middle of each month I will unveil the top 13, 3-year-olds making their way on the Derby Trail. What this list isn't - a forecaster of who will win the Derby. What it is - the top Derby contenders at the time the list is made. Enough explanation, the list appears in the left hand column of this blog. A few notes on January's top colts:
  • Lookin At Lucky - waiting for his three-year-old debut, should be worth the wait
  • Winslow Homer - the Holy Bull time doesn't matter, the way he won does
  • Conveyance and Dryfly - both will need to convince me they can go longer
  • Rule - just might be the first Derby winner to go through Vinton, LA
  • Dublin - can the Coach get back to his Derby winning ways with Hopeful Stakes winner?
That's all for now...check out February' s list on or about the 15th.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Holy Bull is Back!

After a one-year experiment, the Holy Bull is back where it belongs as the first stakes in a series leading toward the Florida Derby - the Fountain of Youth makes up the middle leg.

This year the field looks stacked and depending on tomorrow's result, Gulfstream may hold all the cards for Derby Day. While the Fair Grounds' LeComte looks like a N1X Allowance, the Holy Bull has six stakes-placed colts including a bellwether 100 Beyer horse and favorite Jackson Bend. Here's what the favorite and others bring to the table:
  • Jackson Bend - besides the gaudy speed figure, he's also won five straight and been purchased by perennial Triple Crown hopeful owner, Robert LaPenta
  • Homeboykris - the lone Grade I winner in the field at the Holy Bull distance of a mile
  • Thank U Phillippe - finished second, a 1/16 of a mile behind Buddy's Saint in Grade II Nashua Stakes
  • Piscitelli - for a brief moment looked like 50-1 upset winner of Juvenile, but held strong less than a length behind the other long shot, Vale of York
  • William's Kitten - Ramsey, Marker, Leparoux ride their Derby hopeful after a decent second in Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club
  • Aikenite - a Pletcher-trained hopeful got lots of action finishing fifth in Juvenile and makes his first start of his three-year-old season
Beyond these six there's the Anthony Dutrow-trained Winslow Homer, who in his last start exploded for a 12 and 1/2 length allowance win. The field is stacked and the yes, the Derby race is on....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Derby Trail

When exactly does the Kentucky Derby trail begin?

Some may say the day after the current year's Derby. Others would say the auction houses where millions are thrown at Derby Dreams months (two-year-olds in training) or years (yearlings) away. Finally, some would point to the hopes of breeders bringing together stud and mare based upon a computer program, obvious bloodlines or just a pipe dream.

At Coast to Coast it starts here and now. Let's take a look at a very, very presumptuous and premature (small) field of hopefuls, and then finish with a few predictions.

Top Four Breeders Cup Juvenile finishers:
  • Vale of York
  • Lookin At Lucky
  • Noble's Promise
  • Piscitelli
If their connections want in, there in. Why? Because they have enough graded stakes earnings to make the gate of twenty. If you're new to thoroughbred horse racing or the inner workings of the Derby, beyond the fact it's run on first Saturday in May, you probably don't know that Churchill Downs bases its Derby entrants on graded stakes earnings from their two- and three-year-old seasons. Graded stakes are usually the highest in purses and prestiege and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is a Grade 1 with a $1 million purse. Among the four, Lookin At Lucky shows the most promise and is heading toward early book favortism

Another win and your in race is the Grade III Delta Jackpot won by Rule.
  • Delta Jackpot winners have yet to make a splash in the years since its Grade III status and winner's share of $750,000 (used to be $1 million). Maybe it's due to the small bull-ring type track - only six furlongs - when most US tracks are at least a mile oval or maybe it's just a forgotten race after the Breeders' Cup and before the holidays or maybe the Derby winner just doesn't go through Vinton, LA. Regardless Rule's daddy, Fusaichi Pegasus, won the Derby and is owned by WinStar, a powerhouse partnership that perennially sends colts to the Derby.
The ol' "Win at Churchill at Two Will Lead to a Derby Win Factor" goes to Super Saver.
  • During its less popular, much quieter and shorter fall season many connections race what they consider their Derby contenders over the Churchill surface - which thankfully is still organic, i.e. dirt. Super Saver took the biggest of these races the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
That's pretty much it for locks - if they don't get hurt or fail to perform up to their early racing form - for the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Don't worry the list will grow, shorten and even explode with a few quick turns of the hoof during the winter/spring of 2010. Here's some of what you'll see if you're apt to follow races from frigid Aqueduct to the muggy bayou based Fair Grounds to the sunny (real) and racing surfaces (fake) Californian coast:
  • A maiden or first level allowance win in big way and a fast time. This will most likely happen at Gulfstream Park in South Florida - where the hard track usually favors front-runners. Some recent colts to show up in a big way have been Quality Road, Dunkirk and Curlin.
  • An overemphasis on numbers - Dosage (breeding), Beyers (speed), training times (either fast or slow) and Ragozin's Sheets (if you're not betting or don't train a horse, don't ask).
  • Injuries and/or lost of training time. Last year's list was big including early favorites Quality Road and I Want Revenge.
  • Bob Baffert will have multiple horses racing all over the place. He already has Lookin At Lucky going the right way winning for the sixth time in seven starts. He could get anywhere from three to five in Churhill's starting gate.
  • The Sunland Derby gets graded status, so trainers like Baffert and Steve Asmussen, who in the past have usually sent second and third tier trainees to the New Mexico track, will now be sending the real deal to the race. Remember it's where last year's Derby winner, Mine That Bird, ran a dismissal fourth in his final prep race.
  • Sprinters stretching out beyond bloodlines due simply to the timing of their improvement - the weeks and months before May 1. Most will fail and either fall back to sprinting or disappear all together. Colts who've already successfully stretched their pedigrees are Conveyance and Dryfry. Can they keep it up? Who knows...stay tuned.
  • The Little Track That Could - Oaklawn - will produce a Derby contender worth watching. The likes of Curlin, Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex have won big races at the Arkansas track before heading onto much Derby and Triple Crown success.
  • Synthetic surfaces (fake dirt) - used at all California tracks and a few lesser know tracks - will continue to confuse handicappers and trainers alike when horses make the transition to the stuff you can dig up in your back yard. Pioneerof the Nile came close to becoming the first synthetic to dirt Derby winner, but fell short.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Now that it's official - Rachel Alexandra is Horse of the year - can we start focusing on the next big thing - the Kentucky Derby? Unless of course Rachel and Zenyatta meet in a race before May 1....

Horse racing fans and betters alike were rewarded this year with these two classy ladies taking center stage through spring, summer and fall. Both did something never done before:
  • Zenyatta beating the boys in the Classic, in style and going 14-for-14 too boot
  • Rachel Alexandra winning the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward Stakes - all against colts and in the last case, older males. And don't forget the 20 length Oaks win.
Wow what a year! Can't wait until they meet...Apple Blossom at Oaklawn? Personal Ensign at Saratoga? Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill? Maybe all three and that truly would be something to top their 2009 campaigns.