Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Different Kind of "Riding Double"

Robbie Alberado rode Wilcox Inn to victory on the turf in yesterday’s Arlington Classic. In doing so, he used young Michael Baze’s girths as part of his tack. Baze broke Wilcox Inn’s maiden last year (beating Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom). One would guess Michael Baze was riding, with Robbie, from the heavens.

 Another great jockey from the Baze family, Michael was found dead in his car on May 10, at Churchill Downs. Just 24 years old, he had already won over 900 races and had his whole riding career ahead of him.

 It was like “riding double.” Not that Robbie needed any help, but maybe there’s some good karma there, and maybe he’s finding some of that silver lining that he’s been searching for.

 An Exciting Photo Finish

The best finish yesterday was without a doubt the Louisville Handicap. It was a three way photo between three very game horses. Keertana, running against the boys, got the bob over the fast closing Bearpath and the ultra game, Guy’s Reward. That makes 11 wins from 26 starts for the mare that refuses to lose, and loves Churchill Downs. Guy’s Reward ran the race of his life and Bearpath took advantage of the pace. This was as exciting a race as you will see going a mile and a half.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Time For Some Turf

There's lots of good turf racing around the country this weekend.

Here are a few of the races I will be looking at.

The Arlington Classic is for straight 3 year olds, going 1 & 1/8 on the turf. Wilcox Inn looks like he has found the right spot. He is the class of the field, but it won’t be easy. He is back on his preferred surface, and will be adding blinkers. Don’t forget, he beat the Derby winner when breaking his maiden. Is it my imagination, or is Harlan’s Holiday quickly becoming a “turf sire?” Two more just won this afternoon, one at Woodbine and one at Belmont.

Anyway, Proctor’s horse, Extensive has never been off the board on turf. Suntracer has had 3 wins on turf, but has never won at the distance. And Sandy’s Diamond has a little longshot look to me as he has improved with blinkers. He has had some good efforts on the grass.

At Churchill, I will take a look at the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap. I’m going to give Guy’s Reward a chance in here. He has never been this far, but he closes in all his races. He may be a cut below these, but maybe, just maybe, the added distance could be the answer for him. It is curious to me that Kertana is in here. She is a lovely mare and could beat the boys, but why not keep her against her own kind, for a grade 2 with more money? Her trainer says she likes the 3 turns and he would prefer not to ship.

 Belmont’s Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay would have been a walk in the park for Kertana. Could Belle Watling take them all the way? She is not facing Havre de Grace or Kertana in here, and she is returning to turf.  I am not a fan and rarely back her connections, but she could be lone speed in here. She is a winner of 13 races and she is getting some much needed class relief. Cheetah looks good in here as well. She beat the boys at Kempton, and even though Kempton is not Ascot, it’s still not an easy thing to do.

In Woodbine‘s 9th, an allowance for “other than” or never won two, I will give Purple Trillium another chance. The 5 year old mare just started her campaign last month as a FIVE YEAR OLD. (Why, I don’t know) but her maiden score was visually impressive. She bobbled a bit, at the start of her second race, and then perhaps bounced a little. She is a daughter of Seeking the Gold out of the great mare Perfect Sting, and she could have some good races in her this year.

In the Lamplighter at Monmouth, Beachcombing is the horse. He is returning to turf, and may have a tactical advantage over the Team Valor horse. He could sit right behind the speed and  get the jump on the favorite.

A happy and safe holiday weekend to all and enjoy the good racing ‘round the country.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ready to Run

Being around horses all my life, I have seen most everything. And I try to use horse sense all the time when visually analyzing a horse and their body language in the few pre race minutes either in the paddock or the post parade. Most of the time I am at the mercy of the video on my computer screen or TV, and the person who is behind the camera.

But there is a handicapping rule I live by. Are you listening? When a horse is full of himself in the paddock, I don’t mean over- the- top-unwound-lost- it, but throwing a good buck here and there, that’s when I RUN to the windows.

This all started when I was lucky enough to be in the Preakness infield saddling area for the brilliant Alysheba. Having placed all my bets on the son of Alydar, we were all ushered over the track surface to the area where the horses would be saddled. Anyone who remembers how he touted himself that day knows what I am talking about. How I so wanted to head back to the windows and bet everything I had in my pockets, but you were not allowed to walk back until the race was over. His race was spectacular and I was happy to be hob-knobbing with racing royalty, but how I wished I could have gotten back to the windows.

That won’t ever happen again, not with phone accounts!!!

But I have used this “handicapping tool” many times and have been rewarded.

While many experts thought that the big red boy was becoming unwound in yesterday’s Preakness, they missed something very important. After Shackleford threw a few good bucks in the paddock, his handlers immediately positioned him by his trusty pony, where for the next 5-10 minutes he was as calm as a pussycat. He even cocked his back leg, (what a horse does when they are “at rest”). This was a HUGE sign to me that this horse was, 1) Very content, 2) very relaxed and, 3) Thinking” I want to run but I will behave.”

Shackleford wasn’t coming unwound, he was excited to run. He was ready to run a big one and he did. If he came unglued, like everyone thought, I don’t have to tell you how he would have finished.  

So I doubled down.

Thank you Shackleford!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Preakness 136

The weatherman is calling for sun and 84 degrees. The track will be fast, but it may not be “quick”. The turf should be upgraded from the very yielding course it was on Friday. It’s worth noting that there were lot of turf races on Friday and the track was a little cut up. Turf runners will need to find a good lane.

As I have said before, I will be happy if Animal Kingdom wins the Preakness and goes on to be a Triple Crown winner. If the Racing Gods are in the mood, then it could happen. He beat the Derby field convincingly and now he just has to have a good trip and do it all over again.

But, let’s consider a few other options.

I am intrigued by Dance City. He is a big good looking colt, with a speed over stamina pedigree. He looks like he has those Pleasant Colony genes. He is lightly raced and, has already shown gameness in his short career. Who knows just how good he is?

Shackleford ran a very good race in the Derby and now is cutting back. If he can sit and wait, behind what looks to be a race with pace, he could show us another good effort.

Mucho Macho Man may still be improving. I don’t think you can leave him out.

I will use Dialed In as well. He may not have liked the Churchill surface. If he can get a better hold of the track, early on, and not lose contact with the field, he will come flying late.

What to make of Mr. Commons? You know John Sherriffs doesn’t ship for fun. This horse has worked forwardly since the Santa Anita Derby and there will be no question about his fitness and his preparedness. He is a winner on dirt and turf in his short career. Does he belong with these?

The Dixie on turf is the first race of the year for the talented multiple graded stakes winner Paddy O Prado. If he is fit enough to handle the soft and tiring turf course, off a layoff, then he is a cinch in here. The son of El Prado should be bigger and stronger this year and looking down the road to this year’s major races for older horses. The local horse Pocket Patch, posted a huge number on a yielding turf course last year. He will be getting his preferred surface, but is definitely a notch or two below the favorite. Graham Motion’s Slews Answer started his career, this year as a four year old. He is improving and looks to have some talent, but is he ready to face Paddy?

If you are playing the Pick 3 or Pick 4, and you are looking at the Schaefer, don’t forget that Ichabod Crane did very well at Pimlico in the 2008 Preakness when he finished 3rd to Big Brown after a troubled trip. The NY bred has never been off the board at the distance. But it is a contentious field of older runners, with Apart, Colizeo and Pleasant Prince, all looking live in here.  The mile and a sixteenth is a perfect distance for Colizeo and he could take them wire to wire in here.

If you need something other than the favorite in the Gallorette, take a look at Dyna Waltz. She has experience on soft turf, she has won going short and long, will surely be fit enough. Those Dynaformers get better as they get older.

If Shared Account does not enjoy the going, I think Sheppard’s horse has a good chance to take it all.   

Enjoy Preakness Day!

Good luck with all your wagers and a safe trip for all our equine friends.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico

As a prelude to Preakness Day tomorrow, there are some good races today at Pimlico, including the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan. For 3 year old fillies, at a 1 & 1/8, it is named after the state flower of Maryland and the flower that will adorn the Preakness winner’s blanket tomorrow. (Modified  Gloriosa Daisies are actually used for the blanket, because Black Eyed Susans are not in bloom yet.)

The “Susan” is a short field of 6, and most all have a chance. The favorite will be Wyomia, though her trainer says she travels better on synthetics. JLep takes the call on this versatile filly and she is definitely the class of this field. Hot Summer is the other filly who will take lots of action; she has Ramon D. and will be going 2 turns for the first time.

Who will like the stretchout and the added distance is the question in here, as none of these fillies have ever run 1 & 1/8. Maybe you need to look at Royal Delta, who should love the distance, being by Empire Maker, out of an AP Indy mare. You will have to throw out her race at Tampa, when soundly beaten by Wyomia. It was her first race back after a 5 month freshening, and the Tampa surface is a tough surface to win on first time out. Buster’s Ready appears to be rounding to form after unsuccessfully beginning her campaign on turf, and it’s JV and Pletcher, and Edward Evans breeding, which you can never discount

Following the “Susan” is The Very One, a turf sprint for fillies. Rose Catherine is the class of this group, who, before running against colts, reeled off 4 straight wins. She could rebound in here. Seven year old Suzzona is just a win machine, and though she has always run cheaper, 13 wins at the distance on turf, shows her remarkable consistency.  A good trip and some luck could get her there.

But look out for Supreme. A well-bred filly by Empire Maker, her first start on turf at Tampa, was visually impressive for her late turn of foot, despite a troubled trip.

Today will be a good day to watch and wager and a good warm-up for the big day tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where's My Preak?

For some reason, I am having a hard time getting my “preak” on. It’s 3 days before the middle jewel of the Triple Crown and I feel like I should be more excited, and have a clearer picture of the contenders. Don’t get me wrong, if we are looking at a potential TC winner, I’m all for that. But are we?

Animal Kingdom surprised a lot of people. And he ran a great race. Is he THAT good? I guess, in my book, I’m just not sure yet. I feel like I need to see another great race out of him before I’m convinced.

Mucho Macho Man continues to train like a racehorse should. Another very good work this week; you just cannot deny that this horse keeps moving forward.

And will Shackleford move forward off his Derby effort? Cuz if so, what will we see? The pace should be faster, can he sit and wait?

Zito keeps saying Dialed In is the best three year old in the country. Still.

Should we consider Dance City? His win over Cal Nation was as game as they come. And now that the Arkansas Derby has become the most formfull of the preps, you can’t ignore him. He has that speed over stamina pedigree that could prove very tough, the more seasoned he gets.

Mr. Commons is intriguing too - a win on dirt, a win on turf, bullets on synthetic….here we go again…

And will we be handicapping for an “off” track?

Maybe in a day or so, I will find my Preak…

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Not Newsdad?

OK, let’s try this again. Last week I did not use the Derby winner in my wagers because I wasn’t totally convinced that he could handle the dirt. Yes, even with a very good work on it. It is always a judgment call, and again, if I had been at Churchill to witness the work myself, I may have done things differently. But we can’t be everywhere all the time, so it can be a guessing game.

In my attempt to not get beat AGAIN by a turf/synth horse going to the dirt, my pick for the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont is….Newsdad.

Here is a nice colt by Arch who seems to be steadily improving. His last try in the Blue Grass, was a good one. He was down inside for most of the race, behind a slow pace, showing lots of energy, with nowhere to go. When he finally swung out, he was cut off momentarily and then dove inside still searching for some running room, but by then, it was too late. He finished a respectable 4th, a length behind the winner Brilliant Speed.

Newsdad’s only attempt on dirt was his first race where he seemed unprepared for the start and broke very slowly. He had a nice little middle move, and then flattened out. I am going to guess that that dirt try was a learning experience with a bad start and not an indication that he didn’t like the surface.

His dam’s side is the turf influence, but you cannot ignore his daddy Arch, who continues to give us a good many top dirt winners.

He is dropping 7 pounds from the Blue Grass, and is picking up Alan Garcia. The distance will not be a problem for him, as it may be for others in here that have never gone this far. This colt has been closing into some slow pace scenarios, so with more pace in the Peter Pan, the race could set up better for him.

Newsdad and Alternation are the only 2 coming out of Grade 1’s, and though the Arkansas Derby may prove to be more formful than the Blue Grass down the line, Alternation did get beat almost 6 lengths.

Other contenders…It is interesting that Kentucky Derby winning jockey John Velasquez has taken the call on Uncle Brent as he probably could have ridden Joe Vann, if he wanted to. And was the flashy last out Beyer from Adios Charlie because of the sloppy track, or is he the real deal? Is he more than just a mud loving sprinter that carried his speed a little farther because of the wet track? And Prime Cut was originally eyeing the Preakness, but his connections chose this “softer” spot.

Lots of questions here, but I am giving Newsdad a chance to prove he can win a big one on the dirt in the Peter Pan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oaks/Derby Weekend Thoughts and a New Tradition For Me?

Well you have to like BIG Crowds if you want to take part in the Oaks/Derby on- track experience! Just to compare numbers….attendance for Oaks Day was almost three times that of Breeder’s Cup Friday last year, and the Derby attendance was more than double that of Breeder’s Cup Saturday. Getting to the windows could be challenging, but if you made it through the crowds, the betting lines were average for a big race day. Maybe that was because people resorted to their phones. I know I did, more than once. A twenty minute power loss before the 7th race had a few people nervous, but that was quickly resolved.

Blame’s little sister Might, did just what her connections expected, by winning her NW1 by almost 5 lengths.

Diva Ash, another nice Tapit filly, beat a nice group in the Edgewood, on turf.

Blind Luck was GAME in the Grade 2 La Troienne after going to her knees at the start. She looks a little bigger, stronger and more filled out since last year. Could this filly have another huge year ahead?

First Dude has become a man this year. He has grown up and matured. Stalking the pace in the Alysheba, he got up in time, over Regal Ransom.

Congrats to the Oaks winner Plum Pretty. My longshot St John’s River made for an exciting finish. I was disappointed in Joyful Victory, just not her day I guess.

Thank You! to Get Stormy and his two friends, Doubles Partner and Smart Bid for making my weekend a financial success.

Did not believe in Animal Kingdom before the Derby, but I do now. And I am very happy for Graham Motion and John Velasquez as they are hard working, class acts and very deserving of the big win.

The Derby party I attended was great fun. I would like to know how many red roses were sold in Kentucky for Derby Day? Because I couldn’t tell you how many dozens were on display at this party. And Maker’s Mark Mint Juleps were the best! There were door prizes, great food and drink, every Derby decoration you could think of, and a silent auction for each and every derby entrant for participants to bid on and then root for.

Kentuckians, whether horse people or not, take their Derby Parties very seriously. And it was fun to experience it in the Horse Capital of the World with friends, both old and new. Could be an annual tradition in the making for me!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Early Morning Flight, Early Derby Picks

I will be taking off on a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow headed for Louisville with my Racing Form in hand. Plenty of time for more studying, not sure it will help, but this is what we do!

I am excited about being at my first Kentucky Oaks. And while I take it all in tomorrow, I will probably change my mind more than a few times about who I bet, and how I bet, in the Derby on Saturday. But I have at least narrowed it down somewhat.

I will not be using Uncle Mo if he runs. I doubt that he will, but if he does, and he wins, so be it. It is just obvious to me that he is not 100%.

As for Dialed In, I have only recently been interested in him, because I can’t understand the lack of works in the last five weeks. But I guess you have to trust Nick Zito on that one. What I do like about him, when I finally got a good look at him in several videos, is that , though he is not a big horse, he stands over a lot of ground. And I like that in a horse. Will I use him? I suppose….

I have been a big fan of Oatsee’s son, Shackleford. He has been training up a storm and looks great by all accounts. Will he get the distance? Big question, but the breeding on the dam’s side says “yes he can”. And a win over the track doesn’t hurt.

There is no more consistent horse than Much Macho Man. I love that in a horse. He will show up and he will try, no matter what.

I think Santiva deserves respect. He has a win over the track at Churchill. And he had nowhere to go in the Blue Grass. He’s a maybe.

I will give Brilliant Speed a look too. It could just be that his earlier races on dirt were not productive because they were sprints. Dynaformer is certainly not just a “grass” sire, but he does sire horses that need to run long. He has won on two surfaces, why not dirt too?

And then there’s ArchArchArch. He should love the distance and Jon Court is in ‘the zone” with 3 wins today at Churchill. The momentum could keep on going.

Good luck to all who wager. It’s a day when you can bet little and win big!

Enjoy the great racing and safe trips to all our equine friends!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fillies First

Right at the moment I have a better handle on just who I like in the Oaks. Despite the one hole, I think that Joyful Victory is the class of a great group of fillies. She has gotten even better with blinkers, and if Larry Jones thinks she’s the real deal, then that’s enough for me. The other gray Tapit filly, Zazu, could round out the exacta for me, if she takes to Churchill. She has worked steadily since her neck beat in the Santa Anita Oaks, and I think she will appreciate the extra ground. Kathmanblu must not be discounted, as she is versatile and is a stakes winner over the track. I am intrigued by long shot, St. John’s River. She is improving and if the track is wet, could love it, being out of a Private Account mare. For me, she is a must use in the exotics.

But I truly think that Joyful Victory is a cut above all of these.

Now the Derby is not as clear to me. I do know that even if Uncle Mo runs and there is still a chance he may not, I will probably not be backing him. The 2 year old champ could run and win, and I will accept it, but I just don’t think he’s at his best right now, with his “stomach issues.” As of this week, he was still on meds and I’m hearing he’s kind of light. Just not the way you want to see a horse coming into the Derby.

Stay tuned for my Derby selections. Now I just have to figure out what clothes to pack for Churchill... besides rain gear, that is.