Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

23 May 2012

A turning point?

Racing stands at the brink of greatness again with an 12th bid for the Triple Crown, the first one in 34 years if I'll Have Another is successful.  At this point the failed bids since the last sweep at the throne now exceed the number of champions who climbed the peak.  Averaged out, there has been one try every three years for this title for a horse no to do this at this point is abnormal.  As a weathered racing fan once said, “Anything is possible and probable.”  Could this year’s challenger do it?  He stands just as good a chance as his last ten peers who attempted the feat.  Racing needs more than one champion to spur a revival in the sport though.

Competition lends to the sport; the past two races in the series were close finishes between two top tier runners for their generation that sparked debate and strong opinions among the fans.  More of the same throughout the rest of the year in the other important races would be unreal.  The elite of horse racing needs to meet up more that two or three times in the year.  Top horses vying for the big prizes sparks interest and increased handle on the big days.  We had a taste of this in 2007 when Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Rags to Riches met up in the spring and later on the first two mentioned had a rematch in the Classic with Horse of the Year on the line.  Unfortunately, Hard Spun and Street Sense were whisked away to stud leaving Curlin all alone to do the entire heavy lifting the following year.  More competition at the top is better for the product, people like seeing the best of any sport going head to head frequently.  Thus more incentive should be put up to see elite meet up more often.

There are other divisions than the three-year-old colts; it is hard to believe that from the coverage racing receives beyond the Belmont Stakes.  The second half of the racing season has taken up bigger importance now that the top horses are on a lighter schedule.  Every race in each division takes on a playoff feel as the season progresses.  Now that NBC Sports has picked coverage of the important races in the summer and fall one would hope that this takes place.  The more coverage that horse racing receives, the better it is for all involved.  More casual fans could show up and increased wagering volume is a positive byproduct that could be seen from this.

All the tools are there for thoroughbred racing to make a decent comeback.  Last time this sport was in a position to move forward was 2008, NBC had 2/3 of the Triple Crown and ESPN had rights to most of the major races from June on.  ESPN did little with their resources, minimized their coverage, and racing remained stagnant from the point that Big Brown pulled up on the far turn at Belmont.  NBC Sports and horse racing are sitting on a gold mine win, lose, or draw on the afternoon of June 9th.  It is all about the utilization of the tools at their disposal.

26 April 2012

All roads lead to Louisville

The prep season for the Derby is just about complete barring a monstrous effort by anything coming out of the Derby Trial.  Before going into full immersion on the major three year old stakes; the Derby Trial is more or less an early season long sprint/middle distance race for sophomore runners rather than a major stepping stone towards Triple Crown glory, it’s probably time to rename that race. 

The first of six big three-year-old races was the Florida Derby, featuring the Uncle Mo like flop of Union Rags.  Read what you will into his race-day performances of 2012, but on the surface he has yet to step up in a major way on paper with middling pace and speed figures.  If you are firmly entrenched in his camp all is not lost though, Matz is an all-pro conditioner and he is trying to get his runner to peak on the third start.  As for the winner Take Charge Indy, he was on the best part of the track on that day and capitalized.  Reveron, the runner-up was a rank outsider that chased throughout and held off a hard charging Union Rags, there evidence of a speed bias is apparent from this day as well.

A day later the Louisiana Derby was shook to it’s core by a 109-1 longshot that wired from post 12.  Mark Valeski was put on the bubble by not winning this race and he ran alright here.   He could be a solid value if he makes the final cut.  It should be noted that the Louisiana path to the Kentucky Derby has been a treacherous one since Grindstone won in 1996.

The Wood Memorial was a tight stretch run between Gemologist and Alpha where both accomplished what they needed to do going into the first Saturday in May.  Gemologist needed a win or a strong performance to move on and Alpha needed earnings to stay away from the brink.  Off the two Alpha looked like the the better performance.  From the DRF charts:
 “APLHA rubbed shoulders with CASUAL TRICK leaving the starting gate, took the inside route in the initial stages, was steadied off of another’s heels midway around the opening bend…”
The comments on Alpha continue on to mention that he went three wide for his stretch run over a track that favored the inside.  Gemologist faced Currency Swap in his 2012 debut, Currency Swap went on to finish in a separate zip code from the Illinois Derby winner in his next start.

 I’ll Have Another has had one of the greater form reversals seen in long time, after a distant effort in the Hopeful in the Saratoga mud he has put together two stakes wins off of said September layoff.  The field of 20 will test his mettle with a stronger early pace. Creative Cause had his form enhanced thanks to Bodemiester’s monster effort in the Arkansas Derby.

The Bluegrass came up a fast race on pace and speed figures in limited data at the distance.  From the looks of it though, there won’t be much of a change in this number for this boutique meet.  This race was the tale of two halves with Hansen winging it early in his usual fast early, slowing down late style and Dullahan making a dramatic sweeping run to the winner’s circle in the final 3/8 of a mile.  Dullahan is winless on the dirt, but he faced tough competition last fall on that surface.  He was fourth behind Hansen, Union Rags, and Creative Cause in the Juvenile.  He made a grand sweeping move in that race as well.  Workouts will tell the tale of how things will go with this one.

 Last but not least is the tour de force performance of Bodemiester, the likely Derby favorite.  So far his brief time on the track Bodemiester has showcased turbo-charged performances that bear a striking resemblance to Curlin’s early career trajectory.  All the intangibles of his recent victory have been mentioned repeatedly elsewhere and need no repeating here.  He will factor into the early pace in a big way with Hansen and the assorted hopeless speed bombers that will sign up.  He either will be Big Brown or Bellamy Road in this race; the likely low odds in a crowded field are no treat at all.

The average odds of the Derby winner from the past three years have been 28-1 with the low being 8-1 and the high being 50-1.  The prospectus of this year’s group looks less likely for tote board busting payouts in comparison to recent years.  If the history of the big race day returns have proved anything though, it is that even the likely results can produce a decent return on investment. 

10 March 2012

2012 Derby Failure Five

Better late than never, I am blaming Union Rags for this. According to e-mails I receive from the Daily Racing Form, the Kentucky Derby season is in full swing. It doesn’t feel like it though. The meticulously planned out campaigns of the top runners and likely nominees for the failure five list are planned out into such detail that some of the hopefuls will scratch from a race on the faintest feeling of a stiff breeze. Last year’s lists fared pretty well with a high failure or success rate depending on the point of view. Maybe there is a pressure to perform on the next go around, we shall see.

1. Union Rags

Top of the heap after his visually impressive score in the Fountain of Youth. The pace and speed figures were a bit pedestrian. Last year I was on the Tapizar bandwagon and the tires went flat on that, this year it is Union Rags. Only two starts to the Derby, there is not much room for error if a prep or work is missed.

2. Hansen

Here is a synopsis of his two races this year (leader in races among top derby prospects), fast early and slowing down late. The Wood is the next stop from all indications and he certainly doesn’t need the earnings to get in. Look for more refinement of the rating tactics that Dominguez employed in the Gotham next out.

3. El Padrino

Algorithms is off the trail. Too bad, that one had a lot of talent. El Padrino is the Pletcher pinch hitter off of a popular Risen Star score. Usually Fair Grounds runners have a tough pull, it’s been over a decade since Grindstone captured the bed of roses via the bayou.

4. Feb Biz/I'll Have Another/Any colt that has won an allowance or maiden race at Santa Anita

Pretty interchangeable part of the list, it seems that there is a good-looking winner out there at least once a week and Baffert usually trains the colt. It would not register as a surprise if the Santa Anita Derby draws twelve entries this year.

Ed. Note: Out of Bounds was originally here until someone pointed out he was injured a few days ago. Shows how much I follow the racing product at Santa Anita.

5. Alpha

NYRA has boosted its purses and moved around its stakes schedule to be more prominent, so far it has produced some timid fields and short priced victors. Alpha ran fast enough to be competitive deeper into the season in his Withers score, but he has to do it again against the big boys to be taken seriously. The Florida Derby will be the acid test for this one.

08 February 2012

From the infield

I got out to the infield at Aqueduct a while back and recently I got out onto the massive infield of Belmont Park, it is no wonder they used the middle of this racetrack as a landing strip at one point.

Winter track maintenance

The surface of champions

Widener Turf Course

Inner turf course, home of the Manhattan Handicap

Old tote, minus light board

Inside the old tote board, now a flag storage center and groundskeeping HQ.


The view from the other side.