Thursday, April 29, 2010

Channeling The Derby Fini - 2010

You (the few of you out there reading this) and me should have arrived at a Derby selection. If not now, then in a few hours or days. Or as Confucius is quoted, "And remember, no matter where you go, there you are."

So my question to you is, Where are you?

I know where I've landed, so let me tell you all about...

A mainstay of handicapping a race - besides finding the winner - is to eliminate the losers. The tosses where made in a previous post, but if you're too lazy to scroll down, let's review:

Homeboykris - 150-1 would be generous

Dublin - unfortunately yesterday's news

American Lion - fighting for the lead

Discreetly Mine - see American Lion

Sidney's Candy - see Discreetly Mine

Line of David - see Sidney's Candy

Stately Victor - somehow becoming overrated at 30-1

Dean's Kitten - forgotten and probably should be

Awesome Act - thrown shoe may have been least of his problems in Wood

A few more to toss:

Devil May Care - goes because Johnny V. is available to ride, sounds like an afterthought

Make Music for Me - last minute additions, Mine That Bird aside, usually don't hit the board

Backtalk - 24 lengths back in last two graded stakes, yikes

Jackson Bend - likable little horse, but finished 8 and 9 lengths behind in last two

Those that get in (at least on the superfecta tickets):

12 Conveyance - certainly won't win, but something tells me he hangs around for small piece

3 Noble's Promise - back and forth on this one, but huge wet pedigree makes me put him in for second, third or fourth

10 Paddy O'Prado - either upset threat or pretender, Desormeaux is riding very well these days

2 Ice Box - with all the upfront speed, somebody has to close late and pass tired horses

14 Mission Impazible - speed figures going the right way and may be forgotten Pletcher horse

1 Lookin At Lucky - sure tough post, but has overcome much adversity already - gets top spot on trifecta ticket

4 Super Saver - the pick - has romped in slop and at Churchill - with crafty rider Calvin Borel getting first run on tiring speed horses

Plays rain or shine:

$1 Exacta Wheel 2-4-10/1-2-4-10-14 for $12. This is a long shot special

$1 Trifecta Wheel 1-2-4/1-2-3-4-14/1-2-3-12-14 for $42. This is including Lookin At Lucky on top just in case

$1 Superfecta Wheel 4/1-2-3-14/1-2-3-14/1-2-3-14 $24. Keeping it simple

In case you're playing on Oaks Day - 82 and sunny, thank you very much...

Starting with Race 9

$1 Pick Three: 2-3-6-7-8/1/2-3-5-8-11-13 for $30.

I'm going against singling Blind Luck in the feature, Oaks and final leg and instead singling Setsuko in Race 10 - who trainer Richard Mandella was hoping to get into the Derby and who DRF's Mike Welsch thought galloped the best this week. The Alysheba also gets a big spread with hopes of Flying Private winning it and setting up a big score....

Good luck with all your wagers!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Draw and What It Means

The Derby draw had a few surprises with first and second choices, Lookin at Lucky and Sidney's Candy drawing posts one and twenty, respectively. To me, this means you need to find your winners somewhere else.

The problem with the rail is that 18 colts and a filly will tend to come crashing down upon the rail as they break from Churchill's chute and go by the grandstand for the first time. This means a horse and rider must go immediately to establish a racing position one or two away from the rail ahead of everyone else or have to drop back and wait to make a run through traffic. I love Garret Gomez, but I would feel more comfortable with Calvin Borel up against Churchill's rail. Another problem is Lookin at Lucky will load first, will be waiting a while in the Churchill gate and may not break all that alertly.

The problem with the far outside post is that you have 19 other horses inside you working for position and horse and rider must go to establish position somewhere in the middle of the track. Once the rider, in this case Joe Talamo aboard Sidney's Candy, pushes his steed, the horse may not be able to relax and could go through a sub-23 first quarter, which in turn could lead to a sub-46 second half, which would mean whoever is on the lead will be toast. While Big Brown had no trouble two years ago negogiating some quick fractions, he did so against substandard competition. This year's group is more closely stacked together with several speed horses willing to vie for or take the lead - Super Saver (post 4), Line of David (post 5) American Lion (post 7), Devil May Care (post 11), Conveyance (post 12) and Discreetly Mine (post 15) all break inside Sidney's Candy.

Even if it's just Conveyance going alone to the front, rider Martin Garcia could stay in the four-path and force Sideny's Candy wide on the first turn. Of course one, two or all seven could go for the front leaving Sidney's Candy wide or forcing him to rate - something he's yet to do.

If you like either or both Luckin at Lucky and/or Sidney's Candy, you'll have to swallow these poor posts and hope for racing's best luck around both turns. While Big Brown was the first Derby champ to win from the grandstand, it's been a long time since the one-hole produced a winner. In fact in the last 21 runnings, there have been just two fourth place finishers (Jazil and Limehouse) and one third place finisher (Risen Star) coming from the one post.

Looking at the post position draw, I'd have to say my top five choices in no particular order are Super Saver (4), Lookin at Lucky (1), Ice Box (2), Conveyance (12) and Mission Impazible (14). More on these choices to follow either Thursday or Friday in my final Channeling of the Kentucky Derby.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Channeling The Derby Part 2 - 2010 - The Tosses

For me it doesn't matter where these horses break from, who their sires were, who trains or rides them or what I thought about them two days, weeks or months ago - it's time to present my tosses. These are the colts that won't make any of my Derby tickets - multi- or single-race exotic wagers.

I'm going to start with the most difficult cut of all. This was a horse I was high on, watch break his maiden at Saratoga and had Derby dreams of: Dublin. Sometimes it is hard to separate the heart from the head, whether you're rooting for or betting on a Thoroughbred of your choosing. By Afleet Alex and trained by the once-veneable, D. Wayne Lukas I really thought Dublin would show up in a big way at Oaklawn's Derby preps. Unfortunately the excuses were bountiful, the rider was changed and then changed back and the horse just didn't pass muster in the Arkansas series. It is hard for me to fathom, but I won't include Dublin on any Derby tickets. The first cut is always the toughest.

The rest of the tosses with far less expository text....

Sidney's Candy - The second toughest cut....I've got him in a small future bet at 33-1, so I don't feel an overwhelming need to use one of the many, many pacesetters in my Derby Day wagers (I know Iisted him in my top five a few days, but things have changed, call it enlightenment, if you like)

Line of David - front runners aplenty and he isn't the fastest of the bunch

Noble's Promise - lots of grit, but not enough talent to hit the board...might not even go

Rule - working poorly and doesn't seem to have enough umph to make 10 furlongs... connections are deciding whether to enter him

American Lion - ran back to two-year-old form in Illinois, too bad two-year-old form won't hold up on May 1

Discreetly Mine - ran one big one and followed it with a fourth-place fade, another not likely rating and helping ensure stalkers/closers rule the day

Stately Victor - besides runner up Street Sense, who already had established dirt form at Churchill, the Blue Grass has become a joke since Polytrack was installed

Awesome Act - sorry I'm not sold on his European form and Gotham win was against a bunch of N1X allowance types

Dean's Kitten - really?

Homeboykris -he's in and out of all of my bets

There they are - eleven to discard in exactas, trifectas, pick threes and fours. None of this bunch scares me in the least. Of course there will be some reshuffling of the Derby deck over the next three days with decisions on Interactif, Rule, Devil May Care and even possibly Blind Luck, which will affect others like Backtalk and Make Music for Me. So after the Wednesday afternoon draw, I will reveal the ten I will bet in some fashion. I feel at peace. More on that after I hit my gong a few more times, chant and burn some incense.....

Something or Nothing...You Decide

Just want to make sure you knew Calvin Borel had five winners during Churchill Downs' opening day, including an upset winner in the Derby Trial. Calvin's triumphs at Churchill are many, and his ride on Derby Day is Super Saver.Hurricane Ike Wins The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial
Hurricane Ike cruises home in the Derby Trial after a rail skimming ride from Borel

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Channeling The Derby Part 1 - 2010

I wrote the following last year and like it so much, I'm rolling it out again with just a few changes for this year's Derby...

"With just over a week 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. There are no odds or payouts resulting in morning works, but this does not mean they should be completely disregared. Since I can't make it to Churchill to see Derby contenders work, I rely on The Daily Racing Form's Michael Welsch and his daily insights to help inform me...just a little.

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.

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
  • With connections sending horses that are better qualified for allowance company (hello Homeboykris) or another surface besides dirt (hello Paddy O'Prado) there is a chance for real catastrophe at worst and traffic trouble at best
  • With so much emphasis on Eskendereya, there will be a bevy of horses at choice odds, ensuring big exotics, even if the early favorite wins"
Now, back to the future...At this point in the game I am zeroing in on my top choices - those handful of horses that will sit atop exotic wagers both vertical and horizontal. These are colts I just can't seem to ignore or live without. They are in no particular order:
  • Super Saver - third off the layoff here while also showing lots of talent as a junvenile...a win at Churchill doesn't hurt either.
  • Sidney's Candy - probably the most improved three-year-old that was on nobody's radar three months ago...big question here is will he rate? or does he have to?
  • Eskendereya - two monster performances make him the favorite going in, but do wins against a handful of also rans make him vulenerable?
  • Luckin at Lucky - has found lots of traffic in his three-year-old races, but has push-button excelerration...a must for any Derby winner.
  • Endorsement - sure he beat a probable miler in Conveyance in Sunland Derby, but he posted one of the few triple-digit Beyers in a Derby prep which means either another monster performance awaits or a bounce to last...I'm willing to take a shot with him.
In Part Two I will attempt to sort out exacta, trifecta and superfecta plays while sitting in the Lotus position....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Derby Must

For any interested handicapper or just Derby fan, The Daily Racing Form's clocker reports by Mike Welsch are a must - brief, informative and always telling us something.

Last year Welsch pegged Rachel Alexandra as the best worker of the week (of course for the Oaks and not Derby). He added that Rachel Alexandra would have been his Derby bet had she gone in the race. Click on Derby Workout Reports under Other Views to check it out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tale of Two Lexingtons

I think we all can agree that today's Lexington Stakes, run thousands of miles and hundreds years apart from the historical battle that set the course for The United States of America, holds little significance for the current state of three-year-old Thoroughbreds gunning for the Kentucky Derby.

In fact, the one horse that can guarantee himself a place in the Derby starting gate with a win - Connemara - is a synthetic surface specialist whose trainer, Todd Pletcher, has yet to venture off the fake stuff with this son of Giant's Causeway and already has, I don't know, 12 Derby starters. Connemara, a tepid 5-1 co-second choice, is more likely to miss the board than hit it today.

This ragtag group of three-year-olds may remind one of the disheveled, disorganized and dangerous bunch of farmers-turned-patriots who marched towards Lexington properly pissed-off at their pompous, parliamentary adversaries in the year 1775. Of course the stakes and circumstances were just a little different that day 235 years ago, yet both had represented a stop on the march towards something more.

In two days, the people of Lexington and Concord will replay the events of that fateful day - tying up traffic and confusing lost tourists along the way. At about the same time all of the Lexington Stakes crew will be eating hay or oats preparing for something quite different from the greatest day in racing.

If I do play the Lexington Stakes in a multi-race exotic, it will go something like this in Pick Three: a single, two deep and then the all button in the Lexington Stakes. Maybe the impression of Stately Victor has me spooked, but just as I can draw a line through all the Lexington runners, I can also make a case for just about every horse winning. And why not try to be alive with all at the tail end of Pick Three? Let's see if I can get there...

Race 7 - OC 80k/N3W, 1 1/6 miles - This looks to be a chalky affair to won between Deal Breaker, Forest Attack and Canyon Drive.
  • As a six-time winner Forest Attack must be taken seriously winning and placing in minor stakes at Turfway Park and just missing at Keenland last year going six furlongs. Canyon Drive is stepping up in class, but may just get loose on the lead here, if Final Count isn't ready or willing to go with him coming off a six month layoff. My hope lands with Deal Breaker having just a bit more class than his rivals, saving ground patiently at the rail and making a bold run turning for home to take this event as 2-1 favorite. I'm guessing his trainer Mike Mitchell has brought this five-year-old from California for more than just a run around the track.
Race 8 - Giant's Causeway, 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf - In which we hope for a bomb, but take safety with co-favorite.
  • Canadian Ballet is fast period. She is the fastest mare in here and will get a clear look at her competition coming from the far post. Her trainer, Linda Rice, excels in these turf events and if one of the three speed horses in this field are likely to hold on, it's Canadian Ballet. If I get through the first leg single, the real hope here is that Valentine Fever stoutly closes on three fading speed horses and picks up the pieces at 10-1 or greater. She's the only dead-closer in the field and if they go out under 22 seconds for the first quarter, she'll have a real chance. West Ocean presents the biggest danger, but I'm looking for her to bounce coming off a course-record performance off the funky Fair Grounds turf.
Race 9 - Lexington, 1 1/16 miles - The gates open and everyone has a chance...
  • As stated earlier, I will hit the all button here in a 12-horse field. But if you're interested in who I like the best it would come down to these three: Krypton for winning going away at Keenland in his last; Distorted Dave because everything John Sadler sends out lately should be bet; and Kettle River who might bounce back to his impressive win two back after disappointing in the Sham.
I'll give you two Pick Threes because after writing all that, I am suddenly on the fence on what I'll do.

Scenario one: 1/2-8/All for $24
Scenario two: 1-2-4/2-7-8/1-3-11 for $27

Good luck with your wagers!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Early Derby Line

Here's The Bada Bing Earliest of Derby Lines:

Horse Bada Bing Line
Eskendereya 2-1
Lookin at Lucky 4-1
Sidney's Candy 6-1
Super Saver 8-1
American Lion 8-1
Endorsement 10-1
Ice Box 10-1
Mission Impazible 12-1
Noble's Promise 12-1
Interactif 15-1
Stately Victor 15-1
Dublin 18-1
Conveyance 18-1
Line of David 20-1
Drosselmeyer 20-1
Rule 25-1
Discreetly Mine 25-1
Dean's Kitten 30-1
Awesome Act 35-1
Paddy O'Prado 40-1
Homeboykris 50-1
Uh Oh Bango 50-1

Horses in italics may either pass or get into the Derby gate late. A possible defection of Noble's Promise would open the door for Uh Oh Bango and Drosslemeyer would find himself in the Derby gate with a win in the Lexington, knocking Uh Oh Bango back out. In a few weeks we'll see how close I've come to the real deal...

Really no surprises here and much will be made of the works before May 1, which I really don't use in my handicapping. Last year, I factored in Friesan Fire's quick work, making him my Derby favorite. The really quick three furlong work reminded me of Hard Spun's pre-Derby work a few years ago, and I thought if it worked for one Larry Jones-trainee it would work for another. Man, I was wrong. One thing to consider when factoring in workouts, either slow or fast, is trainer Jack Van Berg's words following Alysheba's slow works, "Time only matters when you're serving it."

On the other hand, I would factor in the works report on

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Derby Prep Upsets Mean What?

So the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes upset your Derby Dreams apple cart with $82 and $36 plus winners?

My answers are well, yes and's why:

Dublin and Super Saver both ran OK. In his second start of the year and reunited with regular rider, Cavil Borel, Super Saver stalked well for the first time in his career. He came to, but could not get by eventually winner, Line of David. It was an improvement off a now, sour-looking Tampa Derby with Super Saver the only horse in the top four to move forward off that race.

Dublin was looking like his was going by the top two with his regular rider, Terry Thompson, in the saddle. He really had no excuse this time. Like Super Saver he might have distance limitations. At this point, without benefit of post draws and weather conditions, I'm likely to use both underneath in Derby bets.

The Blue Grass was a debacle with one-time winner, Stately Victor, coming through at long odds - the longest in Blue Grass history. Stately Victor will likely get the same hot pace to follow at Churchill that he got today, but can he maintain his form on dirt? He is by champion Ghostzapper.

Odysseus, Make Music for Me, Pleasant Prince, Akenite and Interactif all disappointed mightily. Of these five, I was looking for strong runs from Make Music for Me and Interactif with hopes of putting them into Derby wagers. On the flip side, the word was out on Paddy O'Prado who was bet down for morning line, 12-1 to about 5-1. Desormeaux had the race stolen aboard the turf specialist with a 1/16 of a mile to go before Stately Victor marched on by. I kind of like Paddy O'Prado to fill out trifecta and superfecta tickets, if he gets in.

Today's preps did nothing to dent my, and probably everyone else's, top three: Lookin at Lucky, Eskendereya and Sidney's Candy. The next three weeks will consist of what I like to call, Channeling the Derby. More on that later...

For the record, my future bets are win wagers on Sidney's Candy at 33-1 and Rule at 20-1 and an exacta box of Lookin at Lucky/Interactif/Super Saver paying out between about $300- $1,000 for a $1 bet.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


To quickly sum up this weekend's preps we saw a monster unleashed, another stopped in his tracks and finally, a roar of redemption.

The monster is of course, Eskendereya who won the Wood Memorial in what looked like a public workout. Yes, it was visually impressive (the new race day buzz word of 2010) and under nothing more than a statuesque hand ride by Johnny V. But before we annotate him the next Triple Crown champ let's remember he's beat a horse with distance limitations and questionable breeding in Jackson Bend twice and two pretty weak fields back-to-back. I'm not completely sold on his eventual favoritism.

Can't a guy catch a break? In his last three races Lookin at Lucky has been parked in the grandstands (Breeders Cup Juvenile), was forced into traffic and clipped heals (Rebel) and yesterday forced into the rail by a jock going nowhere on a 50-1 looking for vengeance (Santa Anita Derby). Despite it all, he has been nipped by a nose, then nipped back by the same nose before finishing an honorable third yesterday. He exudes class and has been battle-tested - a must for any Derby contender and likely co-favorite. For me, Lookin at Lucky gets better grades than Eskendereya from yesterday and will likely be my key horse in all Derby wagers. You should also realize trainer Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby after Santa Anita loses - twice.

And yes, American Lion came back to his earlier form and came home a winner in the Illinois Derby. What this means, I'm not sure, but he probably will add to a much anticipated and most likely contested pace in this year's Derby.