Thursday, April 28, 2011

Channeling The Derby Part I - The Tosses

  • Channeling - to direct toward or into some particular this case the winner of the Kentucky Derby. 

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.

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.

In the first step toward picking a winner and winning combinations (I did have the Derby winner and exacta last year), I have to toss horses that I feel have no chance of hitting the board regardless of where they stand in the gate or whatever their odds may be. I'm feeling pretty confident in at least eight horses that won't break up my Derby tickets and am on the fence for a few more. Without further ado and in no particular order:
  • Comma to the Top - like his grit and guile, not so much his sprint pedigree on top and bottom; connections were right to question Derby distance
  • Watch Me Go - the company he's kept resembles those awaiting last call on a week night; Brethren has proven to be less than expected and the Illinois Derby field he lost to was very weak
  • Master of Hounds - comes half away across the world off one Derby prep loss; anything less than 50-1 is an overlay
  • Decisive Moment - no wins this year; the only reason he's the mix is a second-place finish in the $1 million Delta Jackpot in December
  • Twinspired - nosed out of victory in one of weakest Blue Grass Stakes in recent memory; one poor dirt race on tab
  • Brilliant Speed - see Twinspired
  • Pants of Fire - there are just too many horses wanting the lead in the Derby and of all them, I like this one the least
  • Uncle Mo - GI infection aside just don't feel he's the same horse he was a two; yet to fire a higher Beyer speed figure at three than he did at two; risky wager
On the fence, awaiting works, equipment changes and post position draw:
  •  Animal Kingdom - impressive winner of weak Spiral Stakes, but not really sure he'll relish Churchill dirt
  • Stay Thirsty - the blinkers on experiment went awry in Florida Derby and not sure taking the shades off improves matters
  • Santiva - the only reason he may get onto tickets underneath is his early Churchill success
  • Twice the Appeal - like most of American I will probably use this horse in some wagers since Borel picked up the mount
With less horses to consider, I'll set my sights on nine to eleven for various wagers.

Next blog - Channeling the Derby Part II - The Contenders

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kentucky Derby Field 137 - Just About Set

A week and half away and here is the likely field for Kentucky Derby 137 in order ranked by earnings:

1. Uncle Mo - on the workout comeback trail - sort of like Muhammad Ali calling a sparring match a comeback
2. Dialed In - more secluded than the Royal Family
3. Archarcharch - we are family - father-in-law/son-in-law trainer/jockey team, nice story=lower than necessary odds
4. Comma to the Top - you'll likely shout in exclamation at the top of the stretch, if you bet him
5. Toby's Corner - Wood winner will hopefully avoid dreaded "wise guy" tag
6. Pants on Fire - can't decide if he's pretender or contender
7. Midnight Interlude - not being able to pass stablemate in Churchill workout doesn't bode well
8. Soldat - connections practicing rain dance
9. Brilliant Speed - no synthetic to real dirt Derby winner yet
10. Master of Hounds - gets the centerpiece for having traveled the longest distance
11. Twice Appeal - I watched Mine That Bird, have the feeling he's no Mine That Bird
12. Nehro - possible chalk, really, I'm not kidding
13. Mucho Macho Man - two, old school seven furlong workouts back-to-back - I like it!
14. Decisive Moment - I'm begging you to leave him off your ticket
15. Animal Kingdom - may be final defection and/or turf monster in waiting
16. Stay Thirsty - gets Dominguez to ride...yawn...
17. Santiva - traffic troubles in field of 12, add eight more to the mix and he'll be in the breakdown lane
18. Watch Me Go - remember he beat a former $16K claimer in Tampa Bay Derby and not by much
19. Shackelford- tough as nails in Florida Derby defeat, does he have another furlong in him?
20. Twinspired - last horse in just adds to intrigue or one to cross off your the list

Next blog will be Channeling the Derby Part I - Horses You Should Toss

Sunday, April 24, 2011

13 Ways to Blow Your Kentucky Derby Bet

With just 13 days until the Kentucky Derby and in the spirit of American poet, Wallace Stevens, allow me to expound on the 13 ways that you can and most likely will ruin your Kentucky Derby bet(s):

  1. Too many experts listened a couple, toss the rest. Most of the frenzy in the days leading up to the Derby is just white noise. Take my man, The Turk's advice and create your own odds and top choices sans The Daily Racing Form and morning line.
  2. Keep morning works in other words listen to Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch with his daily reports. The man is spot on and is one of the two that informs my Derby bet.
  3. Betting too much...sure adding one more horse to your superfectat key (1x5x6x10), may increase your odds of hitting incrementally, but it's going to end up costing a pretty penny and with this field the return on your investment is unlikely.
  4. Betting too little...sure it condradicts number 3, but you should pick a dollar amount you're comfortable betting (losing) and then just going with it. Whether that is $50 or $500, choose the amount and try not to deveate.
  5. Complicating your bets with too many combinations and betting against yourself...if you're wheeling Dialed In on top for a trifecta, don't take your gambling money and bet against Dialed In for "saver" bets in case he doesn't win. Go with your gut and cross your fingers for a safe and clear Derby trip.
  6. Following a screening process to arrive at a winner...many "experts" have come up with criteria for thier Derby choices, which usually includes 10 to 20 factors to be checked off. The horses with the most or least checks (depending on the system) gets the nod for their wagers. Too much has already occured with this cohort of horses to follow any such rules. Pick your winner based on past performances, human connections, breeding, whatever you decide, but please put the screening on the shelf for Derby 137.
  7. Wait until the last minute to make your wagers...procrasination in betting almost always causes harm - suddenly you end up tossing in a few more numbers as you wait in the betting window line or as you tap away at your computer. Come up with some bets the night before and make a few necessary adjustments in the hours leading up to the Derby. I suggest you make all wagers after the post parade, if you feel obligated to wait.
  8. Not tossing horses a few days before the Derby...look, just as there will be a few horses you really like, there's got to be a few you dislike enough to remove from consideration. Do yourself the favor and cross these horses off your list of bets and don't look back.
  9. Including "wiseguy" horses in your bets...the second you hear anyone mention a horse as a "wiseguy" horse make it one of your tosses. Please, I'm begging you.
  10. Attend the Derby or a Derby party...listen being at Churchill is great for the few that go every year and attending a party with friends may be fun, but both will mess with your bets. If you're doing either make your bets early, like at noon, and then sit back and enjoy.
  11. Drinking while wagering...listen maybe "a" beer helps clarify your thinking, but any more than 2 will add to your confusion. 
  12. Go against a hunch...especially this year and with this field. Play the birthdays, numbers from dreams (I just had one recently), a horse that has the same name as your dog or favorite poem, anything, I say go with it!
  13. Don't bet...obvious I know, but the year Street Sense won, I came up with an inexpensive $24 Pick 4 ending with Street Sense as the single. It was a 2x3x4x1 play and thought it unlikely to hit, so I sat on it. That little wager would have returned more than $2,000 if my memory serves me well.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kentucky Derby 137 - The Perfect Storm

On the eve of Halloween 1991, the New England coast was hit with a confluence of several different weather conditions that combined for what was later termed, "A Perfect Storm." For those of us here in New England, experiencing it at the time, it was the, "No Name Storm" that presented hurricane-like tides, waves and winds that were responsible for taking the lives of six fisherman out of Gloucester. The tragic tale spurned a book and then a movie.

While the Kentucky Derby will not carry the same dire ramifications as that 20-year-old storm, it certainly appears that a series of events have been put in motion for a similar unexpected result. Might this be the year a 100-1 shot takes the Run for the Roses? Why the heck not.

So far we have encounted the routine injuries and decfections with still more to come. But additionally there have been:

  • five straight Derby prep races taken by double-digit longshots 
  • a hugely disappointing loss by the overwhelming pre-Derby favorite, Uncle Mo
  • a recent maiden-winner, Midnight Interlude, taking the Santa Anita Derby
  • a lack of speed throughout this Derby crop producing just one, 100+ Beyer routing (by The Factor who may not even make the Derby gate)
  • a season of unsuccessful two-Derby preps
  • equipment changes galore and some expected rider changes upcoming (Calvin Borel is not going into the Derby without a mount)
  • a couple of Derby entrants bred for turf that are capable of 10 furlongs and a slew of dirt horses with breeding suggesting 8 furlongs would be a max
It wouldn't surpise me if the Derby Trial run the week before the Derby produces a last minute entrant. So how do you pick a winner with all these variables in play? First, any screening rule you've followed in the past needs to go out the window. This prospective field is filled with rule-breakers, so why bother with such nonsense. Second, keep it simple - bet an exacta of All over Dialed In or the other way around, if it rains take Soldat to wire the field or just bet whoever Calvin Borel ends up on. More difficult than predicting the weather, the lead up to Kentucky Derby 137 promises many shifting winds, and I'm not sure if keeping up with each new development will help or hurt with your forecast...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kentucky Derby Field 137

Before injuries, defections and cooler heads, Kentucky Derby 137 field based on the top 20 graded stakes earners is something like this:

1. Uncle Mo (2 year-old champ, Wood flop)
2. Dialed In (two-time stakes winner at Gulfstream)
3. Archarcharch (upset Arkansas Derby winner with Arkansas connections)
4. Comma to the Top (connections mulling Derby start after runner up SA Derby finish)
5. Toby's Corner (giant killer and Wood winner)
6. Pants on Fire (coast-to-coast Louisiana Derby winner, brings female jock along for the ride)
7. Midnight Interlude (from maiden to Santa Anita Derby!)
8. J P's Gusto (yet to return to two-year-old form)
9. Soldat (FL Derby ugly, but Fountain of Youth winner's stock may rise after The Factor's slide)
10. Brilliant Speed (Blue Grass Stakes annual double-digit bomb)
11. Master of Hounds (Dubai to Derby Trail littered with talented, but tired entrants)
12. Twice Appeal (Sunland Derby winner beat Astrology, so what?)
13. Nehro (fast maturing and fast closing colt that looks like he'll want more distance...maybe)
14. Mucho Macho Man (steady and this year that counts for a lot)
15. Decisive Moment (Delta Jackpot continues to pay four months later for this runner up)
16. Animal Kingdom (fake stuff, turf or all natural dirt, not sure what he prefers, but 10 furlongs OK)
17. Astrology (two-year-old form, now a year-old)
18. The Factor (injury or excuse for latest Derby Trail favorite to fall)
19. Stay Thirsty (blinkers on, blinkers off, blinkers on, blinkers off.....)
20. Jaycito (Lexington won't matter if he wins it and probably won't even if he doesn't)

Just waiting for a change of heart...

21. Santiva (didn't like traffic and rail in Blue Grass)
22. Watch Me Go (this year's Mine That Bird???)
23. Shackelford (front runner that held well for FL Derby runner up finish)
24. Twinspired (at least he's got the right name, just a nose better he's trading places with Brilliant Speed)
25. Silver Medallion (won months ago and trained up to distant SA Derby finish)

One Factor to Fear in Arkansas Derby

Sure, The Factor is a solid 7-5 favorite in today's crowded Arkansas Derby field. The number one question you should consider before wagering on the centerpiece of the Oaklawn Park meet, can anyone go with The Factor on the front end? At least long enough and fast enough to soften Bob Baffert's speedy colt and set the table for an upset? My answer is a resounding, "Yes."

While there are a few likely to go with The Factor there is probably just one horse with the potential to hang with favorite at least through the three-quarter mile mark - Brethren. I don't think this Todd Pletcher trainee will win today's feature, just apply enough pressure for someone else to rise up and take over midway through the stretch.

Here are the factors in Brethren's favor:

  • Akin to last year's Kentucky Derby winner and Arkansas Derby runner-up, Super Saver
  • Blinkers on with two fast works on his tab - there is little doubt of Pletcher's intentions of at least attempting go on with The Factor
  • Pletcher possibly testing the waters to see if Brethren may be able to take down The Factor come May 7, so his main threat, Uncle Mo may get help in tracking down the likely Churchill pacesetter (Could Stay Thirsty's blinker experiment gone bad, been the first attempt?)
  • Brethren has the advantage of breaking just outside The Factor and his jockey Ramon Dominguez will have the option of attacking from the bell or tracking just off The Factor's flank
I believe Brethren's pressure will set up one of the many closers/blinkers on crowd for the win. In this Derby Trail of Doubt, why not take the long shot J W Blue

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Penultimate Derby Dozen

Just a fancy way of saying the "Next to Last" Derby Dozen is upon us. And just like in the movie Major League, featuring catcher turned commenter Bob Uekcer calling a pitch "just a bit outside" as it sails six feet out of the strike zone, the Road to the Kentucky Derby has become just a little wild and wooly. Who's the top choice, after Uncle Mo disappointed at 1-9, you ask? Depends on who's giving the answer. For those of us compiling the Derby Dozen every three weeks, you'll see seven different horses receiving first place votes!

What I don't understand are those still believing in Uncle Mo. Listen no offense, but the horse wanted nothing to do with the final furlong and was overtaken by two far less accomplished colts. There is no question the son of Indian Charlie is too light on training and Todd Pletcher simply doesn't have enough to time to change the plan to get the horse "race ready" for the Derby. The whole two-prep plan is totally overrated and leaves absolutely no room for error. Carl Nafzger, a class act and trainer, created a plan that paved the way for the first and only, Breeder's Cup Juvenile/Kentucky Derby winner in Street Sense. But that plan was for one horse, not a roadmap for all to follow.

The Factor has raced five times since December, which equals Uncle Mo's lifetime starts over his nine-month career. Unlike Pletcher, Bob Baffert has worked The Factor hard and will have sent him to and from Arkansas twice before the Derby. Even without a win in Arkansas, I feel he is far more accomplished than his East Coast counterpart - road tested, brought along through actually running a string of races grouped together and showing the talent and heart of a champion. If you're not questioning Uncle Mo's heart and fitness right now, your either blind or far too naive.

As far as any dark horses at this point - just about any two out of 25 horses running in the Arkansas Derby and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes - pick one, any one. For me, I like Caleb's Posse to give a good showing in the Arkansas Derby. He was the only horse running at The Factor in the Rebel and the stretch out in distance plus the potential for some pace pressure for The Factor give's this son of Posse a strong chance despite possible distance limitations. Heck, he'll be making his 10th start to boot!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Likely Derby Field - Four Weeks Out

Yesterday's final furlongs of the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby certainly muddled the Kentucky Derby picture while befuddling fans and gamblers in equal measure.

Uncle Mo did what many, seasoned Thoroughbred followers thought he just might do - quit in the final eighth of mile on his way to a humbling defeat in his final Kentucky Derby prep.  Sired by the fast developing, yet classically distance-challenged Indian Charlie, Uncle Mo likely showed distance limitations through his much-ballyhooed, weak two-Derby prep schedule. Which leaves a clamouring public praying for a Triple Crown champ, wondering just who turn to their lonely eyes to.

Midnight Interlude simply continued the winning ways of Bob Baffert, giving him another Derby hopeful. Did I mention Midnight Interlude's SA Derby prep was a maiden victory! C'mon Man! 

Where this leaves us less than four weeks until the Run for the Roses is a likely field of 20 with really no stand-out in the crowd. Unless The Factor dominates the Arkansas Derby, there will be mass confusion among bettors come Derby Day. With anything less than a daylight win next week by The Factor, you're looking at lots of value in the full field - a couple favorites hovering around 5-1. How about a quick look at the probable Derby starters as they stand today? (These are the leading stakes earners to date with a few projections based on remaining stake earnings out there. For kicks and giggles I tossed in some projected morning line odds.)

  • Uncle Mo - leading money winner surrounded by clouds of doubt; not sure workouts will tell us anything, we don't already know - projected morning line: 9-2
  • Dialed In - to date only two-stake winner in his three-year-old season; light on seasoning and slow closing Florida Derby gives pause - projected morning line: 4-1
  • Pants on Fire - late arrival via Louisiana Derby, not a winning trail of late - projected morning line: 12-1
  • Midnight Interlude - surprise Santa Anita Derby winner has more than one hundred years of history to overcome with no wins as a two-year-old - projected morning line: 20-1
  • Toby's Corner - giant killer or just inherited Wood Memorial in shambles turning for home; at least he came home faster than Dialed In - projected morning line: 5-1
  • J P's Gusto - has failed to live up to expectations, but has enough graded stakes for a Derby start, so you'll likely see him in the gate - projected morning line: 20-1
  • Soldat - strong Fountain of Youth followed by weak Florida Derby; will have to go back to pace setting - projected morning line: 15-1
  • Twice Appeal - unlikely Derby winner, so why not toss two bucks on his nose - projected morning line: 40-1
  • Mucho Macho Man - his stock continues to rise in my view; if he keeps his shoes on he makes some noise on Derby Day - projected morning line: 10-1
  • Decisive Moment - it would take a perfect storm of events for him to hit the board on May 7 - projected morning line: 50-1
  • Animal Kingdom - certainly looked good beating much less, but did it in style after being shuffled back early in Spiral Stakes - projected morning line: 10-1
  • Astrology - chief qualifier is stake's money earned as a two-year-old, but hasn't lived up to potential this year; overrated - projected morning line: 20-1
  • The Factor - fast early and late during paceless Rebel Stakes; if he wins the Arkansas Derby, he's the chalk - projected morning line: 3-1
  • Stay Thirsty - another Todd Pletcher trainee - blinkers on and now off for Derby, but it won't make a difference - projected morning line: 30-1
  • Jaycito - if he makes it, not likely to factor as much as other Bob Baffert trainees - projected morning line: 20-1
  • Santiva - likely gets into Derby gate with decent Blue Grass Stakes; not sure what to make of him - projected morning line: 12-1
  • Watch Me Go - failed to follow Tampa success in Second-City - projected morning line: 50-1
  • Shackleford - playing the waiting game; not likely to get in Derby gate
  • Nehro - another light on seasoning, but gets one more chance following solid second in LA Derby to make the gate - projected morning line: 30-1
  • Caleb's Posse - only horse to make up ground on The Factor and extra 1/16 miles may give him opportunity to get by Arkansas chalk - projected morning line: 30-1
  • Elite Alex and Sway Away - both need either a first or second place finish in next start to Run for the Roses - projected morning line: 40-1
Just one man's humble opinion. Of course, much can and probably will change in the next 26 days. 

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Kentucky Derby Preps Provide Coast to Coast Confusion

    So you watched, wagered and likely lost bets on the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial Stakes. Now what? Before I try to make sense of what's left of the likely field for Kentucky Derby 137, allow me to briefly recap the two big surprises today.

    Uncle Mo's Wood loss was a head scratcher - taking the lead under a hold through moderate fractions only to spit the bit and give it up in the stretch. It was as ugly a 1-9 performance as you'll ever see. According to trainer Todd Pletcher, his main Derby threat stepped on himself leaving the gate, but did not offer the minor mishap as an excuse for the loss. Distance concerns and questions will hound Uncle Mo's connections over the next four weeks. Good luck with that.

    On the Left Coast, Bob Baffert continued his magical ride through the Santa Anita meet with a maiden, yes a maiden under his care, Midnight Interlude, winning this year's Santa Anita Derby. Imagine losing the post time favorite just the day before with the scratch of Jaycito and then coming back with Midnight Interlude, just a few weeks away from his first win, taking it all by just a nose. Despite such a steep leap in competition Baffert's charge was well below his morning line of 25-1, a sign that the betting public was either unsure of the rest of the field or was happy to find the meet's leading trainer with a horse to saddle up and bet on. (I had $10 on his nose because I couldn't find another horse to back.)

    I can't help feeling Baffert's map to Churchill is watermarked with the word Destiny. He's going with at least two, maybe three, colts and it says here that somehow, someway he wins a fourth Derby trophy. 

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Five Reasons Uncle Mo Wins the Kentucky Derby

    In true contrarian style allow me to argue against my blog from two weeks ago and provide five reasons Uncle Mo is a lock to win the Kentucky Derby:
    • From the Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery Department -  only one horse has turned the Breeder's Cup/Kentucky Derby double. Street Sense won the the Juvenile in smashing fashion at Churchill Downs and followed it up with a two-race prep on his way to earning a blanket of roses. Uncle Mo's trainer, Todd Pletcher, has seen the plan and is following it to a T.
    • While Todd Pletcher doesn't win every Grade I east of the Mississippi anymore (outside Breeder's Cup Days), he did win the Derby last year. Success tends to bred success - just ask Bob Baffert and Wayne Lucas.
    • Uncle Mo still hasn't reached his ceiling as a three-year-old. As a two-year-old he was untouchable, and he has yet to be tested this year. His competition - if that's what we want to call it - in the Wood Memorial are all running for the second place share of $200,000, and a chance to make the Derby gate. 
    • With his ability to rate and tactical speed, even the inner or outer most posts shouldn't be a problem on Kentucky Derby Day. Jockey Johnny V. should be able to use Uncle Mo's push button speed to stay out of trouble early and have plenty left over for the stretch drive late.
    • His sire, Indian Charlie, fell as the Derby favorite 13 years ago, but his dam's sire, Arch, won the Super Derby when it was run at 10 furlongs in that same year. And in case you didn't know, Arch sired this year's Breeder's Cup Classic winner Blame. So the classic 1 1/4 miles distance is in the genes. 
    I didn't even mention the weakening competition either falling off or failing to finish lately. Sure The Factor may start with the lead on the First Saturday in May, but he is unlikely to finish with it. The other leading contender, Dialed In was all out to beat a tiring pacesetter, Shackleford, that wouldn't be confused with the finest colts of this quickly diminishing class. So obviously, Uncle Mo should be everyone's Derby horse. That doesn't mean I'll be betting him...

      Sunday, April 3, 2011

      Florida Derby - That's Why They Call It Horse Racing

      In today's Florida Derby only two horses ran to their strengths and styles. Not surprisingly Shackleford (pace setter) and Dialed In (flying from the back of the pack) finished one, two. The rest of the field were relegated to roles that were either unfamiliar, uncomfortable or both.

      Starting from the last to third place...

      • Bowman's Causeway was simply overmatched. If he can get his head back maybe he'll make some noise at Monmouth or Saratoga this summer.
      • Stay Thirsty was given blinkers off a win and finished miles behind due to the equipment change and tougher competition. Derby dreams dashed???
      • Arch Traveler was never close enough to contend traveling further back they usual.
      • Soldat was given the task from running off the pace and with enough graded earnings to make the Derby gate his human connections were given such a luxury.
      • Flashpoint either purposely screwed everything up (asked to take back by his trainer) or his right hand veer when the starting gate opened was too much to overcome. Either way he never ran to his pace-setting or pressing style. 
      • To Honor and Serve was reserved by Garret Gomez and basically quit because he wasn't allowed to go after Shackleford earlier. 
      Will lessons be learned and Derby plans altered due to the less than desirable outcomes from the six mentioned above? Most likely. I hope that Shackleford makes the Kentucky Derby gate because following the winner, he's the only horse to have earned anything today. Unfortunately he'll need either defections, injuries or cooler heads from those horses in front of him on the Derby earnings' list.

      Saturday, April 2, 2011

      Florida Derby - To Duel is to Die

      In the Florida Derby all the human connections know that a prolonged, speed duel among two or more horses will mean something less than a victory for those running fastest first on the front-end. Yet, this is the widespread predictition of the racing community - those watching, wagering or trying to win $1 million race.

      So if you, me and the lamppost all know that if the first three, quarter-mile fractional times look like :23, :47, 1:10 it will likely doom two or more horses vying for the lead, why would any jockey or trainer prescribe to such a suicide mission?

      The first and foremost answers is: You can't change the stripes on a tiger or a horse that is fast and likes the front is very likely to quit on his jockey if he is restrained from running out of his horseshoes. So horses like The Factor and Flashpoint do what comes natural - run fast and either run their competition into quitting or have the ability to re-brake during a tiring stretch run to hold on.

      While it appears Flashpoint will be let loose from the time the gates open and Soldat has trained to rate behind Flashpoint, sometimes horses have other ideas on where they'd like to run. As you may remember Flashpoint didn't take to the front last time out in winning the Hutchenson Stakes and Soldat has won from just off the pace running on the turf, so who knows, maybe Flashpoint rates off Soldat.

      As I wrote in my Thorofan Handicapping Corner analysis on the Florida Derby, Stay Thirsty is the horse most likely to determine the outcome. Not to overstate, but Flashpoint is likely to be done after seven furlongs and Soldat may or may not rate as trained. Stay Thirsty is coming into the Florida Derby off an usual training move, adding blinkers after a win. (So unusual that his Trainer Todd Pletcher had to get permission from Gulfstream officials to add them.) Blinkers are added, in most instances, to keep a horse focused or to get him "into the race" earlier, following a loss. If Stay Thirsty does contest the early pace with his new shades, then a speed duel is likely and Dialed In may be picking up the pieces late.

      For some reason, I doubt a duel and feel either two-time stakes winner, To Honor and Serve or Soldat benefit the most from a slower than expected pace and/or a pacesetter that is likely to quit in Flashpoint. I'm betting with this in mind and will either cash in or be wrong...and that is the beauty of horse racing - laying your opinions down. In this case, for whoever wants to read them.