Saturday, September 24, 2011

Million Dollar Derby Value Play

This year’s Grade 11 Pennsylvania Derby, with a purse of a million dollars, will be run at a mile and 1/8, and features a pretty decent group of three year olds.
 The morning line favorite is Ruler On Ice (5-2), this year’s Belmont victor. Though he may get his preferred wet track, a mile and 1/8 is not his distance. And he is giving a lot weight to the entire field  in here. I am looking elsewhere for some value.

To Honor and Serve (Bernadini) (3-1) is coming off a decent win after being taken off the Derby Trail with a suspensory injury. His comeback race was going short, and set him up for a romp against older allowance horses. He is in light with 114. But will he return to his earlier 3 year old form?

Rattlesnake Bridge, a Tapit colt (4-1), never fails to run a good one and appears to be figuring it out. Not excited about his drifting in the late stages of theTravers, although it was a very good effort. He has had two nice works since then and should have recovered from that game second.

The horse I like in here is Arthur’s Tale. He is coming off a 6 month layoff, so he is being discounted at 12 to 1. By Bernadini, out of the multiple graded stakes winner Owsley, he was originally on the Triple Crown trail till he developed a stress fracture, though another report read that he originally popped a splint. Either way, both are relatively minor injuries which horses can come back from, many times, with no ill effects.

Arthur’s Tale was originally pointed to the Travers, so he was clearly “almost” ready to run. He has been given another month and three more works. This should have him dead fit. Giving time to a talented three year old never hurts. He showed improvement in his last two races in the spring, one- a win on an off track, and another game second, by a neck, to Toby’s Corner in the Wood Memorial, while still beating the bigger than life, Uncle Mo.

I don’t think we have seen the best of Arthur’s Tale yet, I think there’s still upside potential there.  And he is getting in light with 114. That’s TEN POUNDS less than the favorite. Arthur’s Tale at 12-1 is clearly, to me, the value play.

I look to see a big effort from this colt on his return to the races. And an off track should not hurt his chances. Will he “need” the race? At double digit odds, I’m taking a chance that he will be ready to roll.

Lots of good racing luck to all who are wagering today and a safe trip for all our equine friends.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


How GOOD is this filly?

Watch the replay. Winter Memories TOYED with this field. I don’t think she had to take a deep breath to win the Grade 1 Garden City yesterday. And it was a very patient and heady ride from 4-wins-on -the -day-Castellano.

My initial reaction as the race unfolded was… up close…dropped back…. no… not again… behind a wall of horses… nowhere to go… uh-oh… she’s last….but in the blink  of an eye, with what is becoming her patented move,  the big grey filly  wheels out  and kicks it into overdrive, and wins WITH SOMETHING LEFT.

Winter Memories is always a bit keen in her races, though she seems tractable too. A filly like this does need some cover to help her relax. But if you watch the race, you will see that JC stood up on her the whole way, while others were getting position, trying to keep up, Winter Memories just galloped along just waiting to be asked. Not an easy task for the jock when riding a horse that runs with such enthusiasm. But he was just sittin’ chilly. (Maybe in this case, you could call it standin’ chilly… he had SOOOO much horse)

Having to come around the whole field is not always ideal, but it does seem to be her most successful running style.

A blog favorite, she is a joy to watch. Her explosive late kick is so fast you have almost no time to cheer her on. She jumps into the bridle and she’s gone. She is on top of her game right now and it’s on to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on October 15.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sunday's Northern Dancer at Woodbine

The 2011 Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes goes as the 8th race on the Sunday card at Woodbine. It is part of Woodbine Mile Day, and the second day of a turf-rich weekend in every division with Breeder’s Cup implications.

The Northern Dancer is at a mile and a half on turf and the traditional prep for the $1.5 million dollar Canadian International.

Not a stellar field in here, but some nice horses none the less.

There will be a lot of focus on the Euro, Wigmore Hall, because even the second or third string Euro is very often better than most North American turf runners. However, he will be a short price and, though he has run against better, keep in mind, he has never run at the distance and has never run over the Woodbine turf. And I am not convinced that he will like a firm turf course, either.

Second choice on the morning line is Bourbon Bay. He is a consistent sort having won on three different surfaces. And he is trained by a Hall of Famer. He has 3 wins and a second out of 5 tries at this distance, though never at Woodbine. He seems to get along very well with his new jock Joe Talamo, and Smokin’ Joe ships in for the ride. The thing I find the most interesting is his workout pattern. In the last 15 weeks he has run 4 times, but in between, every third work is 7/8ths of a mile. There will be no doubt about his fitness and soundness with this amount of work and I think he will once again give a very good account of himself.

Trainer Mark Casse has two in here. And while I prefer Seaside Retreat, his other horse Hailstone IS a half brother to Court Vision who will be trying to win his second Woodbine Mile on the same day. But I don’t see this son of City Zip getting a mile and a half.

Seaside Retreat is interesting though. The 8 year old gelding is getting his third start off a 3 YEAR layoff. That’s a LONG layoff. But he is rounding to form. Ignore this horse at your own peril. If he returns to his back form, at Woodbine, he could be very tough. Two triple digit numbers in 2008, in this very same race AND the Canadian International, shows he has what it takes. Will his back class resurface?

 Simmard deserves a look. Attfield always spots his horses well and he has more wins than any of them over the Woodbine turf.

Al Khali is a horse that I always thought could be a good one. But he always seems to find trouble.  Alan Garcia does get along well with him and if you are playing exotics, he could jump into the triple with a good trip. But will it ever happen?

Hotep and Laureate Conductor appear outclassed.

I like the looks of Seaside Retreat in here especially at his morning line of 10 -1. I might be willing to take a chance and hope that he returns to his glory days. I will use Bourbon Bay (5-2) and Simmard (8-1) if I dive into any exotic plays.

As one of the guest handicappers this weekend at the Handicapper's Corner at ThoroFan I urge you to visit their informative website. It's the site that gives a voice to the racing fan.
Good Luck and enjoy all the good turf racing at Woodbine this weekend. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Special K ?

Always exciting to see a nice two year break their maiden first time out. Yesterday at Belmont was the coming out party for Aubby K, a big good looking bay filly by Street Sense out of graded stakes winner, Lily Capote. Owned by her breeder James Spence, she was sent off at even money, as her performance was no secret to many.  

Off a beat slow, she went to the front, attended the pace and drew off with the upmost ease to win by fifteen. Cory Nakatani sat chilly the whole way, threw a couple of crosses at her at the eighth pole and this filly never really got out of a gallop. Now, not sure what she beat, but this miss trained by Ralph Nicks could, indeed be something special.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Game Faces

 In my lone visit to Saratoga this year, I sure picked a good day to go. I was able to witness a top flight filly, did down deep and make some racing history.

Havre de Grace , by 2005 Horse of the Year, St. Liam ( also the 2005 Woodward victor) out of the Carson City mare, Easter Bunette has put herself at the top of  the  division with the very gutsy win in the Grade 1 Woodward, and is only the second filly to have ever won this race. It was her first test against older males.

Sportsman/owner Rick Porter said “We gave her a chance to show how good she was”

Rider Ramon Dominguez “She called on herself beautifully, she has a very relaxed stride”

Masterful trainer Larry Jones said “We are 75% leaning towards the Beldame” for her next start.

Alex Solis, on runner up Flat Out, “she proved today that she is a great horse”

One more start in either the Beldame or the Spinster should set her up nicely for the first weekend in November.