Power Cap

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29 December 2011

2011 Year in Review

A lot of the events that happened last year could be copied and pasted with minor alterations and no one would notice the difference. A filly is the likely horse of the year (Rachel Alexandra 2009 and Zenyatta 2010), the three-year-old colts performed the one and done symphony in the Triple Crown, and there is a lack of depth in the older males division.

Havre de Grace’s rise to the top was not a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination. She had to face her nemesis Blind Luck twice and her last start against her foe was a gut wrenching nose defeat going 1 ¼ miles. She rebounded with an authoritative score against males in the Woodward and aired against her own gender in the Beldame. Those two late season scores came against the likes of Flat Out and Royal Delta, not bad company. The season ended sourly for her with a defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not detracting from her record of five wins from seven starts and three grade one victories. Unfortunately she has come along after two years that featured the brilliance of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Goldikova. If her record was separated from this group of years and placed in a different generation, she would be held in much higher regard.

The three-year-old colts played hot potato with division leader status all year and that is why we are in this predicament. After Uncle Mo, the default leader defected from the Derby there was much changing of the guard. Animal Kingdom was crowned leader only to beget by Shackleford who then was thrashed by Ruler On Ice only to be squashed by Coil who was uprooted by Stay Thirsty. Outside of the traditional classics there was some consistency with Caleb’s Posse and To Honor and Serve. Caleb’s Posse won four graded stakes ranging from six and half furlongs to one mile and a sixteenth with two of those victories being in grade one company. Outside of the Classic flop To Honor and Serve did little wrong from August to November with three wins, one being against the brass of the division in the Pennsylvania Derby and the other against his seniors in the Cigar Mile. He will be set up for a big run in 2012 with a likely start in the Met Mile.

As for the case against making Caleb’s Posse best of his division, it is hard to understand why he wouldn’t be considered for the honors. The horses that competed in the classic races of the spring were not that good or fast; Animal Kingdom may be a one-time wonder, Shackleford looked weak outside of one freak performance in mid May, and Ruler On Ice ran the race of his life in the Belmont. Caleb’s Posse at least posed some sort of consistent form throughout the season and should be awarded for it even though he took an unconventional route in doing so.

Gio Ponti was made champion older colt after a strong season on turf in 2009, Cape Blanco may do the same thing this year after an uninspiring year for the older dirt runners. Tizway was considered the beast of the east before hitting the sidelines, but with only two grade one victories and an extremely spaced out schedule from April to August it has put his chances of winning the title on the rocks. Flat Out tried usurping the title from Tizway with wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Suburban, but was exposed with three loses at Churchill and two losses at Saratoga. Game On Dude was very game in his performances, but a two for seven winning record in stakes company is tough to put a title on.

A year that started out with a murky picture for the keynote divisions did not improve and in some cases got even darker. This was a strange year for certain. There is no despair here though. With a New Year upon us new things come to fruition like a renewal of the reliable Derby failure five, featuring this year’s Juvenile hero Hansen! Likely there will be other twists and turns along the way too. Remember that Stormy’s Majesty is always lurking in the weeds.

03 November 2011

Uncle Mo vs. 1 1/4 miles and fourteen other races

With six Breeders' Cup races on Friday and nine on Saturday, it is almost certain financial doom to play every race. With this being said, we here at Powercap introduce the almost infallible five star rating system to evaluate the races on hand.

The Friday Slate

The Distaff (Race 10)

Last year it was a rematch of Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, this year It's Tricky and Plum Pretty square off for the fourth time this year. Elsewhere in the field is Ask the Moon, her connections made an interesting decision of running at Santa Anita in her latest to no avail after two good efforts at the Spa. If she can rebound from her last race, she will be a tough customer here.

The Filly & Mare Turf (Race 9)

This is the race where the American based turf runners have the best chance of winning against the Europeans on their familiar surface. Stacelita is listed as the 2/1 favorite and has the edge of winning at 1 3/8 miles around the tight turns. Her last race was over a turf that was dead slow, my figures have it at -19 slow.

The Filly & Mare Sprint (Race 7)

Turbulent Descent looks to sew up a title here and she looks like a vulnerable favorite. The Puype filly has been off since early August and the early pace of that race was average at best before Descent blew by competition like Roman Treasure late.

An interesting horse in this spot is Great Hot who had two starts in October and a start against her elders in the Lady's Secret. Her sprint starts are decent from the looks of it going three for three in her attempts.

The Juvenile Sprint (Race 5)

Yet another juvenile cash grab has been added to the schedule. Trinniberg has come up short twice against stakes competition. Secret Circle ran big in his debut race. Toss Vexor's Hopeful performance and he doesn't miss the board in his short career. Seeker had a big race two back on Hopeful day. It should be a good first installment for this race.

The Juvenile Fillies (Race 8)

My Miss Aurelia looks to avoid the career trajectory that AZ Warrior took after her win in last year's Frizette.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf (Race 6)

On the course of any card there is a race or two that handicappers don't like playing and the combined phrase of juvenile fillies on the turf is my kryptonite.

The Saturday Slate

The Classic (Race 11)

The five million dollar question here is Uncle Mo's ability to stay the mile and a quarter. The last time a three year old favorite tried stretching out from one mile to a mile and a quarter was Fusaichi Pegasus. It didn't work in 2000, I have my doubts it will work now. Keep in mind that Fusaichi Pegasus was trying this after winning the Derby. The longest distance that Mo has won at was a mile and a sixteenth.

Ruler On Ice looks interesting here, he gets a ten pound weight shift from To Honor and Serve and has won at a mile and half. Stay Thirsty also gets another look here as the unheralded Repole entry here, he ran in every step of the Belmont and won the midsummer classic. To Honor and Serve comes in hot here and the only setback is he is picking up eight pounds off of his previous start.

The Sprint (Race 5)

I guess that Zito is one of the twelve readers of this blog.

The Mile (Race 10)

Apparently Goldikova is on the decline, if I owned a horse that was on this type downward spiral I would be overjoyed. Win or lose, this mare's spot as one of the all time Breeders' Cup performers is secure. It will be quite a while until another one like her comes around.

The Dirt Mile (Race 7)

In a rare occurrence the Preakness winner is in a race that is not the Classic. In his defeats since the Preakness the margin has been 7 3/4, a neck, 22 1/2, and 4 3/4. He is probably a good bet against here.

Tapizar came back with a victory after missing the Triple Crown series, he is probably a bit short for this spot. He does look like one to watch out for in the 2012 season though.

Trappe Shot is in this race after seemingly being aimed at the Sprint all season long, his running style better meant for the mile distance though. Not a lot was lost in transition to this race.

The Juvenile Turf (Race 4)

If it weren't for the Pilgrim returnees entered here this race would be a one star affair. Shkspeare Shaliyah and Fantastic Song ran a closing number over the dead boggy turf that was 14 and 17 lengths faster than average. Not bad for a turf runner and that is exceptional for juveniles.

The Juvenile (Race 9)

Union Rags could wrap up the Juvenile title and Derby favoritism with a win here. It seems like anytime there is a two year colt that wins two or three big races in NY they are immediately shot to the front of every public handicapper's Derby list. They usually fall short of the Derby expectations. It happened to Uncle Mo and To Honor and Serve last year, Nobiz Like Shobiz years ago, and Doneraile Court around a decade ago. The last time a hyped NY juvenile won a triple crown race was 2004 when Birdstone upset the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones.

The Turf (Race 8)

The European invaders will all be bet here and Steven Crist is a big fan of the American turf runners entered. Of course the overseas counterparts have a great edge, they carry weight in the big races and all of their marquee events are on the lawn.

The Marathon (Race 3)
The Turf Sprint (Race 6)

These two categories are also my handicapping kryptonite.

22 October 2011

Finally Contessa Gets It Right

This race is the play of the day. Preachintothedevil finally cuts back to a dirt sprint. His biggest career win was in a dirt sprint. His highest career beyer fig was in a dirt sprint. His dam was the famous Grade I winning dirt sprinter Acey Deucey. So what does Contessa do with this crack sprinter? He runs him in grass routes, dirt routes, poly routes , turf sprints- with the way this guy has been handled I am surprised Contessa-San didn't enter him in a steeplechase. Finally he is entered in the right kind of race and he should give a true account of his skills today.

W #8 Preachintothedevil

ps. This is my first post after an extended hiatus from the game.

20 October 2011

They start with an advantage

It’s the end of October and that means two things. The first is that all of the important grade one races are over until the fourth of November and it is now time for the state breeding programs to shine. This upcoming Saturday is New York Showcase day and next week California bred runners take the spotlight. Last week Delaware and Thistledown showed off the best of their breeding programs from their states.

The fact of the matter is that while a lot of the state bred races from any track is usually impossible to scope at times, they serve a purpose of bringing in handle and filling the daily racing cards. Without the NY bred maiden special weight or first level allowance races that usually populate the weekday cards, NYRA would likely have to cutback racing dates due to the lack of races being filled. Not to go as far as using the term “necessary evil”, but these races usually serve a purpose on a daily basis.

In the instance of the showcase day cards, they usually are loaded cards with some decent fields. Not to mention the occasional horse on the rise that pop up once in a while. Funny Cide won the 2002 Sleepy Hollow and Haynesfield won the 2009 Empire Classic, the year after their victories were multiple graded stakes winners.

The state bred showcase days serve as a useful part of the racing landscape at this time of the year when the all stars of the sport converge on location, leaving the feeder tracks with little pull in the way of attention towards their racing product. The restricted state bred stakes races fill what would be a dead card with some interesting match-ups and provide some cover to what otherwise would be referred to as a barren part of the racing calendar.

17 October 2011

Get to know a BC prospect: The Southern California Roundup

Admittedly this site does not cover a lot of the news or horses that run on the opposite coast. It must be the three-hour time difference, general malaise towards the product offered at the three principal tracks, the two synthetic surfaces that are in place, the high takeout rates, or some combination of the four. Whatever the case may be, they do produce some decent runners for the big day much like the other major circuits do. A scouting report on the some of the big players coming to Louisville is in order.

Game On Dude

He is listed at 15/1 in the recent Breeders’ Cup write up for the Daily Racing Form. Seems a bit high even for a rough sketch on the contenders they list. Awesome Gem is the longest shot listed immediately after the Dude at 20/1. This one has been the hard trying type all year long and seems to favor dirt surfaces with two major wins over the Santa Anita surface. His early speed always puts him in contention and he could hang around for the finish if unattended and treated as cheap speed.

The Factor

It’s been an up and down year for this highly touted Baffert runner, after winning two straight grade two races he was defeated in the Arkansas Derby and laid up until the Pat O’Brien stakes where he defeated Smiling Tiger with weight concessions. The Ancient Title was a flat effort where he finished off the board causing high rolling show bettors to look for tall buildings and bridges. He is a Jekyll and Hyde horse if there ever was one, which one will show up on the first Saturday of November is anyone’s guess. Buyers beware.

Dubawi Heights

If Stacelita is at the top of the older filly grass ranks for the U.S. then this one is not far behind. They were one-two in their only meeting on a neutral site at Arlington Park and those two went on to win their next starts in easy fashion. The 11 furlongs of the distaff turf race will be a question mark for this one though as it will be her first trip going three turns and an eighth of a mile longer than she has ever gone in her career. Her rival Stacelita has already done the trip against colts in the United Nations back in July with a respectable third to show for it.

05 October 2011

Get to know a BC prospect: Jackson Bend

Likely race he will be entered in: Dirt Mile

Reports about the demise of his racing career have been greatly exaggerated. After brawling with the apex of his class throughout his three-year-old season and showing four in the money finishes out of eight starts with no wins it looked like he was burnt out. After a November to March freshening he had four starts down in Florida with the same results as his 2010 season. Then there was a sudden revival when he hit the track at Saratoga, two straight wins in convincing fashion.

Something broke him out of the malaise of his 0-12 skid that lasted from 2010 to 2011. Was it the fresh country air of Saratoga, the beautiful women who attend the races up there, the mineral rich spring water, or maybe a combination of any of these factors? No, it was the fact that he got back to what brought him to the dance. Sprint races got him noticed as a juvenile down at Calder and eventually led to the high profile acquisition by Robert LaPenta. In his most recent at Belmont, he had Uncle Mo by the collar at the top of the stretch before the big horse turned on the afterburners. The thought process now among the connections is that if he can run 7/8 of mile, he can run the flat mile, heck he almost circled a talented colt at the mile distance.

The Breeders Cup Sprint is a better option. The pace is usually hot enough for a closer like Jackson Bend to make a sustained bid and as mediocre as the middle distance dirt runners, the sprint division is doing its part in keeping pace in this category. The cutback from a mile to six furlongs is not without foundation either, Silver Train pulled off the feat back in 2005 by running in the mile Jerome Stakes and winning the Sprint later on. Some closers at the 7/8 distance look like they can get the extra 660 feet because of the explosive kick they have shown at the shorter distance. A good percentage of the time that is due to the pace at seven furlongs being hot and the horse getting on a roll at the right moment. The mile can be trickier; sometimes the pace does not develop and this leaves the closers behind the eight ball.

Jackson Bend is a better fit for the sprint based on the fact he has shown very little in the way of winning past the sprint distances. If he does go in the mile he will be an overbet option in a large field, not the type of preposition any gambler should make. If he goes in the Sprint he will one of a plethora of viable options to take down the jackpot and you may get a price on him. If Zito is a reader of this site then here is a bit of free advice, RUN JACKSON BEND IN THE SPRINT.

01 October 2011

He has Mo-mentum

Super Saturday was a formful day where the betting favorite took down four out of the six stakes races. Speed seemed best on the muddy dirt surface where most of the winners were either close to or on the the lead in the early stages.

Stacelita continued her superiority over her own gender on the turf. She will likely be a very well bet favorite for the Filly and Mare Turf off of this effort. How good is this filly? Dubawi Heights, the filly who ran second to Stacelita in the Beverly D. won the Yellow Ribbon a couple of hours later.

Cape Blanco has been racking up the frequent flier miles lately and Dean's Kitten almost took advantage of this. Dean's Kitten ran as a good a race as any of the other winners from today's card. The cross continental trips may be taking a toll Cape Blanco and if he goes in the BC Turf he could be a good play against.

Giant Ryan got to the front during the early stages and did not look back. As the old advertisement for the NY breds goes, "They start with an advantage.".

Uncle Mo loves Belmont and rolls into the Breeders' Cup with this zippy win. The connections of Uncle Mo are toying with the idea of going to the Classic if he did well in this race. It seems like a bad idea, Fusaichi Pegasus tried to the mile stretch out to the classic with no success and Mo seems to thrive at the one turn mile. He could be the first horse to win two different BC races either way, might as well try it in a spot he does well in.

Jackson Bend made a nice run at the winner at the top of the stretch, he has matured into a decent long sprinter. The spot I would run him in off of this race is the BC Sprint, the Dirt Mile may be an 1/8 beyond his best distance and he has not attempted the six furlong distance in quite a while. It may be worth a shot to run in the Sprint.

Havre de Grace won the Beldame with ease and she looked the part of a champion every step of the way through this race. With Blind Luck's loss in the Lady's Secret, her arch rival Havre de Grace edges that much closer to her hopes at Horse of the Year honors.

LinkFlat Out made it two for two over the Belmont dirt with his victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Stay Thirsty made a run at the winner, but it was too late. Drosselmeyer ran a nice effort to grab the place spot by making up ground in the last eighth of a mile, this effort could set him up well for the BC Marathon.

27 September 2011

Get to know a BC prospect: To Honor and Serve

The Breeders’ Cup is a double-edged sword, what it offers in deep fields with an inordinate amount of quality horse flesh also takes away from other tracks due to trainers meticulously planning their schedules around having their horses ready for the big day. That being said it does help to scout and assess the top prospects leading up to the two days. Much like what we did for the lead up to the Kentucky Derby, we will do a series on these runners in their march towards November. Time to better get to know a Breeder’s Cup prospect.

Likely race he will be entered in: Classic

What’s old is new, back in the spring this Mott runner was not up to the rigors of the Triple Crown series and much like fellow juvenile superstar Uncle Mo he missed the big dance completely. Whatever problems he had are behind him after two straight authoritative wins at two turns going nine furlongs. Stamina for the mile and a quarter journey that he will likely embark on should not be a problem with Bernardini as the sire and the dam's sire being Deputy Minister.

With three races from the span of August 1st to September 24th and two wins to show from it, one being a win in the Pennsylvania Derby it is hard not say he is in top physical shape right now. The Classic has had its share of three-year-old colts take down the big prize. Curlin, Tiznow, and Concern come to mind; what is a recurring trait among them is that they put in strong efforts in their races leading up to the big day.

In To Honor and Serve’s Saratoga romp, his early pace figures against the adjusted average calls were twelve and eleven lengths faster than par and his speed figure was eight lengths faster when he was clear and coasting home. His biggest advantage may not be on pace and speed figures either, he was sidelined during the big three races in the spring. Now he is back as a fresh runner while the rest of his class has been butting heads for the past couple of months. If he remains sound and sharp he will be a dangerous runner on the big day of racing.

03 September 2011

Grace Under Pressure

The last Saturday at Saratoga featured three grade one races, all with varying degrees of importance now that the calender has turned to September. The highlight of the day being Havre De Grace's attempt at beating the older colts.

The Personal Ensign was rescheduled from August 27th to this Saturday due to inclement weather. It didn't make a difference to Ask The Moon, who swept the distaff races at Saratoga with a wire to wire win. With the older filly division depleted beyond the top two (Blind Luck and Havre De Grace) and the three year old females yet to take on their elders, it should be an interesting set of fall races.

Jackson Bend spent last year chasing some of the better runners of his generation with nothing to show for it other than a few tough beats. What a difference a year makes, the sprint division is anyone's for the taking and his win in the Forego puts him squarely in the lead group of contenders for champion sprinter. The last few seasons the Forego has served as a highly important race earmarked by Midnight Lute and Big Drama winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint after a start in the Forego.

Rachel Alexandra used the Woodward as the end to a perfect season and Horse of the Year honors, this year Havre De Grace is trying the same path to the eclipse awards. Tracking Rule most of the way and being asked for run during the stretch when needed she was an authoritative winner. The race in all likelihood did not take as much energy out of the victor as it did Rachel Alexandra two years ago, Rachel was on the lead the whole way and had to fight off a few late challengers in order to stay perfect for the year. Havre De Grace avoided any dirt in the face and took a wide trip sweeping by Rule with ease, there is probably enough left in the proverbial tank for one more race before the end of the year. The prospectus of the colts and geldings aiming for the classic is not an imposing bunch, so it may be worth it for Havre De Grace to take another shot at the males in the Breeders' Cup Classic. She has already showed an ability to go the distance and that is half the battle in the Classic.

01 September 2011

Tale of the Tape, Uncle Mo vs. Stay Thirsty

After this past weekend where Mike Repole’s two stars represented his stable very well, it seems like all the talk is about Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. Andy Beyer made it the subject of his Wednesday piece in the Daily Racing Form and Stay Thirsty was the cover story on the Saratoga Special on the same day. Pletcher mentioned in passing after the events of the weekend his intention of not having his two champions not being in the same race during the fall. It only seems fair to match these two up in the way boxers are sized up before a prizefight in the tale of the tape.

Major NY Stakes wins
Uncle Mo: Champagne Stakes
Stay Thirsty: Gotham, Jim Dandy, and Travers
Edge: Thirsty, he is truly NY’s horse. It should be noted due to my general laziness that I am shortening up the names to Mo and Thirsty from this point forward.

Eclipse Awards
Mo: King of the Juvenile colts
Thirsty: Zero
Edge: Mo, there is no such thing as a cheap shot in this venue.

Starts in the 2011 Triple Crown
Mo: Zero
Thirsty: Two
Edge: Thirsty, what goes around comes around.

Powercap Nickname
Mo: Mr. Softee
Thirsty: No nickname given
Edge: Mo, to jest is to care. In hindsight we should have given a nickname to every starter in the Triple Crown series this year. Live and learn.

Respective Performances on August 27th
Mo: Photo finish loss after a five-month layoff with noted medical issues
Thirsty: Won the Travers
Edge: Push, if Mo had the benefit of a race before the King’s Bishop and a bit more in the way of works before the month of July he may have won that race.

Going Forward
Mo: Pennsylvania Derby? Vosburgh? Jockey Club Gold Cup? Who knows?
Thirsty: The main goal in all likeliness in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Edge: Thirsty, a defined course is better than being adrift at sea with no direction.

Beyer Speed Figure
Mo: 106
Thirsty: 101
Edge: Mo, even in defeat he puts up a lot of heat. He probably is a better one-turn runner than a router as well.

This is getting tiresome, after seven rounds of conjecture it is all tied up at 3-3 with one push. Well, this didn’t solve anything at all. Might as well have them run against each other at some point in the near future.

28 August 2011

End of the season shuffle

Another grade one race for three year old colts and yet another winner to join the crowded club for 2011. With the Travers having the distinction of being the last grade one on the books exclusively for the sophomore class and no one creating some distance from the competition, it will be a mad scramble to the end of the year to decide the championships. In this case chaos is good. Uncle Mo did not win the King’s Bishop and if anything may be back for a shot at redemption at four years old, seeing how his three-year-old season has turned into a wash. Shackleford was less than a length away from clinching the division title back on July 31st and now is back in a tie with the rest of the division. Stay Thristy is the resurgent force of the division with two recent wins and was a close second in the Belmont. With the magic number set at two grade one wins, the whole lot is stuck at one.

The parity trend is not isolated to the three-year-old males, the filly counterparts went from a division that was It’s Tricky’s to capture back into a group that any able bodied filly can win if they get on a hot streak. Turbulent Descent probably benefits the most from last week’s upheaval, as she is a multiple graded stakes winner this year. She may only need the rest of the division to trade off victories or loses to the older fillies in the fall stakes races and a Breeders’ Cup win in order to clinch. It’s Tricky remains closer to the honors than the rest of the fillies and a win against older fillies would likely grab the title.

Tizway is the default leader of the older males with wins in the Met Mile and Whitney, one more grade one and he gets the trophy with little resistance. The rest of the elder colts and geldings in that group are a jumbled mess and wins by a combination of any of them probably won’t do much to uproot the current leader.

The horse of the year championship is a four-way race at this point. Cape Blanco has two major victories stateside and a third one could get him the nod. Tizway will probably need one or two more major victories. Then there is the predicament of Havre De Grace and Blind Luck.

These two fillies have faced off against each other throughout various points in the past two years and have traded decisions with a narrow margin of victory almost every time. Havre De Grace is on target for the Woodward this upcoming Saturday at Saratoga and Havre De Grace has two races left on the schedule for the remainder of the season. If Havre De Grace wins against the males and it is a taxing effort like the one Rachel Alexandra put forth in her conquest of this race the important question is do you put her away for the year or squeeze one more race out of her for the year? Blink Luck could run the table and easily take the Horse of the Year honors away for Havre De Grace.

It is unprecedented that a filly or mare has won the Horse of the Year honors for three straight seasons and it may happen this year with the way the division races have shaped up. While horses trading decisions for the past eight months is not the most thrilling of things to follow throughout the year, it does provide for an interesting finish to a season filled with parity.

27 August 2011

A photo finish is worth three words

18 August 2011

Where’s the media circus?

It’s Tricky is in a position to sweep a prestigious series of three races that has been a staple of North American racing for the past 54 years, the Triple Tiara. A horse has not swept the three race series since its “classic” configuration back in 1993 when Sky Beauty won the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks. The list of fillies that have done this feat reads as a veritable all-star team of hall of fame inductees Dark Mirage, Shuvee, Chris Evert, Ruffian, Dovona Dale, Mom’s Command, Open Mind, and Sky Beauty. The question worth asking is why isn’t It’s Tricky getting more mainstream coverage? Any time a male counterpart captures the Derby and Preakness, there is a media circus surrounding the final leg of the Triple Crown.

The short answer to the question above is it’s tricky. The long answer is that in the past eight years they have had three different configurations to the series. 2002 played out the string of 45 years of consistent scheduling for the classic series. In 2003 the Alabama was placed in the set displacing the Acorn and a bonus of two million dollars was put in place for anyone who won all three races, that bonus lasted until 2005 with no one grabbing the brass ring. From 2007 to 2009, the series returned to its original alignment. The most recent incarnation of the series started last year with two out of three of the races being held at Saratoga the Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama.

The changes made to the series combined with the lack of incentives to run the table has hurt the series. The Triple Tiara starts on the Belmont Stakes day or after it depending on the version you are looking at, not exactly a way that the casual betting public will latch on to the event. On Wikipedia in the Triple Tiara article there is mention of a national racing series for three years old fillies:
“In recent years, many owners and trainers of fillies have submitted proposals to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to change the three races that compose the Triple Tiara. Although a great deal of prestige is attached to winning one or more of the current Triple Tiara races, all three are held at the same track at Belmont Park in the New York City area, because of this, the series is skewed to fillies that race in the northeast. Some from outside the area even modify the name of the series by calling it the "New York Triple Tiara."

Several options of races have been suggested to compose the "National Triple Tiara." The most popular proposal of races to compose a "Triple Tiara" series are The Kentucky Oaks, run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky; The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland; and The Acorn Stakes, run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. A second proposal has been to use the Kentucky Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the Mother Goose Stakes. This version would allow more time for fillies to recuperate between races. Using the Mother Goose would also allow the NYRA to keep its three races in place as its own series without interfering with the three National races.

These races in the most popular proposal are near equal distance to their Triple Crown counterparts except for the Acorn, which is at a distance of one mile as opposed to the Belmont's mile-and-a-half distance. This series is thought to be a better choice for the Triple Tiara series, seeing that the three races are considered the most popular races for fillies. Each race receives considerable national network coverage, as it is run within 24 hours of the marquee event at each track.”
The idea I have for changing the series would fall under the same type of guise with the Kentucky Oaks leading off and the Mother Goose in the mix. Where I vary is including the Coaching Club American Oaks in the series. Having the Black Eyed Susan would be too close to the Oaks and if the Oaks winner does not win the race in Pimlico, they will likely skip the Acorn or Belmont in preparation for the Saratoga meet. The same could be said for the winner of the Black Eyed Susan going forward. My version of the Series would be the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks with some monetary bonus to any filly that can sweep the series. A bonus to a points leader if at the end of the three races like they used to have with the Chrysler Triple Crown Bonus would be awarded as well. The races would be roughly a month apart and would have a race on Derby weekend and one at Saratoga, plenty of spacing between starts and top notch venues throughout the series; the best of both worlds.

The colts and geldings have the traditional three races in five weeks that captures the attention of the racing and sports public, the fillies should have something like this to showcase the best of their generation. Changing the Triple Crown would be near sacrilege at this point and the money in breeding and seven figure purses are more than enticing to the connections of the three years old colts and geldings participating. The good thing about starting up a three year old filly series now is a clean slate on which you can create a set of races that will have large competitive fields with no excuse outside of injury for all capable fillies to run in.

11 August 2011

No surprise here

Santa Anita is getting the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, Mike Repole and Steven Crist are upset about this. As Crist points out, this will be the third time in five years that southern California track has hosted the event. What he failed to pointed out is the ten year gap that Santa Anita did not host the event from 1993 to 2003 and in a ten year span from 1995 to 2005 Belmont Park played host three times. What comes around goes around.

It seems as though Breeders’ Cup officials have been leery of having the two-day race card at an East Coast racetrack since the weekend deluge that befell Monmouth Park in 2007 and the tragic breakdown of George Washington that occurred in the Classic. Weather on the Atlantic side of the country in the fall has been hit or miss at it’s best, it is chilly and dry or chilly and raining. The West Coast is attractive to the owners because of the warm weather and lack of rain in the area during that time of the year. It is the same reason that owners will probably continue to choose sending horse down to Gulfstream over Aqueduct even after the purses are increased with the slot machines opening soon. Kentucky is the other default choice because the breeders can show off their breeding stock around the same time there is an auction at Keeneland.

The New York Racing Association released its fall and winter stakes schedule on Wednesday. The most noticeable of the changes to the schedule is the Nashua and Tempted stakes being moved to Belmont in early October. The pair of juvenile stakes races are now at the sprint distance of six furlongs so it can be used as prep races for the newly created Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Once again NYRA has to bend its schedule to the will of the Breeders’ Cup, last year the Kelso Stakes was moved to the dirt at the mile distance as a prep race for the Dirt Mile. This took away from the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which Tizway competed in the year before and probably would have entered in again along with Regal Ransom and Mythical Power. Instead of a six horse Jockey Club Gold Cup, it would have been a nine-horse field at the minimum.

The New York Racing Association used to have one of, if not the best stakes schedule out of all the North American racetrack circuits. The Breeders’ Cup has taken away from NYRA and other racetracks in the name of the prep for the big payday. Not only that, but they also have specialized every division by bumping the event to two days and 15 races, when it used to be seven races in one day. The Breeders’ Cup has become an unwieldy beast that feasts off of other racetracks for their product.

05 August 2011

Grade 1 double dip

The Test and Whitney Stakes are the featured attractions as races nine and ten on the Saturday card. Both have a solid group of runners entered to run and very little in the way of toss out runners. In other words, these are two really good betting races.

Test Stakes

The early pace of the Prioress Stakes back on July 4th was white hot and set up for the likes of Pomeroys Pistol and Her Smile to finish 1-2. Without the likes of Alienation and Quantum Miss entered in here, it could give Roman Treasure the chance to get away to a comfortable early lead.

It goes without saying that the Acorn has developed into a key race, the winner went on to capture the Coaching Club American Oaks and Her Smile won the Prioress off of this race. California invader Turbulent Descent was a sixty five cents on the dollar favorite in this race and will undoubtedly take a lot of money here too. Leaving her out of the various multiple race wagers would be a mistake.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 3
Exacta Box 3/6-7-8
Daily Double (linking races 9 and 10) 3-6/3-4-6-10-11

Whitney Invitational Handicap

The older male division reflects the three year old division, that is to say it is a wide open mess with everyone staking a claim that their steed is the best of the generation. That is why there are 11 runners assembled for the 84th running of this prestigious race won by greats such as Alydar, Personal Ensign, and Easy Goer.

The Stephen Foster already produced one winner in a graded stakes race in NY when Flat Out decimated a field of six in the Suburban. Giant Oak, Mission Impazible, Apart, and Duke of Mischief all exit this race. Mission Impazible was hung wide out of post 11 and up on the early pace throughout only lose by a neck to a longshot. Mission Impazible's best races are the 9 furlong distance, his recent works look good, the connections are hot, and he has tactical speed to sit off the early pace to make a run.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 6
Exacta Box 6/3-4-10-11

31 July 2011

Like fine wine

Race 8 on the Monday card is the Amsterdam Stakes. To Honor and Serve is making his comeback after a pair of dull efforts down in Florida before getting derailed from the Derby trail. If he performs decently he is on his way to the Travers, time has not run out on trying claim the three year old championship title. After said dull efforts down at Gulfstream, it hard to play him coming back at the demanding 6 1/2 furlong distance that this race is scheduled to go.

After two good efforts at Saratoga Wine Police was on the shelf from early September to late June. He made his return a winning one over entry level allowance foes at this distance. With only three starts to his name, he has every right to improve.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 3

30 July 2011

Sue Me

Last week the Coaching Club American Oaks was the featured stakes race, a transplanted race from the Spring/Summer meet of Belmont. This week the featured transplant race is the Ruffian Invitational Handicap. The former spot for this prestigious race was part of the fall championship meet at Belmont and it replaced the Go For Wand, another race named after an ill fated filly. This race is the ninth race on the card and has a spread open field. It looks like a good spot for a price play.

Tiz Miz Sue ran against the extremely talented Havre De Grace last out down in Deleware only getting two pounds from the big filly. She ran admirably in defeat coming from last in a short field to fall only 2-1/4 lengths short, in the Ruffian she will be carrying only 115 pounds before the program changes. Getting a six pound relief from that last effort make the difference in this competitive field.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 7

29 July 2011


Will's Wildcat was scratched out of the Curlin stakes for a chance at the $500,000 purse of the Jim Dandy, which will go off as race ten of an eleven race card that has two other stakes races carded. This card is loaded with ripe betting opportunities. The Jim Dandy has the second and third place finishers from the Belmont Stakes, the Dwyer winner, and the Peter Pan victor. On the surface this race looks like a tough spot for any outsider; but considering the disarray that the three year old colt division is in, it is a good idea to shop around for a price.

Will's Wildcat has run consistently well on dirt and his turf form only serves to darken that form. His final time on April 30th was 13 lengths faster than par for the distance and his latest performance was fast early and fast late. Scotus seems to be steadily improving and has every right to move forward here. Moonshine Mullin tries dirt for the first time and has posted five works since his June 12th win including a bullet on July 23rd.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 5
Exacta Box 1,4,5

28 July 2011

Sunset Action

The Friday card is one of two sunset racing cards scheduled for the meet. There should be more scheduled throughout the year because of a consistent trend of higher attendance and handle, but that is neither here or there. The seventh race is the Curlin Stakes, for three year olds which have not won a graded sweepstakes over a mile. In recent years this restricted race has produced a Travers runner or two, so this race is worth following for that fact alone.

The name horse entered here is Prime Cut, who ran in the Belmont, Peter Pan, and Lexington Stakes. This horse is almost always there and with a record of six out of eight in the money finishes for his career and he has every right to win here. Racing against the speed bias on Belmont Stakes day worked against him as well.

With that being said, Will's Wildcat is worth a look here. He is coming off of two decent performances; he had a wide post, was on the pace, and stayed on until the finish. If he can continue this string of sharp performances he could make some noise here. Turbo Compressor is worth using in the exotics as well after finishing third against Pants On Fire in the Pegasus last out.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 6
Exacta Box 6/2,4

27 July 2011

When in doubt, go for the shipper

Zero for four with one scratch so far in picking the feature from the spa, something has got to give here. For the second straight day the stakes race is not the penultimate race on the card, it is the seventh race and it kicks off the pick four. The first leg of the pick four usually is a maiden race, the stakes race kicking off a pick four is a rare occurrence.

Fudgesicle is the Delaware Park invader entered in the Quick Call stakes. In his last four races he has been in front at the first call, the trainer is 61% in the money when saddling a horse for a non graded stakes, and Fudgesicle has finished in the money in all five of his career starts. Considering the fact that the NY based runners entered here have not run all that great on the pace and speed figures, it is worth a shot to take look elsewhere.

Wagering Strategy:
Win, Place 10

26 July 2011

Pletcher parade marches on

Race eight is the featured Grade 2 Lake George scheduled for turf and Winter Memories is probably going off the short favorite. Unlike Overdriven on Sunday, this horse can be beat. Celestial Kitten was placed in the Sands Point against Winter Memories and came back to lose as a lukewarm favorite in a listed stakes at the beginning of July. The closing figure on Winter Memories last race came back a length slower than the average for the distance as well.

Pletcher has a live one in here (no surprise there), More Than Real defeated the aforementioned favorite back in November and the connections swung for the fences at the prestigious Ascot meet to no avail. The trainer tries a more conventional spot and she posted a win over the course last year. She may provide some value as a second choice if the chalk players go wild on Winter Memories here.

Wagering Strategy:
Win 6

24 July 2011

He's got them right where he wants them

Stormy's Majesty is one for three so far this year heading into the Evan Shipman Stakes, both of his losses coming in the deep end of the pool in the Met Mile and a listed turf stakes race. When this horse faces NY bred company he turns into a beast. Last year at Saratoga he won the Albany over Ibboyee after losing by a wide margin in the Jim Dandy, he bounces back from losses in good order. His main competition up front is Spa City Fever, who is coming off of a flashy performance in the Noble Nashua at Belmont. Get your popcorn ready, this should be a good one.

23 July 2011

History repeating itself?

The Sanford is the Sunday featured stakes race and Pletcher will probably sweep the juvenile stakes races this weekend. Overdriven ran a very fast race first out and the rest of the field has run decently, but nothing spectacular. With speed being the dominant force at Saratoga the place to search for a viable longshot for exotics and a possible upset is on the front end.

Back in the 2006 edition of the Sanford Pletcher had the big favorite Scat Daddy. Scat Daddy was put to the test by the maiden entrant Teuflesberg that day. The maiden entrant that looks interesting in this year's running is Moonrush. He has the possibility of getting out early and staying around for the latter part of the running.

Wagering strategy:
Exacta 6/2
Win, Place 2

Redeeming Value

The Coaching Club American Oaks is the feature for the Saturday program and despite not drawing a large field, it is a talented group. Each entrant has won a grade two or better and the longest shot on the morning line is 6-1. Royal Delta is the likely favorite here after a convincing victory in the Black Eyed Susan. In the Black Eyed Susan she had a favorable setup with the pace setter (Hot Summer) stretching out to two turns, the probable pace setter here seems to be a tougher opponent though.

Plum Pretty had two factors going against her last out, a six pound weight shift in favor of Zazu and she was under the weather in the days leading up to the race. Also, she has shown more of an affinity for the dirt surfaces than the Hollywood synthetic surface. When she is on her A game, she is a very fast filly that is hard to catch.

Joyful Victory ran on the same day Plum Pretty did last out and also burnt money that same day. The Jones trained filly had to switch from a ground saving rail trip to a wide move at Belmont in order to get racing room and by the time she was straightened out, the race was over. In the Kentucky Oaks she had a trouble line as well, Joyful Victory showed considerable talent at Oaklawn during the winter and was sent off a 2-1 favorite in The Oaks due to this. She has been in the money in five out of her seven starts, to leave her off any exotic wager with the possibility of her being the longest shot on the board is ludicrous.

Wagering Strategy:

Win 2
Exacta Box 2,3

21 July 2011

The heat is on

It’s going to be a scorcher for the Friday opening at Saratoga, that is if they don’t cancel the card. There are two stakes races scheduled, the James Marvin Stakes (Race 8) and the grade three Schuylerville Stakes (Race 9). The James Marvin is for three and up going seven furlongs, it is quite a nice field assembled for a listed stakes race. Jackson Bend, Aikenite (Churhill Downs S. G2 winner), Here Comes Ben (Forego S. G1 winner), D’Funnybone (multiple graded stakes winner), Caixa Electronica (Westchester S. G3 winner), and Jersey Town (Cigar Mile H. G1 winner) are entered for this race. In 2009 Pyro used this race as a stepping stone towards a win in the Forego, chances are good that a few horses entered here will run next out in the Forego.

Caixa Electronica ran an incredibly fast race early and late en route to a victory two back in the Westchester. Other than that big effort, he has run lights out against allowance fields and average against stakes company. With the Pletcher-Repole Stable connections he is sure to take his fair share of action, it probably is worthwhile to shop around for a price here. Jersey Town has not been seen since his 34-1 upset in the Cigar Mile and is capable of putting up some good early speed that could separate himself from the rest of the field early. He has shown steady works since June 7th, posting six workouts since that point including a six furlong breeze five days ago and a 59 2/5 bullet for five furlongs on July 2nd. The wide post should not be a problem with the early speed he displayed late last year and he has shown that he can run well despite a wide trip.

Jackson Bend may be 0-12 in the last two years, but he has a way of sneaking into the exactas and should be used here. Aikenite has three of his five wins at 7/8 of a mile and will be around at the end. D’ Funnybone ran well two back and has had some extra time off from his last effort, which looks like a throwaway performance.

Wagering strategy:

Win, Place 11
Exacta Box 11/3,7
Exacta 3,7,9,11/2

19 July 2011

Next Stop: Saratoga

Six weeks of racing at Saratoga Springs starts this Friday after what felt like an eternity of a meet at Belmont following the Independence Day weekend blowout cards. Having a winning Saratoga meet is akin to winning a batting title in baseball or a major in golf; it is tough, it has been done before, and doing so deserves some kind of commemoration or plaque of some type. As it is every year, the juvenile races and stakes races are the feature attractions of the meet.

Juvenile Junction

The two-year-old maiden and stakes races are an integral part of the summer meet. Classy debut starters and Pletcher entries are seemingly in each event. One of Pletcher’s main charges for the meet is Overdriven, each call in his debut was faster than the last and he was 16 ½ lengths in front of the show runner Big Creek in his debut. J C’s Pride was second in that race and was in front of the Pletcher stable star for the first half mile of that race and his turn time was five lengths faster than the normal for the five furlong distance.

Over at Churchill there was a maiden race on July 2nd that was faster than average for the 4-½ furlong distance. She Digs Me and Next Right Thing battled down to the finish with She Digs Me getting the better of her inexperienced rival, they were eight lengths in front of the third place finisher. She Digs Me will likely start in one of the stakes races for the colts and Next Right Thing will likely start in a maiden race up at the Spa.

Born Bullish ran off the page in her first start, winning by nine lengths. The comments read,”…moved up willingly towards the front runners unasked for speed, drew along side MISS POSSE midway on the turn, bided her time before moving past that rival to take over under her own courage…”. The danger with betting a two-year-old filly coming off of a big win is the possible bounce that takes place from that last effort though.

The Futurity and Matron were moved from their traditional spots on the fall championship meet to early July, setting up these two races as preps for the according Saratoga stakes races. That being said, the Futurity winner Jack’s On Deck and Matron winner Millionreasonswhy may be in tougher in their next starts at Saratoga, their pace and speed figures were no better than average for the six furlong distance. Churchill juvenile stakes winners Exfactor (Bashford Manor, colts) and Flashy Lassie (Debutante, fillies) was no better on the same measures.

Tizway we go

On May 30 Tizway was the winner of the Met Mile with the scintillating final time of 1:32.9 for one mile. On further review, that race was too good to be true. The variant for that race was one; the average variant for the one turn mile at Belmont is a 21. In other words, the surface was extremely fast that day. Rodman did very little in his next start in the Suburban Handicap as the even money favorite. Tizway is supposed to make his next start in the Whitney, buyers beware.

Street Game wired the field in the Hill Prince back on June 18, defeating Virginia Derby winner Air Support by open lengths. Street Game ran an impressive closing fraction that was one of the better efforts put forth at a mile race on the outer turf course. The speed figure was eight lengths faster than average as well. Over that speed favoring turf course upstate, he could easily wire a field or two if left to his own devices.

The Dwyer Stakes will likely produce a few starters for the Jim Dandy and Haskell, the race was not all that fast though. It was six lengths slow at the half, ten lengths slow at the three-quarters mark, and eight lengths slow at the finish. The winner and runner-up will more than likely be overbet in their next start.

26 June 2011

Life after the Triple Crown

It has been two weeks since the last jewel of the elusive Triple Crown and what do you know, there is still racing going on. The three-year-old division, which has been the focal point of the first six months of the year, is still wide open. So are the less recognized divisions, which up to this point is every other division going.

Older Males, Turf

Paddy O’Prado was one of the best of the turf division last year and made a promising return with a victory in the Dixie, he was injured shortly after the finish of that race though. Gio Ponti made his stateside return on Belmont Stakes day in the Manhattan and the boggy turf, not one of his better surfaces, did him in. Since his 2009 championship season it looks like he has lost a bit of his closing kick that strung together four straight grade one victories. Winchester is yet to race this year as well; he won two important grade one races last year and could be a player if he returns to action this year.

Over on the West Coast Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus were in some tight heats over the course of the last few months and will probably be the standard bearers for the West Coast contingents. Acclamation recently repeated the Charlie Whittingham/Jim Murray Handicap double that he accomplished in 2010, after that point last year his form dropped off dramatically. It remains to be seen if he can hold up his form this time around.

Older Females, Turf

Late last year this division was peppered with longshot winners, Shared Account by way of her upset win in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf is the division leader. It is a tenuous lead though, if any filly can go on a hot streak in the next few months they got the division clinched.


The colts and geldings side of this division is extremely deep, Apriority was competitive versus the top echelon of the division in his two tries and was done in by a dead rail in the Churchill Downs Handicap. Morning Line won his only sprint effort this year, the Carter and should be kept at the seven furlong or six furlong tests if the connections like the winner’s circle.

Big Drama is taking an extended break after a stakes win at Gulfstream in January and his connections are aiming for a stakes race or two at Saratoga before trying to win back to back renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Trappe Shot won the True North by open lengths, in the race before that he faced Rule By Night who ran some big races the previous year and could be a decent under the radar horse for the upcoming stakes races.

On the filly and mare side of the spectrum, it looks like Hilda’s Passion is the filly to catch. She has run consistently fast races so far this year. Unless there is a fleet three year old filly out there, it looks she will have it her own way for the rest of the year.


Last year Havre De Grace and Blind Luck faced off four times, Blind Luck was ahead of Havre De Grace in three of those encounters with the average winning margin being a quarter of a length. This year in their only meeting Havre De Grace was three lengths clear of her rival at Oaklawn in the Azeri. Blind Luck has gotten back to her winning ways recently with victories in the La Troienne and the Vanity Handicap.

Awesome Maria is perfect in four starts this year, but the fields she has faced so far this year have been less than stellar. Her win in the Shuvee Handicap was over a surface that was faster than normal as well. She will likely be over bet when she has to face some of tougher competition.

The three-year-old section of this division is another wide-open division. Three returnees from the Kentucky Oaks run yesterday and one was victorious, Zazu. Plum Pretty was supposed to run in the Mother Goose and came down with a fever so instead she was entered in the Hollywood Oaks. Zazu was in the Hollywood Oaks as well and benefited from a four-pound weight shift on Plum Pretty. Joyful Victory was the heavy favorite in the Mother Goose and disappointed her backers. Buster’s Ready benefited from an inside trip and posted a four-length victory in the Mother Goose after facing Royal Delta in the Black Eyed Susan. Much like the male counterparts, the title will likely come down to the last few major races left.

Older Males

With the retirements of Lookin At Lucky and Blame from last year, this division is will be a battle royale down to the end. Last week Pool Play came from out of the clouds to capture the Stephen Foster at 36-1, Apart won the William Donald Schaeffer on the Preakness undercard, and First Dude won the Alysheba on the Kentucky Oaks under card. From the looks of it, if Zenyatta was to come out of retirement to avenge her Classic defeat from last year, it would not be a tough task to pull off. The same theory would go for Lookin At Lucky as well.

Parity in the divisions is not all terrible though, it certainly makes things more interesting from this point on with each race increasing in importance and the chances of a nice payoff on a strong opinion of these races very likely as well. With the Versus channel showing the premier events from Saratoga and the chances of some very crucial races to be run, this can be seen as a boost to a sport that could use all the help it can get.

18 June 2011

Add another one to the books

Time for more saturation of the already over populated two day and now 15 race Breeders Cup program. The new race on the schedule is the Juvenile Sprint that is open to the colts, geldings, and fillies. It also carries a $500,000 purse which doubles or triples all other juvenile races around that time period including the Iroquois and Pocahontas from Churchill and the already depleted stakes races of the Nashua and Tempted stakes from Aqueduct. Thus drawing away from even more stakes races run in the fall. This isn’t even the interesting part of the story; there were two remarks that were made that stuck out from this stub of an article.

“A six furlong sprint race for Juveniles has the potential to provide highly competitive fields in this new division.”
-David Willmot

“In discussions with horsemen on selecting a new race, an overwhelming majority requested that we add a Juvenile Sprint to the Championships program. There are a number of talented 2-year-old sprinters around the world who are not suited or may not be ready to run the two turns at 1 1/16 miles of the Juvenile or Juvenile Fillies in early November. The Juvenile Sprint provides horsemen with an alternative.”
-Clem Murphy

First off the comment by Mr. Willmot, the juvenile division is just the juvenile division. There was no split between the sprinters and routers at this point like their older counterparts featured in the other races. Most of the races around this point in the year are seven furlongs or longer as well, there is very little in the way of established sprint races for the newly minted thoroughbred runners. NYRA used to have a pair of sprint races that they ran in October called the Cowdin and Astarita; they were discontinued due to the Breeder’s Cup and a lack of entries. Do you know what this race will feature? Mostly horses that just broke their maidens and are Breeders’ Cup nominated. More than likely it will be a highly pursed n1x allowance.

Murphy mentioned that there is a group of juveniles that are not ready to go two turns or the 8-½ furlongs that the two mainstay juvenile races are established at. Doesn’t that apply to 90% of the horse population at this point their career anyway? Even the established routers from late in the season last year turned into busts this year Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, and Awesome Feather did not transfer their form to this year after showing two turn prowess last year. Two out of the last three Derby winners were turf or synthetic winners as two-year-olds in addition to this. If distance were such an issue it would make more sense to shorten the big two back to a one-turn mile or seven furlongs. The 7/8 of a mile distance seems to be a stretch for most of the horses entered in the two mainstay juvenile races anyway.

Lastly, the two day 15 race mega-card of the Breeders’ Cup probably has a few too many races. The Marathon was added as a way to “encourage” racetracks to add long distance races to their programs. From the looks of it, the effort made by racing secretaries is minimal. There is little in the way of recognizable long distance races outside of the Brooklyn and the Greenwood Cup Handicap. If there was any kind of effort put in by the major tracks there would be at least two competitive options a month for runners at this distance. This race is seen as an afterthought where a trainer will throw a runner if they ran good in a lesser prep or were beaten badly in one of the major preps. Back in 2005 there were only eight races featuring the best of the best, an overload of races and a burnout of the races that act as preps for the big day have diluted the Breeders’ Cup program. Adding even more races will not fix this problem.

12 June 2011

A Sea Of Slop

For the first time since 2003 the Belmont Stakes card was contested in the mud. Bad weather and longshots won the day. Only one of the six betting favorites won and it was Trappe Shot in convincing fashion. Otherwise, if you bet against the public, you made out well for the day.

The Acorn was a prelude of what was to come with the odds-on Turbulent Descent going down in defeat to It's Tricky, who was coming off of a wide journey in the Florida Oaks against the classy R Heat Lightning. Turbulent Descent was three lengths behind the winner and ten lengths in front of the show runner. It should be noted the the dirt strip had a pronounced speed bias just from the first glance at the full charts as well.

The True North was all Trappe Shot, chances are there will be a race between Big Drama and Trappe Shot in the near future at Saratoga. Below is the last point in the race that anyone was close to the winner.

Justin Phillip was up against the class of his division for the first four months of the year facing Mucho Macho Man, Vengeful Wildcat, Adios Charlie, and Astrology in graded stakes action. So far the Jerome has been an effective key race with Astrology finishing third in the Preakness and Adios Charlie getting nipped in the Peter Pan. This race was beaten up a little bit with the scratches of the royally bred Bold Warrior and Little Drama, reducing the field to five runners.

The two grade one turf races had two things in common, the winner was no worse than first at any point in the race and they were both tote board busting winners. C.S. Silk had a career resume that had a place finish in grade one company last year at Keeneland chasing home the dominant Proviso, yesterday she took advantage of a paceless race and wired the field.

Mission Approved is an incredible story when you look at his record, his most recent effort was July 18, 2010 where he almost upset Gio Ponti and before that mostly placings in NY bred stakes company with a win against $40,000 claimers to his credit. Gio Ponti has had a bad history on less than firm turf, he has lost twice as a favorite to two massive longshots. Before today, he lost the 2009 Turf Classic to Interpatation after holding a slim lead in the stretch on a soft surface.

Speed ruled the mile and a half races for the weekend at Belmont. Ruler On Ice was up close to Shackleford early and had enough left in reserve to hold off Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed to cap off a longshot laden series of three year old stakes races. Animal Kingdom encountered a bad trip from the starting bell and never got closer than fourth after a sustained drive from the half mile pole to the eighth pole. It remains to be seen how much the triple crown has taken out of the main players as well. Shackleford gave his all and was done in the stretch with just enough out finish Animal Kingdom. Mucho Macho Man was a non factor from the mile marker to the finish line finishing 24 1/4 lengths behind the upset winner.

All Mott, All The Time

The Friday before the Belmont was Mott's day to reign supreme in the two featured stakes races. Courageous Cat had no problem coming back from the October layoff and chasing down the loose on the lead Yield Bogey. Courageous Cat was second in the 2009 Breeder's Cup Mile to the legendary mare Goldikova and since then has only seen competition four times including Friday's victory. If this horse can keep it together, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

The Brooklyn Handicap was Drosselmeyer's attempt at winning both mile and a half stakes races offered for the Belmont meet. It was not to be, as the uncoupled Mott entry Birdrun led the field of five wire to wire with the 2010 Belmont winner chasing the whole way. In recent years the Brooklyn winner has been a horse that usually needs long distance races in order to be successful. Birdrun has wins at 9 furlongs or shorter before this victory and could be a force in the handicap division if everything breaks right.

11 June 2011

Belmont Stakes Power Cap

Nice card at Belmont today. Hopefully the rain does not decimate the races and most importantly all horses and riders go back to their barns safely. This is the one day of the year when the racetrack crowd in downstate New York is not dominated by old degenerates. It is nice to see some people from outside the typical demographic enjoy the races.

McLaughlin's loaded gun
It looks like trainer McLaughlin can plan to make a more than one trip to the winners circle on this card. He has three likely winners; none of them are going to be great prices but they could be a safe heaven in a long program. In race one Marine Officer -dam was NY stakes winner Asti- should crush this field. She has class and a class turf horse like this usually has little problem winning off a layoff. In race four Rattlesnake Bridge has a rare five furlong work-McLaughlin usually works them 4 furlongs when they work 5 furlongs that signals readiness- this colt just towers over this field. Race 7 will be Trappe Shot's unveiling as top sprinter in the country. Like Rattlesnake Bridge this colt has a five furlong work signaling readiness.

Just A Game Stakes
This looks like a wide open race. No real standout here but Much Rejoicing is a filly that could win the"Just A Game" at a generous price. Race lacks pace which plays into Much Rejoicing's wheelhouse-this filly is used to pressing fast paces in sprints. Look at how this filly has done so much in such little time. Races on dirt, over pol track, over turf, then trips to Florida, New York, Canada. Then she completes her education with run over wet tracks, fast tracks and then turf. She has been liberally educated in the racing arts. She has shown that she has class and can run over broken bottles if needed. Today is the day she can apply that broad education towards a trip to the winners circle. Hopefully we can go for the ride alongside her.

Manhattan Stakes
Standout horse here in Prince Will I Am. Bet with him and you could feel like a king. The cutback from those marathon races in Florida should have this horse stout and strong in the homestretch. The Prince loves New York with a grade one win over this very track last year along with a win at the Spa. Race sets up nice for him. A cornerstone selection to build your castle around.

Belmont Stakes
Wide open race this year that looks interesting. Sometimes this race can be an afterthought. The early wagering has the public hammering down on Master of Hounds. The American raceing public has had this affection for Aiden O'Brien and the horses he ships from Ireland to run stateside. Unfortunately for the public Mr. O'Brien has not returned the favor with no wins in the last five years. Is this the horse to break the streak? Maybe it is better to let that long streak of futility to continue with someone else's money.

My longshot pet pick is Santiva. He is bred for this long trip and has run well in all of his dirt races. I like the preparation he has received taking five weeks off to prepare for this race from the derby. He is going to be my key horse that will be used with others in multi race wagers and trifectas.

Prime Cut is another horse here that will run well and surprise many with his talents of mobility.

Since Santiva is no lock with will also use Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Prime Cut and money burner O'Brien's colt Master Of Hounds.

07 June 2011

Belmont Stakes Longshot Selection

The Belmont Stakes is often a race were the public hones on a Derby and Preakness winners only to be surprised when a new shooter upsets the field. Just in the last ten years six bona fide longshots have made Belmont Stakes betting a true bonanza for those picking the winner. Those that selected Sarava at 70-1, Da Tara at 38-1, Birdstone at 36-1 or even Drosselmeyer at 13-1 were rewarded handsomely. The Belmont is a race for longshots. 12 furlongs is an unusual distance that yields unexpected results.

This year the surprise horse looks like Santiva. Santiva beat our Preakness pick Astrology(who ran a credible third) in the Kentucky Jockey Club in a game performance. Santiva was squeezed like a lemon between horses. Instead of yielding lemon juice Santiva gamely responded by winning. This horse ran a valiant sixth in the derby while never really having any room. His race on the poly in the Bluegrass -a bizarre surface where races can be ignored- is a clear throwout. The trainer Eddie Kenneally is a top shelf trainer and Santiva is bred to win going long by sire Giants Causeway. A smooth mover who should be close to the pace Santiva is going to run great at around 15-1.

31 May 2011

'Tiz gone

Tizway, son of champion Tiznow ran away with what looked to be a wide open edition of the Met Mile. Usually the offspring of Tiznow improves with age, Morning Line is another example of late maturity with explosive speed in the offspring of the two time Classic winner. There were two horses that loved the big sandy strip, the winner of this race and Haynesfield; the horse for course angle was in full effect here. The time of 1:32.9 is probably a byproduct of a very fast surface though, My Golden Opinion zipped through the distance of 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.32 and claimers ran 1:09.66 for three quarters of a mile one race later.

The horse that most likely will improve off of this race is the second place finisher Rodman, who has come back better than ever in his three starts off the extremely long December 2009 layoff. Haynesfield threw a fit in the post parade dumping the injured Ramon Dominguez and did not run well in his second start off the layoff, not a good sign at all. Caixa Electronica continued his streak of running steady to impressive efforts with his third place effort. Any good efforts from the Arromanches progeny is good news for the racing product as it seems he has passed on his consistency and soundness to future generations.

25 May 2011

Shackleford's Unbelievable Win

How did this colt win the Preakness? It was an unbelievable win that goes against every convention and every canard of reason. Last out in the derby he faced a tepid pace and faded like he did not have the requisite courage to win a classic. Horses that fade in the lane usually fade in the lane every time. Now in the Preakness he faced a stiffer pace which makes fading in the lane an absolute near certainty.

The real mind bender was the looks of this colt before the race. Shackleford was a complete washed out mess. When he loaded I said to myself "no way he wins". Horses that lose their composure and wash that badly do not win races; especially route races. Not only did the disheveled Shackleford win a graded stakes route race- he won a classic after fading in a similar race just two weeks earlier. It is a result that boggles the mind in every way. He must of annexed the efforts of three races and concentrated the exertions into his Preakness run. If any horse was ever going to bounce next out- it is Shackleford.

22 May 2011

Take a shot

Animal Kingdom proved himself to be a legit dirt runner yesterday and will be a major threat going forward. Shackleford will have something to prove moving forward off of this race, he was up on a pace that was much faster and more contested than the Derby and have enough in the reserves to hold off a horse that blew by him two weeks prior. Three-year-old colts can make dramatic improvements from race to race in the spring, but to do these two things in one race is a little hard to believe.

One race left to go to the annual spring series and for a third straight year the crown is not on the line. A bust for bartenders at Belmont and ticket holders looking flip their tickets. There could still be lemonade made out of these lemons though. Animal Kingdom can be the first Derby-Belmont winner since Thunder Gulch if the connections see fit to enter him. Shackleford can prove that his Preakness win was not bias aided (being off the rail in the stretch was key) if he can last the grueling 12 furlongs of the Belmont Stakes. While it doesn’t have the sizzle or flash of a Triple Crown bid, it certainly makes for an interesting rematch with the likely possibility of Nehro running as well.

Street Sense and Super Saver both opted to pass the Belmont after defeats in the Preakness, with the bigger picture of making the Travers in mind. It worked out well for Street Sense, not so much for Super Saver. There is a reason for skepticism that Animal Kingdom would run in the last leg based on this, the same goes for Shackleford. Graham Motion is a conservative trainer who likes more time in between races as well, so another big race in three weeks with other big purse possibilities looming further down the road also gives one a moment of pause on the likelihood of the Derby winner making the Belmont.

Shackleford was all out to hold off the onslaught of closers in his last three efforts, 1 ½ miles gives the runners that excel in the last half of a race more time to make their moves. There is also the issue of this horse laying it all on the line like he did in his last three starts, how much is left in the tank for another big effort?

The Belmont Stakes could very well decide the Eclipse Award this year if both of the classic winners decide to show up. It would certainly behoove the connections of these colts to enter in the third leg as well. If Animal Kingdom goes and Shackleford stays in the stable and Animal Kingdom wins, it makes it harder for Shackleford to make up ground in the division with restricted graded stakes opportunities drying up. The same example could be used in reverse as well. No one in the division has more than one grade one win to their name up to this point, every grade one counts twice as much now as far as division bragging rights. Passing up a chance to take one down is akin to folding a good hand in poker, why not take a shot?

20 May 2011

NYRA Rewards Meltdown

For the last nine years I have had a NYRA wagering account. First it was NYRA telebet then NYRA one now it is known as NYRA rewards. This was the best account. Friendly staff. The key thing was that on a busy day like the derby or breeders cup they were the only ADW that answered the phone. The service was reliable; if you had two minutes there was time to sneak a bet in. No other ADW was like that- the rest of them are overwhelmed with long queues on the phone. Then the NYRA corporate stiffs got involved and outsourced the NYRA call center to twinspires. Now the service is unusable.

When I was visiting Las Vegas on derby weekend I attempted to make a few wagers from my room. No luck. This was clearly the worst big day for nyra telebet in the 9 years I have had the account. Now it is only Black Eyed Susan day at Pimlico and after about ten attempts I can not reach an agent at NYRA.

Only corporate stooges- blinded by numbers yet far removed from the daily operation of customer service would close the most efficient call center to sub-contract out to the most over whelmed call center. With the outsorced help in place NYRA rewards is now a useless service. I urge all NYRA rewards members to close their accounts and spend the time they used playing horses serving some charity. It is not worth making ten phone calls to make one special daily double that is only available on the phone. This beleaguered outfit does not answer the phone.

19 May 2011

Preakness field rundown

1. Astrology (15/1)

Looking back at the charts from the April race at Aqueduct, the inside was not a good spot on the track. Anyone that started on the rail that day did not win and Adios Charlie was wide and off the rail early on in the Jerome. Astrology finally got into gear when taken off the rail in that race as well. Astrology is the consistent sort and could merit a chance with a decent value in the win pool.

2. Norman Asbjornson (30/1)

Exits the Wood Memorial, which retained its title as the worst prep race to be in with two defections of key contenders before the Derby was run (Uncle Mo and Toby’s Corner). He did close into a slow pace in the Wood though.

3. King Congie (20/1)


4. Flashpoint (20/1)

Pretty light on the experience side and will likely be up on the pace with Shackleford.

5. Shackleford (12/1)

Got away with a comfortable lead and easy fractions in the Derby, he looked like he hit a wall in the last eighth of a mile in that race as well. More than likely he will see some competition up front in this one as well.

6. Sway Away (15/1)

Went zero for three in stakes company and made a premature move in the Arkansas Derby. Nehro was third out of that race and Archarcharch was well off the board. Mixed signs on that front and this one could better fitted for sprints base on his record.

7. Midnight Interlude (15/1)

Went from maiden to derby also ran in two races and could be up against it based on experience alone. Not to mention that the Southern California contingent has had a sour winter and spring as well.

8. Dance City (12/1)

Another speed here, this one is another Arkansas Derby new shooter.

9. Mucho Macho Man (6/1)

Always seems to run a decent to good race and showed a different dimension with his closing kick at Chuchill Downs. Would not be a shocker if this one got to the winner’s circle.

10. Dialed In (9/2)

His dramatic one run running style worked against him last out and is aiming for a big purse here. It will be hard to leave him out of the exotics and multis.

11. Animal Kingdom (2/1)

Could he win this race? Sure. Is he worth the bet at the fraction of the odds that you were getting two weeks ago? Probably not. By no means is this horse a lock for this leg, some of the new shooters have a chance and the returning Derby foes have a solid case for a rebound performance. This is a race that is worth shopping around for value in the win pool. As for the exotics and multis, it is probably a good idea to include this one for protection from a bust with juiced up odds in these pools.

12. Isn’t He Perfect (30/1)

If this is a question, then the answer is no.

13. Concealed Identity (30/1)

Probably will run like he is in witness protection here.

14. Mr. Commons (20/1)

If this horse wins, look for the stud fee on Artie Schiller to shoot up shortly after the results.

15 May 2011

Preakness Power Longshot

With the Preakness Stakes 2011 looming it is time to share our longshot selection. Astrology is a speedy horse we have been following since he broke his maiden at Saratoga. With projected odds at around 15-1 this new shooter to the triple crown could make Preakness betting very rewarding. After a stakes win at Churchill last year he has followed up with three consecutive second place finishes. This colt has the pedigree and connections to win this race.

Astrology broke his maiden at the Spa in one of those super maiden races; a full field of 14 and he beat future stakes winner To Honor and Serve. This might have been a sprint win but this horse is by Chef de Race A.P. Indy; this a horse bred to go long. With 2011 derby-like tepid pace Astrology could sit a nice trip right off the pace. The threats to win -both closers- Dailed In and Animal Kingdom should leave Astrology alone on the pace.

Astrology can be absolved of his last two losses. His first first loss this year was in the Sunland Derby. Off a long layoff he pressed a wicked 45 and change pace. Rather than fade meekly Astrology still finished strong for the place. Horse thrive on routine and do not like abrupt change. Astrology had to deal with massive change for his next race. From bone dry desert to bog Astrology was shipped to Aqueduct for the waterlogged sloppy Jerome. He finished a gallant second to Adios Charlie who subsequently gave a good account of himself in the Peter Pan at Belmont.

With two races under his belt in this form cycle Astrology should be ready to run his peak race in the Preakness. The connections of trainer Asmussen and Stonestreet stables have won this race two of the last four years with 2007 winner Curlin and 2009 heroine Rachel Alexandra. Astrology has a shot to make it three out of five.

14 May 2011

A Crucial Turning Point

The Preakness is now a week away; the Derby is considered the biggest event of the year, but the most important race of the year historically speaking is the Preakness. It has decided more year end honors than any other race has done in recent memory. Not to mention the obvious that it is the middle leg of the Triple Crown and is a single elimination playoff race for the Derby winner. There have been some dramatic finishes in recently as well. Recent memory speaks for itself on this one.

2010, Lookin at Lucky

After rough trips at Churchill and Santa Anita, he acquitted himself nicely with a jockey switch from Garret Gomez to Martin Garcia. Lookin at Lucky went on the clinch the divisional championship with a win in the Haskell. The Derby winner Super Saver was not the same after this race with the first of three off the board finishes. First Dude finished a resilient second after setting the pace, foreshadowing what the rest of the year held for this horse.

2009, Rachel Alexandra

Mine That Bird did not scare off many in this race and one of the chief opponents was a filly that just won by 20 lengths in the Kentucky Oaks. Breaking from post 13, Rachel Alexandra was wide most of the way while near the lead and still had enough left to hold off the surge of Mine That Bird. She went on to beat the male competition twice after this race en route to Horse of the Year and Champion three year old filly honors.

2008, Big Brown

After a dominant win in the Derby, he won with ease in the Preakness. If it weren’t for a quarter crack injury before the Belmont, this one would be referred to as a Triple Crown winner. He won two races at Monmouth Park and was named three-year-old champion.

2007, Curlin

The juvenile champion Street Sense and Curlin battled down to the wire in a photo finish that was about a fingernail difference between Street Sense going for a Triple Crown and taking an extended rest for the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup. Curlin was involved in two other thrilling stretch runs, the Belmont against Rags to Riches and the Jockey Club Gold Cup against Lawyer Ron. Both of those opponents went on to be named three-year-old filly champion and older male champion respectively. Curlin went on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeder’s Cup Classic, which was the first of two Horse of the Year campaigns.

Animal Kingdom and Dialed In are the two horses that will immediately get a boost to the top of the class based on past successes. If one of the fresh horses or a Derby also ran wins it, a new challenger for the year-end championships has arrived. It will certainly be an interesting week.