Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

31 May 2009

Not A Fluke Play Of The Day

Belmont Race 9

Grade I winner Dancing Forever returns from a October layoff here and will surely be less than even money. Yes he could win but there is a significant reward in beating him and the distance and pace will not be to his liking. A horse here with a huge pace edge in #6 Fluke. This horse is a group winner in South America and should be all alone on the lead. With a short field and the main contention being a deep closer he should be the boss up front on a slow pace. Great shot to go wire to wire.

Win #6 Fluke

23 10-2-1
strike rate 43%
cumulative return 73.70
$2 ROI $3.20

26 May 2009

Rene Douglas

As a racing fan we are indebted to the jockeys that take the risks required to put on the show. Horseplayers risk bankroll and their good name but these things can be replaced as quickly as they are lost. These jockeys risk their lives, their health and their ability to take care of their family. What they risk is priceless. At any time a life could be lost on the track. Can you imagine the irony of risking your life for a complete strangers entertainment only to be heckled and called a pinhead by those strangers day after day. In light of Rene Douglas' accident hopefully there will be a day where this type of heckling is unacceptable at any racetrack.

Even though I don't know him personally and he does not ride regularly on my home circuit the incident over weekend with Rene Douglas affected me. He has been on my mind and in my thoughts and prayers. I am hoping that his physical and mental strength as an athlete pulls him through this tremendously challenging life event. The greatest game also carries the greatest risks.

Here is my fondest memory of Rene Douglas as he rode fearlessly in the 2008 Manhattan Handicap on Dancing Forever;

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is a worthwhile charity to donate to.

21 May 2009

Rachel Alexandra Wannabe

The typically conservative Angel Penna Jr. has entered three year old filly Warm Shower against older males in Thursday's 8th race at Belmont. Is this aggressive entry the start of Rachel Alexandra fever? Is Rachel's success against the boys a watershed event that will initiate a trend of girl horses racing against and beating boy horses? At 12-1 morning line Warm Shower will provide a nice return if she can beat the well regarded Unbridled's Heart and the rest of the field. The barn thought enough of Warm Shower to nominate her to the Sands Point this weekend. With this information two things are clear to us that might not be so clear to the rest of the wagering public. The barn loves the filly and she is doing great right now. Rather than wait for a spot in a few weeks that may not fill they need a race A.S.A.P. and will take on the boys. With all of the male-chauvinist pigs disregarding Warm Shower due to her perceived inferior gender we will surely get a great price. Chalk it up as the play of the day.

Belmont Race 8

W# 3 Warm Shower

23 10-2-1
strike rate 43%
cumulative return 73.70
$2 ROI $3.20

20 May 2009

Belmont Special Returns To Service

After many posts and and yet another raise in taxes the Belmont Special will return to service next Thursday. Finally Power Cap will see a return on investment on his local taxes dedicated to the MTA.
From Power Cap

18 May 2009

Preakness Validation For All

The Preakness has initiated a form turn around for the game of horse racing. All of the key players in the race were validated. Jess Jackson who reportedly paid up to $10 million for Rachel Alexandra validated big money, big ego, last minute purchasers. Rachel Alexandra who was doubted by many handicapping nitwits, was validated as the best three year old in the country, she was sensational. The supposedly fluky derby winner, given less respect than Rodney Dangerfield, unleashed a power run, validating his derby win and proving himself a very nice 3 year old classic winner. Even Tom Durkin with his much maligned derby call delivered a scintillating account of the Preakness validating his position at the top of the American racecaller hierarchy.

Jess Jackson took a huge risk on Rachel Alexandra and it is good for racing that he was rewarded, rather than made a fool. Jackson's success may encourage others with the need for ego validation to get involved in the racing game. Can you imagine Donald Trump droning in the winners circle, "she is the best filly in all of of America, she is like Trump National Golf Club the best golf course in all of Westchester Country New York." While some may resent someone like Jackson throwing around money to position himself at the top, those people are missing a crucial point. It is vital that there is still men like Jackson to invest in the game at the top level. If there were a few more like him the game would resume it's rightful position at the top of the sport hierarchy. Headlines would be generated, buzz would be induced and irresistible competitive races would be made.

Rachel Alexandra was brilliant in the race. The piddly concerns of handicappers concerning her class were unfounded. She handled the class hike, the larger field, the increased pressure and the crowd. She single handedly dominated the race and was clearly a force on the front end. She dominated the results like an alpha-female in charge of a band of rouge bachelors. The closer the race is examined the more impressive her race appears. She cooked every horse within reach of her. Big Drama was defeated before they hit the top of the lane. Friesan Fire was third early and wound up well beaten. Pioneerof was close up early in forth but suffered the worst defeat of his race career and finished11th. Take The Points was another that was close up and finished last. Papa Clem sat right off the pace in the pocket on the rail and was soundly defeated finishing 8 lengths behind her. The horses that rated in 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th all ran new beyer number tops. The pace was hot and Rachel controlled all those boys.

Mine That Bird was another who was validated in this race. His win was dismissed as a pure fluke. Many doubted his ability to handle a dry, fast track and the transition to Pimlico. He handled everything quite well and proved his detractors wrong. The son of Birdstone unleashed a power run going into the turn and blew past every horse except the winner. It could be argued that with a better trip he might have won. His derby win was for real, while his Preakness was a loss it still provided sweet vindication for him. Mine That Bird is now respected. He is a very nice horse and has a stout finish to be reckoned with

You want to talk about form reversals , Tom Durkin had a huge form reversal in the Preakness. After Durkin's most disappointing big race call in the derby he delivered a memorable call for the ages in the Preakness. The local caller Rodman at Pimlico is a fine racecaller but listen to both calls of the same race and it is clear who the better caller is. Durkin picked up Mine That Birds power run as it commenced on the far turn, Rodman did not pick the move until The Bird was in the clear past the 1/8th pole. Having Durkin call the races is a wonderful enhancement to the game and his performance validated why he is treasured by so many race fans.

The Preakness was a great race for racing. Many positive stories have emerged from the race along with a sense of excitement. The uninformed articles from the clueless brigade have ceased and articles highlighting racing's authentic, grass roots appeal have emerged by the lot. TV ratings surged and wagering was up an impressive 30% over last years Preakness. Pimlico has eliminated the BYOB policy in the infield which replaced beer guzzling nitwits with real racing fans, accounting for the tremendous spike in wagering. Good riddance to the human filth pit that was the Preakness infield. Not only did the Preakness validate those involved with the game the Preakness validated the game itself.

15 May 2009

Preakness Play Of The Day

Preakness Stakes

I'll be rooting for Mine That Bird, he has gotten so little respect after the derby. That being said I don't think The Bird will replicate the form from the derby. It is easy to like Rachel Alexandra but I will play against her. She is a heavy favorite and I wish her well. However I would not not be surprised to see the step up in class, the larger field and increased pressure become an issue with her, causing her to not finish strongly. There is a bit of hysteria about Rachel Alexandra, a reaction to her visually impressive race in the oaks. I would like to capitalize on that visually generated hysteria as she is going to bet like she can't lose.

I will have an exacta keying on Big Drama boxed with Papa Clem, Pioneerof The Nile and Musket Man. It will be a generous exacta if both the Filly and the Derby winner finish out of the frame. The win bet lands on Big Drama who is the speed of the speed and has not been headed on the line since is first race. I suspect they may just leave him alone out there on the front end and he will take them wire to wire in a 10-1 shocker.

Win #1 Big Drama

22 10-2-1
strike rate 45%
cumulative return 73.70
$2 ROI $3.35

14 May 2009

Criminal Play Of The Day

Belmont race 8
8-1 on Plenty Coups at Belmont is a complete steal. Plenty Coup is poised to steal this race wire to wire. With a lone speed set up, the inside post and the 9F speed favoring inner track set up, this one will be lone gone when the real running starts. If the 8-1 price holds expect a visit from the cops later as that price is an absolute steal.

Win #1 Plenty Coups

21 10-2-1
strike rate 48%
cumulative return 73.70
$2 ROI $3.51

Slot Machines Spreading Disease

When slots were introduced in Delaware during the 1990's they were thought to be the savior of Delaware racing. Now that all of the unintended consequences of that governmental action have been accounted for, the slots have matured into a disease sickening every track on the east coast from Boston to Richmond. The most critical patient is Maryland racing which has been infected from all sides as slot enhanced racing has leached horsemen, horses and handle from its borders into neighboring jurisdictions. Beyer penned a controversial article earlier this week suggesting that Laurel should be shuttered and Pimlico remade as a spring boutique meet. There is virtue in his logic.

The core issue here is too much racing and nil cooperation. Slots propping up an unappealing product is akin to having a braindead patient hooked up to a respirator. The patient is alive but it is no life and he is a burden to all those around him. The surplus of unappealing slot enhanced racing is becoming a burden to the family of racetracks on the east coast and has spread disease throughout all of them.

A circuit including the tracks within DE, MD and VA should be pursued. Overlap of endless, unappealing meets and short fields can and must be reduced. Each tracks strengths could be highlighted. A festival atmosphere will return, instead of a daily grind of endless racing. A spring Preakness at Pimlico which transitions into an early summer of turf racing at Colonial Downs culminating in the Virginia Derby. Then more Summer racing at Delaware featuring well regarded stakes races like the Delaware handicap. Then as the leaves begin to fall a migration back to Maryland for the fall championship races like the DC International, Laurel Futurity and finally the Maryland Million.

The surplus of racing must be addressed. Short fields are spreading like a crisis and have even moved into the midwest. This crisis could be used to spark positive and much needed action. A Mid-Atlantic cooperative of tracks in DE, MD, and VA should be pursued to align racing dates. Cooperation will leave each track collectively strengthened and the racing product improved. It is time for collective leadership beyond the self-interest of each individual track .

12 May 2009

Preakness Making For Great Drama

You know the old saying "Any press is good press", and with all the shenanigans this week racing has garnered a swarm of attention. Comments on ESPN racing articles have surged from and average of 0.5 to 36. The surge in attention is great news. Is the filly in? Are they going to keep her out? Who is colluding in the sinister plot to keep her out? Is Jackson trying to buy a triple crown race? How classy is Whitney to step aside for the filly? Why did they move Rachel to a trainer with so many drug positives? The story lines are vibrant and they have engaged a racing community. The mass appeal of Beyer numbers is the same mass appeal as the Harvard Math Review, these new story lines have the sensational mass appeal of the national enquirer.

It is about time that racing joined the party. The sports world gave up on handicapping the games and polite speak long ago. Gambling is hard but feeling emotionally outraged is easy. The sports world used to be a more like a regular racing day. There was a competition and people discussed the merits of the competitors, the games were played, bets were made and people marveled at the skills of the players. Now the sports world is more like "Day Of Our Lives". There are villains and people you love to hate and there are sensational bits of interpersonal gossip to ponder. Sports have become the daytime drama that women have loved for years but men never had. Racing has not participated much in the soap opera and it has hurt the races in the mass appeal market. The lead-up to the Preakness has changed all that. The game has plunged itself into the mud soaked sports soap opera scrum. The sensationalist maiden is broken. The Preakness is the N1X allowance for sensationalists and those basking in the national limelight. Racing is poised to capture some much needed mass appeal on the backs of a few flamboyant characters. Racing needs these characters who relish the spotlight.

Turn on ESPN or the local sports talk AM radio and most of the content centers around who is on steroids, who got busted for steroids, what kind of steroids they took, who is in jail, who gets along with who and he said she said. This is more like an episode of Days Of Our Lives than a three hour ball game. The competition is secondary to the storyline. For a longtime racing had no storylines outside of the competition. While only a few can read the racing from, everyone can read a sensational tabloid like the National Enquirer. Ballgames themselves are long, boring and dull but gossiping about people and taking a stand invokes emotional reactions. People like emotional reactions. Instead of focusing on the competition the sports soap opera drama has supplanted the game action itself as what the fans follow. The drama gives people the ability to take positions on popular issues. It creates a storyline and animates the lives of the fans. Instead of being a isolated sports fan following players who follow a ball the fans engage into a drama and feel like they are part of a vibrant social circle with heroes, friends and villains.

Look at how the Preakness drama has enlivened the horse racing community. There are dozens of blog posts that have stimulated scores of impassioned comments. The message boards are dominated by threads focusing on the Preakness lead-up. Almost everyone has an opinion and is able to take a posture either for or against Jess Jackson or whether they like Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. There are heroes, villains, drama and pending high jinks. A stand against Jess Jackson is a stand against greed. A stand against Zayat and Allen's plot to exclude Rachel Alexandra means you are for good sportsmanship. A stand for excluding Rachel Alexandra means you are a rugged iconoclast. Drama like this gives the fans an identity and engages them in a running debate with an exciting storyline.

This type of drama is usually absent from racing. Not only is it absent but racing usually shuns this type of drama, I thought racing was too classy for this type of nonsense. There was a time when I was uncomfortable with it but I have learned to embrace the soap opera drama for its immense potential to bring the masses into the racing fold. Like the NBA and NFL does this type of drama should be embraced. At first glance it may seem that this type of theater would turn off fans. Sure some may be turned off but the overwhelming majority of fans love this type of brouhaha and eat it up like a dog left home alone with a Porterhouse steak on the counter.

What happens on the backstretch stays on the backstretch. Racing has missed out on the billion dollar sports drama business. If racing wants to return to the main stream it needs more press, it needs more flamboyant characters like Ahmed Zayat saying more ostentatious things. People will posture for and against these issues but the key point is that if there is nothing to take a stand against, the masses will ignore racing. Most of the year the polite connections say the right things, the horses run in a circle, the bets are paid out and life goes on. This is not enough to capture the masses imagination. The play of the day is too hard to come up with and you look too foolish when it runs up the track. The public needs controversy for the sake of controversy. The public needs easy targets like Barry Bonds to take shots at. There needs to be heroes and villains. The NTRA should purchase Dutrow a years supply of Redbull to get him talking more. Jeff Mullins should issue press releases on a regular basis on how dumb the betting public is every time a 2-5 shot runs up the track. Stories should be concocted that a horse was excluded from a race even though they weren't even pointed to that race. If nobody does anything risque it makes for one boring soap opera. Bring it on limelight seekers and keep the soap opera rolling five days a week.

11 May 2009

Bold Hawk Is Back Working Out At Belmont

Bald Hawk, the 2007 winner of the Hawthorne Derby has been missing in action since the 2007 Hollywood Derby. When I first saw this gelding as a three year I was blown away by his size, he is over 17 hands with long legs. He looked like he was built to go long over the turf. He proved that he was a runner going long on the turf by winning a 10 furlong allowance race at Belmont with complete ease. Then he shipped to Hawthorne and won the 9 furlong Hawthorne derby. After a grade 1 placing in the Hollywood Derby the expectation was that he would be a premier turf horse going long in 2008 and beyond.

He had potential to be the successor to Better Talk Now as a graded stakes gelding going long on the turf year after year. Jimmy Toner is a talented conditioner with turf horses and he had a horse with potential in his barn. Instead of a year of thrilling runs we have not heard or seen from this gelding in a year and a half. He got lost like Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart. After all this time and asking around to no avail I received a workout notification via e-mail that Bold Hawked worked three furlongs at Belmont. It was like thinking that you would never see a childhood friend ever again only to find a message in the mailbox that he is alive and well. It was great news and I hope he is recovered from whatever kept him away from the track the last year and a half.

10 May 2009

Peter Pan Report

Drove down to Belmont for the Peter Pan. It was a warm humid day and the track had significant moisture in the surface from the deluge of 9 days and nights of rain. There was a clear speed bias as almost all the winners either set the pace or were less than two lengths off the pace. The speed bias was strongest early in the card and slowly waned as the track dried out. My time at Belmont was split between the paddock and the third floor grandstand power perch with binoculars in tow. Here is what we gathered from the days races.

The winner of the 6th race Pocket Cowboys is a huge gelding. He set a fast pace and held gamely after being confronted, albeit with the bias. This is a horse that is built to run on the turf When he runs first time turf I will take a swing with him as he has the look for a horse that would relish that surface. If the race is on the inner turf it will be a bigger swing as a speedy horse that likes turf does very well on the inner turf at Belmont.

In race 7 a maiden special Ricoriatoa was fractious in the paddock and had to be walked back and forth to get the tack on as he would not stand still. This was my first look at Paulo Lobo and his crew since he moved his barn from SoCal to New York. The trainer and and his help seemed professional and well prepared as they did well with a fractious horse. Mr. Lobo will do well in New York. After Ricoriatoa's paddock act the bad behavior continued and the Mig dismounted before he was loaded due to more fractiousness. I used Ricoriatoa in my wagers but after his behavior I expected him to fade quite early in the race. After a slow break Ricoriatoa rushed up to press the pace, had a spirited duel with the winner and held well in the lane. All things considered he ran well to claim the place share of the purse. While he may have some class we could also chalk up his run to the bias. The speedy winner Cabaret Cowboy looked great in the paddock, was bet hard off an October layoff and had the bias in his favor.

They pulled out all the stops on Imperial Council after his Wood paddock hysterics. He was in Belmont's troublesome horse paddock away from the other horses instead of the regular paddock with the rest of the field. Instead of walking alone Imperial Council had a female pony with him the entire time he was in the paddock and the pony stayed with him around the walking ring as well. Imperial Council held together this time and the assistant did a great job with saddling him and keeping him composed. He was not washed out, he did not rear up or display any fractious behavior like the Wood Memorial. The biggest incident in the paddock was caused by Al Khali. When Al Khali got wind of Imperial Council's pony and he let out and loud whinny and suddenly became aroused as he paraded around the paddock. It was very embarrassing for all the ladies in the paddock area. After some time sequestered in his stall this impassioned competitor returned to his flaccid state and was calm in the parade.

The Peter Pan parade was uneventful. All horses looked composed and well. No real behavior excuses except for the rise in the paddock from Al Khali. The significant speed bias and the addition of blinkers on Hello Broadway may have gave Hello Broadway the green light to attempt a "Sinister Minister". After setting a blazing pace Hello Broadway was spent at the 1/4 pole. The insane pace theft attempt did not work very well. Charitable Man looked good on paper second off the layoff and had a great trip sitting right off the insane fractions. Hello Broadway's insane pace played right into Charitable Man's hand.

Imperial Council rated four lengths off Charitable Man and had dead aim on him at the top of the lane. That is when Imperial Council's distance limitations kicked in and he lost ground from the 1/8th pole to the wire. Imperial Council is a nice horse but he will excel at shorter distances. Look for a cutback is distance for Imperial Council next race, he will be live in the Woody Stephens if he runs there. Seven furlongs is this colts wheelhouse.

Scorewithcater took some action out of the key race Sunland Derby but he was not up to the task here. Mine That Bird was not flattered by this performance as Scorewithcater was outrun at every call. The speed bias would not let a deep closer like him make up ground late. This was the type of track where you had to be close. Despite swinging wide to make a run Scorewithcater made no impression. To the Sunland derby's credit Mythical Power powered into a Lone Star derby win out of the Sunland Derby.

Out of this race Brave Victory ran well. He was one of the few horses to made up ground late on the whole day and looked well in the paddock. He could be a horse that moves forward in the future or take advantage of a complete pace collapse.

Charitable Man confirmed his class. He had a dream trip but this colt has speed and is able to carry it a distance of ground. While the poly race at Keeneland might have been a complete throw out, he did benefit from the run fitness-wise. Charitable Man could give a generous run in the Belmont Stakes and the three year old races at Saratoga.

07 May 2009

Geometry Class Play Of The Day

Belmont Race 6

Love this 7 days rest/ drop off a win / lone speed / speed bias / it is about to rain cats and dogs angle on #9 Super Shape. This colt has more angles than a geometry class.

W#9 Super Shape


20 10-2-1
strike rate 50%
cumulative return 73.70
$2 ROI $3.69

06 May 2009

Mr. Fantasy To Skip Preakness

After much speculation the speedy Mr. Fantasy will skip the Preakness. Following Mr. Fantasy has shown me how well McLaughlin and West Point operate their barn. They have managed Mr. Fantasy very well. There are many bullets to dodge with a colt like this and they have dodged them all so far. The first bullet was avoiding triple crown fever. They have taken their time, have picked spots that work and have managed Mr. Fantasy's high strung nature. This is a colt who has a tenancy to act up in the paddock, rather than exacerbate the problem shipping to a big race with a big crowd they have worked with and around these issues. Typically taking the safe route may result in dull results but these guys have maximized Mr. Fantasy's talent while minimizing his issues. They have a three year old with a real shot of taking down the Grade I Met Mile. If they are successful and I believe they will be they have a real shot at three year old colt of the year.

Wed Churchill Play Of The Day

Churchill Race 5
The only bet of the day. #3 Formal Dannie wire to wire. Lone speed and a slop lover. 3-1 and going up in price.

W#3 Formal Dannie

19 9-2-1
strike rate 47%
cumulative return 67.10
$2 ROI $3.53

Last Hope For The Belmont Train bailout

A state bailout plan is close to being approved for the MTA. My employer will have to pay an additional .3% payroll tax. For us overtaxed New Yorkers we can look forward to an Albany slew of taxes, surcharges and clips that will ensure that transit service will resume as normal. This bailout thing will cost my family a few thousand a year but thankfully I will get to ride the train to Belmont a half dozen times later this year. Talk about poor value. Hopefully Belmont service is restored ASAP as it is the only service in the whole system that is personally important to me. All of the service(Belmont Park was the only service cut so far)cuts are supposedly going to be reinstated according to the bailout press release. The total savings of cutting the one train that went to Belmont five days a week was $112K for the year. NYRA estimates that they were going to lose $5 million in handle for the year due to that one train.

In the mean time the thought of boarding a school bus from Queens Village to Belmont is just too much for me. I grew up riding public transit and never did I have to ride a school bus. Riding a school bus to a racetrack(sorry Funny Cide connections) is like pedaling a tricycle to a nightclub, it is the wrong vehicle for the job. I deeply resent that my taxes paid $91 million for a new Yankee train station while us horse racing fans have to ride a yellow school bus from the 1970s to complete our public transit mission. Imagine the horror of hanging on the simulcast monitors for a minute too long only to see your steed get clipped by a nose at the wire. Then with that disappointment slowing you down you sprint over to the school bus shuttle only to miss that by a nose too. Now you are tapped and stuck walking or waiting an hour for the next shuttle to Queens Village for their hourly service to New York. For the derby I considered taking the train to Belmont but drove instead to mitigate a worst case scenario. If they can fix this transit injustice all will be good in the land of the powercap transit special.

05 May 2009

Kentucky Derby Senseless

Yet another article published bashing the pants off of horse racing. This has to be at least the sixth one this week. These articles are rolling off the the assembly like Ford model T's. This one is not only a good example of the "bash horse racing because it is too hard for us to understand formula" but it adds in elements of the dumbing down of America too. Instead of a bunch a factory workers rolling the model T's off the assembly line we have a group of indoctrinated lemmings who all share an identical opinion in lockstep with each other. With an identical quality and increasing quantity the articles are rolling off the assembly line like the Ford Edsel .

Shouldn't education provide these people with intellectual curiosity? A sense of where we are from, where are we at and where we are going? The author of this piece seems like she has not been directed to reflect on any of those three questions. Instead of curiosity she exhibits signs of single minded agenda conditioning and posturing for the sake of easy attention. These people have all been indoctrinated to believe that same things and play the same cards over and over. Here the author stretches to play the race card, "Speaking of uncomfortable traditions, the Kentucky Derby broadcast made the event seem like a giant social event for middle-aged white people." Empty point there from the author but she assumes if white people like it, it must be bad and an easy lay-up for bash points.

What these articles have in common are complete historical ignorance, a sanctimonious, self-righteous stance against animal cruelty and a total obliviousness to the love, care and passion for the horses. These articles have a very important role in the horse racing community, they should bring us together to motivate ourselves to educate the lemmings on the greatest game in the world. We have to make it as hard as possible for their ignorance and their ability to pat themselves on the back to continue.

some more examples recently;

breakdown story

disaster newsreel

terror of racing

prevalence of abuse in racing

Banning Of Racing

horseracing will breakdown

derby is racist and sexist

Not Bred To Call Birdstone

Tom Durkin is feeling the heat for his derby call and rightfully so. Durkin has been brilliant for over two decades but this Derby performance was a departure from his sterling form. He was shown up by recent import Mark Johnson who had a smoother derby call for the Churchill simulcast and seemed composed and better prepared. The last time I remember Durkin blowing a call like this was when Mine That Bird's daddy won the 2004 Travers and Durkin called it the Belmont Stakes.

While Durkin made several errors during the derby the one everyone will remember is how he completely missed the winner until he was 6 clear and almost under the wire. It reminded everyone of 2006 BC Juvenile when Denmen completely Street Sense, only calling him when he was clear and had the race in-hand. The call was so bad that Denman went back to the studio and revised the call for future replays.

In comparison Mark Johnson didn't do a great job with Mine That Bird's big move but he did better than Durkin picking him up about the time he was shoulder to shoulder with the tiring Join In The Dance. A great caller should have picked the Bird up at the 3/8ths pole as he inhaled colt after colt like a four legged pac-man. Durkin's meticulous preparation alluded him in at Louisville on Saturday, this performance was a disappointment. The racing public has been spoiled by Durkin's superior presentation, his fastidious preparation and his flair for the dramatic, rising to the occasion time after time to match the performance of the equine competitors. For comparison check the multiple calls available on youtube for the of the 2005 derby or 2006 Preakness. Multiple calls for these races are available and Durkin's are clearly superior in smoothness, control and situational awareness. Durkin failed in all three regards on Saturday.

British newcomer Mark Johnson may have just unpacked his bags last week but he may be the number two caller in the country and pressing for number one. His presentation was excellent this weekend. Could Johnson's presence be the reason that Durkin was rattled? Johnson is as well prepared as anyone I have ever heard and provides a tremendous amount of supplemental information that enhances the racing presentation for the fans and handicappers. This guy combines talent with hard work which is a winning exacta. Mark Johnson cares and it radiates in his performance. Other racecallers should take notes. The recent import gave frequent mention of scratches, provided insightful commentary when horses were fractious in the post parade and his calls were original plus filled with color.

As bad as Durkin's derby call was, I feel his Oaks call the day before was classic Durkin and he outgamed Johnson on that call. Vividly illustrating brilliant performances has always been Durkin's forte and he did not disappoint on Friday, which assures us Durkin fans that Saturday's performance was an anomaly. While Johnson's call was quite good for the Kentucky Oaks it was not quite as vivid as Durkin's call as Johnson used cruising one too many times and seemed to stumble ever so slightly trying to locate the correct adjective to describe Rachel Alexandra's extraordinary tour de force .

Looking forward to the next stop on the Triple Crown I am betting on a better Durkin performance. The performance aberration in the derby must be bothering Durkin and he will be motivated to prepare for the Preakness action. We can compare Durkin to the resident Pimlico caller Rodman who is very good and sometimes excellent. Maybe Durkin's difficulty at this years derby traces back to the 2004 Belmont Stakes. That was a disappointing race for so many people. The disappointment was clearly inflected in Durkin's call when Mine That Bird's sire Bridstone overhauled the beloved Smarty Jones. These Birdstone racecalling flubs are becoming a pattern. Then there was the blunder of Durkin calling Birdstone the winner of the Belmont Stakes. How could Birdstone win the Belmont when it was August at Saratoga and the race was called the Travers. Mine That Bird may be bred to race in the mud but Durkin is not bred to call Birdstone and his get.

03 May 2009

Forgotten But Lovable

Does any one else see the irony in the 137 million man hours wasted handicapping the derby? With all that work on the books you will be hard-pressed to find a capper or fan who touted the winner before the Derby. The only people who cashed tickets in this race are either members of the Audubon Society, were born on August 8th 1988 or have experience working in the mining industry. Even the trainer wasn't confident. "To be honest, I didn't have any real feeling that I could win the Derby," trainer Chip Woolley said.

As one of those that spent hours analyzing the race and watching replays it is another lesson in horse racing hard knocks being nowhere near this result. Rather than besmirch Mine That Bird as a fluke or belittle his modest connections I am embracing the pain of this loss. I dismissed the winner so fast that I never bothered to watch his race replays or inquire a bit closer. This is not good capping. However I think if I looked harder and longer I would have tossed faster and harder. Running forth in the ungraded Sunland Derby at 13-1 makes for an easy toss. There is surely a valuable lesson to be gleaned from this race.

With this unlikely horse winning the Kentucky derby there will be a small backlash building. Some of the on-line chatter is suggesting that Mine That Bird was really ringer. Instead of Mine That Bird in the gate it was really Curlin running under Mine That Bird's name. Then there is the predicable drug innuendo. You can count on Andy Beyer to write an anti-Mine That Bird article as Mine That Bird had the lowest Beyer figures coming into the race and Beyer always protects his figures when there is a result like this. Mine That Bird's connections are going to have to develop a thick skin as soon as the derby celebration is over. In addition to the Beyer figs Mine Bird also had the worst dosage figure at 5.4 in the race as well.

Power Cap's Sister-In Law Was One Of The Few Who Scored
(Her Birthday is August 8th)

While the result was improbable on paper I have to give Calvin Borel a ton of credit. This jockey rode a brilliant race, a performance for the ages. For someone that has had so much success the last few years it a wonderful reflection on Borel's character that he is still such a likable and humble athlete. It gave me chills when he thanked his mama and papa in heaven after the race and how he wished they could see him now. I almost wanted to cry for him. This stunning victory was just the icing on the cake after Borel won the Kentucky Oaks race the day before on Rachel Alexandra who turned in one of the most brilliant performances in American racing this decade.

The story of the horse being driven from New Mexico in the back of a pick-up truck was endearing as well. There is so much appeal when David sticks it to Goliath and this David just finished off 18 Goliath's. The whole trainer angle might be the biggest surprise as this horse ran dead last in the BC Juvenile under the care of Dick Mandella. Mandella is considered one of the hardest trainers to move a horse up from. Now Chip Wolley who has won only one race all year, which was a sprint maiden race at Sunland has moved a horse from dead last to first in the biggest race of the year. This is like a the fry guy from your local Burger King taking on and destroying Bobby Flay in one of those Iron Chef throw downs. Before that maiden race Chip Wolley won a 5K claimer in December. Mine That Bird looked like he was over his head today but he ran a tremendous race and put one over on everyone. If he can pull off the Preakness shocker the good news is that Mine That Bird's daddy won the Belmont a few years ago. I will be rooting for them to go all the way. It will make for a fun Belmont hoping for the impossible.

02 May 2009

Derby Play Of The Day

Churchill Downs Race 9 Grade I Humana Distaff

We looked far and wide for the derby play of the day and found it on the derby undercard. As the third choice (7-2) on the morning line Secret Gypsy offers some value in a race that most will go three deep. She is a fast front running filly in a race with many closers. She should be loose on the lead and long gone. Track conditions could very well be speed favoring further helping her chances. The margin of winning in her last race does not tell the whole story, she did it easy and in hand. I think another front running win is in the bag for her.

W #5 Secret Gypsy

Stats for 2009
18 9-2-1
strike rate 50%
cumulative return 67.10
$2 ROI $3.73

Derby Picks

The pools I am going to play are pick 3 leading up to the derby, the daily double, the win pool and exactas.

My key derby horses will be I Want Revenge. I like the stalking speed to stay close and the conventional training up to the race. Nothing flashy but he seems to be coming up to the race well. He can press or close so it gives the kid options.

With 20 horses the are 380 possible exacta combinations so the payout should be fair. Another horse I will be using prominently is Freisan Fire. I love the AP Indy colts especially on wet track. Larry Jones is one of the best of the best so you have to repect his training methods. This colt has the right running style for this race and should be prominent throughout.

Other horses I am going to use in a less prominent way are Desert Party, Chocolatte Candy and Papa Clem. These horses have a shot to win and will be on the exacta tickets and some of the wider spreads in the daily double and pick 3.

Derby Day Good News

The TVG & Tracknet deal is just what we needed. Now the one race that actually has mass appeal can be promoted on the most prominent of racing media. Hopefully they can build on this agreement and grow the pie instead of decimating the pie in selfish struggles.

How about that Rachel Alexander? She ran an absolute hole in the wind in the Kentucky Oaks. That was about as impressive as a race as I have seen ever. The filly actually took my breath away and left me speechless.

01 May 2009

Oaks/Derby Will Pays

These are hard to find.

FOR $1 Rachel Alexandra-

2 MUSKET MAN $42.90
3 MR. HOT STUFF $71.20
4 ADVICE $97.20
5 HOLD ME BACK $24.50
7 PAPA CLEM $30.70
8 MINE THAT BIRD $154.60
10 REGAL RANSOM $32.90
14 ATOMIC RAIN $172.20
15 DUNKIRK $10.10
17 SUMMER BIRD $81.90
18 NOWHERE TO HIDE $167.40
19 DESERT PARTY $25.30