Friday, November 5, 2010

Zenyatta goes for 20

Churchhill Downs

Saturday November 6th, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:45 pm (EST)

Breeder’s Cup Classic - Zenyatta

At it’s finest, there is a moment in sports – when an athlete transcends into artistry….there is a breath of rarified air one takes when you witness someone (or in this case an extraordinary creature) perform at the highest level – you have ever…seen…before.

Imagine having never seen Reggie Jackson or Ken Griffey Jr. hit a home run.

Imagine having never watched Muhammad Ali or Iron Mike Tyson deliver a devastating uppercut that ended a bout.

Imagine having never enjoyed seeing Lynn Swann make a circus catch – or seeing Joe Montana toss a pass that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

And finally – imagine if you will – never watching Magic Johnson fool everyone with a no look pass, or Michael Jordan hitting just another impossible, game winning, shot at the buzzer….

I have enjoyed sports for a long time now – and I can write with all sincerity that if you don’t watch Zenyatta run this weekend in the Breeder’s Cup Classic you will have missed a sporting event that I earnestly believe is comparable to everything I’ve just listed above.

If you’ve never heard of Zenyatta – or perhaps you have heard of her but can’t imagine what the “big deal” is….I completely understand.

A year ago, I was the same way.

I follow horse racing more than most – however I primarily follow the “male” horses, and more specifically the horses that make a run for the Triple Crown. As last years Breeder’s Cup approached I had heard about this “special” horse named Zenyatta, who had never been beaten, and was about to run against impressive competition in the Breeder’s Cup Classic – personally I thought she didn’t have much of a chance.

The Classic is the highest paying race in the United States ($2,700,000 to the winner), and is open to any age – meaning it’s supposed to be the Super Bowl of Horse Racing – because the money and the lack of an age barrier opens it up to the best horses in the world….I repeat it’s open to the best horses in the WORLD.

I had read last year that once Zenyatta raced in the 2009 Breeder’s Cup – she would retire – to my surprise, she ended up winning the Classic last year and I witnessed people literally crying over this horse….and at the time I “still” didn’t understand – but I did know that clearly I had missed something….something very special.

Turns out Zenyatta’s ownership Jerry Moss (He’s the M in A&M Records) wanted to give her another year of racing. Mr. Moss and his wife say it was a gift to her fans….and when you watch the passion this horse displays when she runs - there is no better word I can dream up to describe this horse, other than to call her a Gift.

This animal…this creature – loves to run….loves to win – oh and she’s got an attitude about it too…..the kind of attitude that would make a young Elton John proud. This horse actually puts on a “show” before she even steps on the track! I have no doubt they’ll show it in the coverage as she approaches the stage.

I have witnessed this horse – in person – twice. And when she struts on to the track she lets every man, woman, child, horse – any creature on the premise – know she’s here for one reason – to win, baby – and win with style.

And that’s exactly why you should watch her this Saturday – she’s never lost a race…..and I mean ever. This weekend she will attempt to win her 20th race in 20 attempts.

Consider a couple of horses you’ve probably heard of –

Secretariat – won 16 races in 21 attempts.- a Triple Crown winner who won the Belmont Stakes by running the fastest mile and a quarter in history.

Seabiscuit – won 33 races – out of 89 attempts (that’s winning about 37% of the time) - A statue of this horse stands at the entry of Santa Anita Racetrack (where Zenyatta calls home). The Biscuit defeated a Triple Crown Winner (War Admiral – Man O’War’s son) in the Pimlico Special – and found a way to make not only one but two amazing comebacks.

Man O’ War – who won 20 races out of 21 - considered one of the greatest American horses ever – a horse that didn’t win as many races as they would have liked because other horse owners withdrew when they found out he was running.

Does she belong in the conversation with this quality of horse??

Well here’s her resume – If Zenyatta wins this race – she will become the only horse to win three Breeder’s Cup Races – and she will tie Tiznow for having won two Breeder’s Cup Classics. She has defeated Kentucky Derby winners - if she wins this year she will add a Preakness winner (Lookin At Lucky) to her list as well.

Some claim that she didn’t travel much out of California and therefore her ownership didn’t really “challenge” her against the preeminent competition. Detractors will write and say that because the Breeders Cup has been held in California the past two years – she’s enjoyed an advantage. And perhaps to some extent this is true.

However – when horse racing wanted her to run in the Apple Blossom this year in Arkansas against Uber-great, and last year's Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra…..Zenyatta showed up – Rachel didn’t.

Ask her to run against the best in the World – It’s “supposed” to be the Breeder’s Cup Classic – this is her second year….and now it’s in Kentucky – this race on Saturday is some major put-up or shut up time for those who like to talk about horse racing – and in particular Zenyatta….a.k.a. The Queen.

In my opinion she’s “dodged” no one – you want to race against the Queen – anybody with a calendar knew where she was going to be….and this Saturday if you want a shot – it’s in the Classic – not to repeat myself, but it’s show up or shut up for anybody who’s got a problem with this horse.

There are also a number of “racing” experts that believe she will struggle on the Kentucky dirt – which is different then the California Poly-Track she has raced on for the predominant part of her career. However her half brother Street Sense seemed to have no problem winning the Kentucky Derby on that dirt in 2007 – those racing experts seem to be silent (perhaps even frightened) about the possibility of Zenyatta actually "improving" on this dirt.

Should she lose – it will be validation for few, and heartbreak for many – which is just one more reason you need to tune in on Saturday.

Those strange East Coast “I told you so people" aside - She is beloved by most -

 – if you give this horse 30 minutes of your time this Saturday I believe you will have no choice but to understand that this is a moment in sports you do not want to miss.

Catching four seconds of her crossing the finish line on ESPN's Sports Center will be a disservice to yourself if you are any kind of sports fan.

In closing, while horse racing is a neglected sport – Zenyatta represents the best that any sport can offer. She will give you a show before the race has even started – when they leave the gate she will give, as if to be fair, the other horses a head start – and then in the closing moments….when you’re sure that this time victory is impossible – you will see a spark in her eyes and the entire world around her will seem as if it’s in slow motion as she sails past her competition.

And perhaps most impressively – before she enters the Winner’s Circle she will stand in front of a teary, but joyful crowd with an elegance and poise that will make you wonder how much of all of this she somehow understands.

If victory is for the 20th consecutive time achieved by her – I doubt you’ll ever see a “send-off” in sports quite like it.

Watch 60 Minutes coverage of Zenyatta -

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WV Derby Recap

West Virginia Derby - Recap

Concord Point
Nacho Friend

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Skipshot, Thiskeyhasnolimit, Not Abroad, Toh’s Grey Cat, Shookstown Road, Gunfighter

Concord Point continues to impress me, and I’m a little disappointed that this horse wasn’t around for the Triple Crown preps and then the Triple Crown itself. He hasn’t really defeated a “major” three year old yet….but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it….or won’t do it soon.

This race played out much like I thought it would – Exhi stayed close to the lead, but was unable to close out Concord Point. One of the things I really like about Concord Point is his ability to grab an early lead – control the final turn – and then he fights for the finish……cause he eats his spinach….he’s Concord the Sailor Man??? Where did that come from???

*Incidentally it seems some studio in Hollywood is developing another Popeye movie (2013 - no I'm not kidding)- does anybody care about Popeye anymore - I mean really??? Has everyone forgotten the horror that was Robin William's Popeye - actually he was pretty good, but the movie was beyond horrible.

Anyway – I’m very impressed with Concord Point’s ability to control his last two outings. Once he’s got the lead, no one has been able to take it back from him. I’m very interested in seeing where this horse runs next – and especially who he’ll run against.

I had hoped Thiskeyhasnolimit would challenge for the show, but instead he steadily faded behind Nacho Friend and Skipshot.

I was concerned that Gunfighters early speed would wear out Concord Point and Exhi, however it appears that Gunfighter was out of bullets by the sixth furlong.

WV Derby Video to follow:

Zenyatta goes for 18th straight victory!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

West Virigina Derby

Mountaineer Racetrack

Saturday August 7th, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 5:45 pm (Local Time)
Name: West Virginia Derby Grade: II
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Nacho Friend
Not Abroad
Concord Point
Shookstown Road
Toh’s Grey Cat

Currently I’m keeping a very close eye on two horses that are at very different stages of their careers – as it just so happens both of them are running this weekend.

The first is Zenyatta the undefeated Breeder’s Cup Classic champion who attempts her 18th straight victory in Del Mar this weekend. This is probably her last race in California and if everything goes as planned I’ll be right there along the fence as she comes home to keep her undefeated record alive.

The second horse I’m keeping a watchful eye on is Concord Point (#7) who will be the odds on favorite in this year’s West Virginia Derby. After Concord dominated at the Iowa Derby I suspected he might show up in last week’s Haskell Invitational, where he could compete against Preakness winner Lookin’ At Lucky and Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, however it is possible he’s not ready for that kind of talent just yet…..after the WV Derby we should have a clearer picture.

From what I’ve seen if Concord Point gives his best effort there isn’t a horse in this field who can give him much of a challenge…however, Concord Point does have a history of “bouncing” (meaning he tends to win every other race, instead of several races in a row).

And I do think there are a couple interesting upset possibilities, Nacho Friend (#1) could be one of them. In the past six races Nacho has piled up 1 win, 1 place and 1 show. He hasn’t been particularly successful against the higher tiered horses, but he does have some experience at this distance. I like Nacho to be in the mix, but I don’t see him as a contender for a win.

Thiskyhasnolimit (#2) finished a distant second behind Concord Point in their last outing. Similar to Nacho I like this horse to be a contender for everything except the win – one thing to keep in mind, this horse has a win and a place in two attempts in the mud….so if the rain starts falling in the Appalachians, keep this mudder in mind.

While we’ve got mudders in our eye – Not Abroad (#4) also has a win and a place in two sloppy outings. Not Abroad might have been bettered named as Not ABride – because he’s finished in the bridesmaid spot (2nd place) for five out of his last six races. Consistent horse, but I don’t think he’s going to win this Saturday.

Skipshot (#3) is an interesting prospect – he recently won the Swaps Stakes and in doing so kept Santa Anita Derby victor Sidney’s Candy out of the winner’s circle. Then again, in his last race against Concord Point he finished a very mediocre 5th. Skipshot is the kind of horse who could win this race of finish 4th or 5th ??? Bit of a wildcard here.

Exhi (#5) is the second favorite in this race going off at 7/2. Exhi will attempt to continue his four race winning streak and I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Concord Point were closer in odds as they break from the gate. His last race the Victoria Park Stakes matched this distance and everything points to this horse having a solid outing this Saturday.

Gunfighter (#6) is currently sitting at a very intriguing 10/1. This horse in particular presents a number of problems for the favorite Concord Point and Exhi. All three of these horses usually contend for the early lead – and all three of them usually lack success when they don’t obtain the lead by the half mile maker. Its possible that any three of these horses could set up an early pace that will lead to them being spent well before the finish line.

Shookstown Road and Toh’s Grey Cat are the true longshots of this race going off at 30/1 and 50/1 respectively. Both horses are getting their first looks at substantial talent and neither of them have been particularly impressive against the lesser talents they’ve faced.

Even if the three speeders are spent going into the final turn, I don’t think either of these outside horses can take advantage of it….these two would need a LOT of help.

While I acknowledge that the early speed could be a trap in this race, I like Concord Point to win – his Iowa Derby win was just too impressive for me to ignore. I like Exhi to finish second with Thiskyhasnolimit to take a photo finish 3rd.

Closing Speed likes: 7-5-2

My musical selection for this weekend is an artist who was born and raised in West Virginia and is one of my personal favorites. While John Denver’s Almost Heaven may be claimed by the state of my birth….it is Bill Withers who is truly the voice and soul of that state.

(Incidentally this song was sampled by Blackstreet for a song called No Diggity)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Iowa Derby Recap

Iowa Derby - Recap

Concord Point
Winslow Homer

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Down With Dixie, Vow To Wager, Forestry Type

Last week I wrote that Concord Point would challenge Forestry Type for the lead, and for the first half mile that’s how this race was served up – with Forestry Type leading the charge and Concord Point trailing on his right shoulder.

I also wrote last week that Concord Point would most likely struggle with the last two furlongs, seeing how he was unaccustomed to the distance, and fade behind a charging Thiskyhasnolimit and Winslow Homer…..that’s where I couldn’t have been more incorrect.

Just when I expected Concord Point to enervate, is exactly the time he decided to detonate instead. Like the field of the Iowa Derby I was blown away with what this horse had left in the final stretch. I’ve definitely got my eyes on where this horse will be racing next, because this big grey colt looks like he could be the real deal!

Winslow Homer looked like a horse recovering from an injury – by the first quarter mile he was able to find a comfortable third place spot….and he just never left it.

Thiskyhasnolimit ran the race I expected with a late charge at the finish line, but by the time he began to close Concord Point was running faster than the English were at Lexington and Concord, know, fast, meaning they were in retreat....from you know us.......come on 4th of July is approaching and that's the best reference I could come up with - and if you don't like it you're probably a Commie...or a really, really late Loyalist!

Iowa Derby Video to follow:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Iowa Derby

Prairie Meadows

Saturday June 26th, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 9:18 pm (Local Time)
Name: Iowa Derby Grade: III
Purse: $250,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Down With Dixie
Vow To Wager
Winslow Homer
Forestry Type
Concord Point

As I’ve followed horse racing over these past seasons the Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia Derbies have become races I very much look forward too – and perhaps it’s because by this time in the three year old season I’m more familiar with the animals and there’s less likely to be any unusual surprises….or perhaps it’s because the races are back to being a little more simple – as the Iowa Derby will send merely six horses – an easy 1 1/16 miles.

Then again – perhaps I like these races because as the summer heat elevates – the horses seem more in their element, the cold beer taste better, the hot dog by my side seems more justified, and the value of having “hope” in the form of a winning ticket in your hands has far more worth than the $2 you paid to own it.

And occasionally women in Los Angeles wear bikinis to the track… no way did I list this in order of importance – but enough of that let’s focus on the first race of what I call the Barnyard Triple Crown….the Iowa Derby.

The most important news regarding this race is that Winslow Homer (#4) has returned to racing after needing a few months to repair and heal from an injury that knocked him out of Triple Crown contention.

Winslow Homer had won three consecutive races, his last one an impressive 1 mile victory in the Holy Bull Stakes. Ownership could be looking to use this race as a springboard for the Haskell Invitational a month from now – where he could face some of the nation’s best three year olds (including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners).

Winslow Homer is certainly the most accomplished competitor in the field, the question remains how well he’ll return from his injury?

Since the beginning of 2010 Down With Dixie (#1) has two wins, a place and a show in his last six races. His last attempt was a first place finish in a one mile allowance. Dixie tends to run with the middle of the pack, and I think against this competition will probably finish in the middle of the pack as well.

Vow to Wager (#2) finished second in his last race which was at this distance of a mile and 1/16th – however in Mid-May he finished a distant fourth behind winner Thiskyhasnolimit (#3), who sloppily ran (on a perfectly dry track) in the Matt Winn Stakes.

Thiskyhasnolimit – seems to have a lot of potential, but just needs help learning to run in a straight line….that’s usually not that difficult to correct, so keep an eye on this horse! Thiskyhasnolimit is a bit of an unknown in this race, because the Matt Winn victory was his first race in almost eight months.

Forestry Type (#5) tore away from the field by more than ten lengths in his last race, a 1 1/16 allowance in Arlington, allowed his competitors to catch up to him… that he could tear away from them again. Forestry Type enters the Iowa Derby hot off of three straight victories and a second place finish in his last four races. He’ll most likely contend for the lead early….and then we’ll see what he’s made of.

And finally Concord Point (#6), an amazing gray figure, has put together two wins and a place in his last four races. However none of these races were over a mile and I suspect Concord Point will battle for top spot, most likely against Forestry Type, and struggle with the additional two furlongs that he’s unaccustomed to running.

I think the most interesting aspect of this race is where Winslow Homer and Thiskyhasnolimit will position themselves in the first half of this race?

Vow To Wager and Down with Dixie will be obstacles in their way, especially because they have the inside position – so will Winslow Homer and Thiskyhasnolimit attempt to beat them to the first turn or….will they hang furthest back in fifth and sixth place and attempt to pass four horses in the final turn and stretch?

Meanwhile Forestry Type and Concord Point will battle for first position in the early seconds of this race that could potentially set up such a hot tempo early on that both horses end up completely spent for the final furlongs.

On a personal note – I’m hopeful that Winslow Homer returns with a very strong victory, however I believe he'll be rusty and I think Thiskyhasnolimit will edge him out by a nose, while Forestry Type will fade to a third place finish.

Closing Speed likes: 3-4-5

By Painter Winslow Homer:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Belmont Stakes Recap

Belmont Stakes - Recap

Fly Down
First Dude

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Game on Dude, Stay Put, Interactif, Stately Victor, Ice Box, Make Music For Me, Dave in Dixie, Spangled Star

DQ – Uptowncharlybrown.

I felt great vindication that Stately Victor had arrived at the finish line ahead of Ice Box….of course it was a very minor personal victory because Stately Victor had finished 7th!

At the end of the Belmont the two sentences I heard most were - Who Won? And WHERE was Ice Box?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog is that it documents the success and failures – the progress and set-backs of these incredible animal athletes. However one of the irritations of watching this sport is when a horse like Ice Box leaves you with a disappointing race like his Belmont performance – you really don’t know what to make of it?

Was the Florida Derby (with Pleasant Prince) just a fluke? Was his Kentucky Derby ascendancy due to the fact that he’s a mudder? Until his next race we won’t know – however as he moves on to face different levels and ages of competition – we may never know? Such are the ponies.

In an interesting turn of events – the horse I believed needed time to recuperate and mature, Drosselmeyer, found his stride at the right time and finished on top of what had to have been a frustrating spring – where he had gone without a win since January.

Just like the Preakness, First Dude was incapable of turning an early lead into a trip to the winner’s circle.

In Fly Down’s case – I can’t tell if jockey J. Velazquez waits too long before asking Fly Down for all he’s got….or if the horse was confused by the unique distance? Either way he rallies for an impressive late run…..but falls short to a horse he beat by several lengths just a month ago.

As you watch the replay you’ll see a close-up of Drosselmeyer at the 2:30 mark , maybe it’s my imagination – but there’s something in that horse’s stride that flashes a determination to win this time – and as the rest of these horses began to tire in the longest race of their lives, Drosselmeyer had the desire to win.

I’m sure many thought “who cares” when Drosselmeyer won this race – however I for one enjoyed seeing a horse finally find that “potential” we had read about in January. It was a forgettable Triple Crown for most – but for me it was a reminder that sometimes great things come to those who wait….and are patient for their potential to finally blossom.

Belmont Stakes (in HD) to follow:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park

Saturday June 5th, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:32 pm EST
Name: Belmont Stakes Grade: 1
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 ½ Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Dave In Dixie
Spangled Star
Make Music For Me
Fly Down
Ice Box
Game On Dude
Stately Victor
Stay Put
First Dude

It seems to me that the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes comes as a bit of a disappointment even to the devoted followers of horse racing, let alone the casual fan.

There won’t be a horse looking for Triple Crown glory like Big Brown was two years ago, there won’t be a filly looking to show the boys how it’s done like Rags to Riches did in 2007, and perhaps what’s most disappointing is that Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winners (Super Saver and Lookin’ At Lucky) will be absent on race day.

In a sense the Belmont Stakes will be like a consolation match between First Dude and Ice Box – the two runner-ups in the Preakness and KY Derby and currently they’re going off as the two favorites, with Ice Box being slightly favored.

With the Belmont’s daunting marathon-esque distance of a mile and a half – there’s always a chance for a significant “upset” – so let’s look at the rest of the field.

Dave In Dixie – outside of having Calvin Borel as his jockey, I don’t think this horse has much going for him. His last victory was in August 2009 and Dave In Dixie hasn’t shown any preference to longer races.

Spangled Star – I think his owners are just happy he’s in the race, his last two races have been third place finishes at 1 mile – I think the extra ½ mile this Saturday will keep him towards the back of the pack.

Uptowncharlybrown – At the end of January this horse had two very solid wins and many thought he’d be a viable contender in the Triple Crown…..February through April brought him back down to earth as he finished 3rd twice and in the Tampa Bay Derby he finished 5th. The field here is watered down a little, and I think he could crack the top three in this race. He’ll be ridden by a new jockey (Maragh) who has enjoyed a lot of success at Belmont.

Make Music For Me – finished an impressive 4th in the Kentucky Derby, but he only has one victory in 2010, and in my opinion he may be the most difficult horse to predict in this race. He has finished well against strong competition (finished with two places and a show against Preakness winner Lookin’ At Lucky), however he finished 6th in the Blue Grass Stakes following Winner Stately Victor (#9) and 3rd place First Dude (#11).

Fly Down defeated 2nd place Drosselmeyer (#7) in the 1 1/8th mile Dwyer Stakes last month here at Belmont. Fly Down flat out blew the field away in his last race and he has put together a number of sharp workouts – this one seems to have everything going for him. Currently he’s the third favorite in this race.

Ice Box – After a plucky first place performance in the Florida Derby, and a muddy late run for second place in the Kentucky Derby - How do you not love this horse?

In both the Florida and Kentucky Derbies he showed impressive closing speed – however – I’m very concerned that his performance in Kentucky was helped because Ice Box is (perhaps) solid on mud….after all the winner Super Saver didn’t exactly perform well on the dry surface at the Preakness. His victory in the Florida Derby is also a little suspect as he battled Pleasant Prince for every inch of the final stretch – and barely beat the Prince by a whisker. Pleasant Prince hasn’t finished well since that race – which has me wondering how good was Pleasant Prince and Ice Box to begin with???

I really like Ice Box and what he has done this spring – but I have concerns about this horse being a 3-1 favorite.

Drosselmeyer shares a similar story to Uptowncharlybrown, as this horse had a lot of promise at the beginning of the year, but he never seemed to come into his own. He struggled with some bad luck in the Dwyer Stakes against Fly Down, however what’s most discouraging is that he hasn’t closed out recent races very well, and those races were considerably shorter than the Belmont marathon – my guess is this horse just needs a few months off – and he could return as a very strong four year old horse next season.

Both Game On Dude and Stay Put (#10) have struggled against quality opponents, Game on Dude finished 7th in the Florida Derby (Winner Ice Box) and Stay Put finished 5th in the Louisiana Derby (Drosselmeyer 3rd place). Unless these horses have a second wind that no one (except their trainers) know about – I think you can count these guys out.

Stately Victor, First Dude (#11) and Interacif (#12) are an interesting trio for the Belmont. Stately Victor defeated First Dude (3rd place) and Interactif (4th place) in the Blue Grass Stakes back in April – what’s interesting to me, is that Stately Victor won that race by pouring it on late  – and sending quality horses to defeat in his wake!

Stately Victor followed that race with an 8th place finish in the Kentucky Derby – keep in mind Lookin At Lucky, winner of the Preakness, finished 6th in Kentucky.

First Dude on the other hand, skipped the Kentucky Derby, and performed admirably in the Preakness with a 2nd place finish. The difference on the tote board is a bit of head scratcher to me as Stately Victor is currently going off at 15-1, First Dude is the 2nd favorite at 7-2, and Interactif currently sits at 12-1.

Interactif has had a very solid spring on Turf splitting four races into two wins, one place and a show – but apparently the morning line odds makers have Stately Victor as a one and done kind of horse.

I’m not a big fan of the Blue Grass Stakes as a prep race – but I think Stately Victor (against this group of horses) is a much bigger threat than 15-1 – those odds are just too tempting. I see him as a definite UPSET ALERT!

In closing – I like everything that Fly Down is bringing to the table. He has winning experience at Belmont, his workouts have been sharp, he’s got solid closing speed – I’m taking him as the winner.

In second I’m taking Stately Victor – which basically means that instead of throwing away his performance in the Blue Grass Stakes (like the morning odds makers) – I’m throwing away his Kentucky Derby finish.

Finally – I’ll take Ice Box to beat out First Dude for third.

I’m conflicted with this race because I like Ice Box quite a bit, and have since the Florida Derby. I’d love for Stately Victor to win, just because everyone is against him, but here's what I'm going with -

Closing Speed likes: 5-9-6

I think the way I’d bet this race though is an exacta of 5/9 with 5/6/9/11. It would cost $6 but if Stately Victor comes in with one of the favorites the pay off should be solid.

My musical kick-off to this weekend could have been several New York inspired songs, but why not an Englishman in New York by Sting – always loved the lyric, “Be yourself no matter what they say…..”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Preakness - Recap

Preakness - Recap

Lookin At Lucky
First Dude
Jackson Bend

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.

Also ran: Yawanna Twist, Dublin, Paddy O’prado, Caracortado, Super Saver, Schoolyard Dreams, Aikenite, Pleasant Prince, Northern Giant

As Super Saver stalked First Dude’s outside shoulder for nearly 3 quarters of a mile – I thought there was some hope of seeing him win the Preakness – the announcer than said that Lookin At Lucky was “looming large” and I presumed we were about to watch the Kentucky Derby champ give perhaps the best three year old horse (Lucky) a stretch run to remember…..and then - Super Saver remembered that he was just an average horse, who got lucky in Kentucky, but this time Lucky was about to get him!

And then Super Saver, and his quest for glory, faded into the background as quickly (unfortunately) as this Triple Crown series will fade…..Lookin At Lucky avoided any unusual mishaps in the Preakness and in my opinion proved to be (what he has been since Eskendereya dropped out) the best three year old horse in the country.

The Preakness didn’t come without a few surprises - First Dude jumped out to the lead in the first turn and just didn’t have the muscle to hang on for the win. The next surprise was Yawanna Twist who made a late push for the victory from the outside – I had dismissed both of these horses from really contending, but clearly they were ready to “run” this past Saturday.

Unfortunately for Dublin he was practically “out” of the running in the Preakness with his first two steps. Poor horse must have been thinking that someone put the “rail” on the wrong side – not that he was running in the wrong direction. With those first few missteps I’m impressed that he finished as solidly as fifth.

Coming out of the final stretch Jackson Bend couldn’t find an empty lane and the delay probably cost him a 2nd place finish.

I’m not completely surprised that Super Saver finished eighth, with the exception of great muddy romp in Kentucky he had always been a slightly above average horse – I am, however, very surprised that with his eighth place finish Schoolyard Dreams and Pleasant Prince didn’t finish ahead of him.

For those of you who don’t know they are saying that Lookin At Lucky will skip the Belmont – which I personally find disappointing, but it’s been a tough few months for Lookin At Lucky and the Belmont is a grind of a race – especially when the Belmont is the fourth (and longest race) Lucky would be running in the past two months.

Preakness Video to follow:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preakness Stakes


Saturday May 15th , 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:12 pm EST
Name: Preakness Stakes Grade: 1
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 3/16 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Aikenite                         3rd Fountain of Youth
Schoolyard Dreams       4th Wood Memorial
Pleasant Prince              2nd Florida Derby
Northern Giant              9th Arkansas Derby
Yawanna Twist              2nd Illinois Derby
Jackson Bend                12th K.Y. Derby
Lookin At Lucky           6th K.Y. Derby
Super Saver                   1st K.Y. Derby
Caracortado                  4th Santa Anita Derby
Paddy O’prado             3rd K.Y. Derby
First Dude                     5th Florida Derby
Dublin                           7th K.Y. Derby

Similar to the Kentucky Derby I’ve listed the horses and their most pertinent or most recent accomplishments above.

Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (and Jockey Calvin Borel) attempt to seize the second jewel of the Triple Crown – and I for one am certainly cheering for a Triple Crown winner – however I’m having a very hard time believing Super Saver is going to get it done.

My reasoning is this – with 20 horses navigating the field of any given Kentucky Derby luck tends to play more of factor in that race than perhaps any other American horse race. With that many moving bodies in place – one momentary ill timed decision or one poor placement in the starting gate could cost the most gifted of horses their shot at glory.

In the Derby Super Saver (seen here is his lounge wear) -

(Saver) had a solid starting spot and Calvin Borel once again weaved his way to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs. However as I see it better horses just suffered worst luck that day.

The Preakness however is perhaps the best test of talent for three year old horses – with a more manageable 12 contenders in this year’s field it makes this race comparable to the prep races many of these horses have been running all season.

With that in mind as I look at the contenders in this race I have Super Saver as perhaps the third or even fourth best horse in this group. So while Borel has been nothing short of magic on the first Saturday in May – I don’t know what kind of smoke and mirrors he could have up his sleeve to keep some of these other (and in my opinion) more talented horses behind him.

The horses that I don’t think have much of a chance in this race are Aikenite (#1), Northern Giant (#4), Yawanna Twist (#5), Caracortado (#9) and First Dude (#11).

The only thing these horses have going for them is rest – which shouldn’t be completely ignored – these horses will have fresher legs then the horses coming off only a two week rest from the Kentucky Derby, however there’s also a reason these horses didn’t make the 20 horse “club” of the Kentucky Derby in the first place.

The horses that I think have the potential to beat Super Saver are as follows:

Schoolyard Dreams (#2) – Disappeared in his last race, however he may be able to control the early pace of this race – and when this horse is on his game he won’t be easy to beat. Currently at 15/1 he might be worth taking a flyer on.

Pleasant Prince (#3) – Ice Box (2nd in the KY Derby) barely beat this horse in the Florida Derby, the Prince hasn’t seemed to improve since that race. He’s tough down the stretch and while I don’t think he’ll win the Preakness – I think he could manage a place in this race.

Jackson Bend (#6) – Outside of the Kentucky Derby this horse hasn’t finished worse than second place for over a year. With the luck factor reduced and the skill factor improved in the Preakness I think Jackson Bend has got to be a strong consideration for your top three –

Lookin At Lucky (#7) – he has had three very poor consecutive finishes – due to either a poor choice made by the jockey (he has a new jockey for this race) or a terrible post position (he has a gem of a post position in this one). Lookin At Lucky could be the most gifted horse in this race, the only questions as I see it are – Will his ironic string of bad luck continue, and did the last two rough outings (where he collided with horses and also the rail) affect him as a race horse? They do say 7 is a lucky number. – likes Paddy O’prado (#10) to pull out the victory, and I think that if Dublin (#12) weren’t positioned on the outside he would certainly be more of a pre-race factor to consider.

As I see it Schoolyard Dreams, Super Saver and Yawanna Twist will make things very interesting in the first half of the race. Jackson Bend and Paddy O’Prado won’t be far behind. As they come for home – I think Lookin At Lucky will find his stride and finish ahead of Schoolyard Dreams (2nd) and Super Saver (3rd).

Closing Speed likes – 7-2-8

*Seeing how Summertime is just around the corner - here's a little something from a pleasant (and Fresh) Prince -

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kentucky Derby - Recap

Kentucky Derby - Recap

Super Saver
Ice Box
Paddy O’prado

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.

Also ran: Make Music For Me, Noble’s Promise, Lookin At Lucky, Dublin, Stately Victor, Mission Impazible, Devil May Care, American Lion, Jackson Bend, Discreetly Mine, Dean’s Kitten, Conveyance, Homeboykris, Sidney’s Candy, Line Of David, Awesome Act, Backtalk

Twenty years ago there was a popular marketing campaign based on Football / Baseball / Athletic super-star Bo Jackson – many of us remember the popular saying….Bo Knows –

After watching Calvin Borel win his third Kentucky Derby in his last four efforts – it’s crystal clear that Bo-rel knows Churchill Downs. I’m fascinated by what odds are going to be on any horse he rides next year. Trainer Todd Pletcher (who finally broke his much ballyhooed winless streak in the Kentucky Derby) was quoted as saying that Borel is statistically five lengths better on any horse at Churchill Downs than he is at any other track – and for those who don’t know, five lengths is a lot of horse people! In the Derby that’s the difference between the first place winner Super Saver and the third place show Paddy O’Prado.

Calvin Borel seems to think Super Saver will break the 32 year Triple Crown drought – however from what I’ve seen the only way any of us are going to see a Triple Crown winner this year is if we go to the movies and watch Secretariat this fall….staring Diane Lane –

Yeah – horse racing and Diane Lane – the question isn’t will I go see the movie, the question is once I’m there will I ever leave.

To wrap up my blog on the Kentucky Derby I will finish it up in a Bo knows kind of way.

* I knew when the first ¼ mile was run in 22.6 and Sidney’s Candy was in second and Line of David was in 3rd that those picks were doomed. It was just too fast a pace for this Derby’s distance. As you review the race you’ll see Sidney’s Candy simply wilt near the 1 mile marker and in a matter of seconds go from 2nd place to 12th.

* I knew that when Lookin At Lucky got body checked once – that his odds of recovery were slim – when he got bounced a second time I knew his odds of recovery went from slim to none. Still all things considered a 6th place finish isn’t bad for this horse – watch for him in the Preakness and Belmont.

* I knew that Ice Box would be trouble down the stretch if he got clear – he just didn’t get clear soon enough – from what I’m reading he’s skipping the Preakness – but he’ll be very dangerous in the Belmont.

Two horses that surprised me were Paddy O’prado and Make Music for Me – Very solid outings for two horses who seem to be peaking at the right time.

For anyone who wasn’t at the track – this Kentucky Derby had the most differing opinions I’ve seen to date. Two guys who I respect greatly for their handicapping skills had selected Conveyance (15th) and Sidney’s Candy (17th) – as I spoke to people at the track I heard everything from Dean’s Kitten to Awesome Act and I even managed to throw one lady into a bit of panic when she told me that because she was Irish she knew she had to bet that way…..when I inquired whether she meant Dublin or Paddy O’prado her eyes lit up and she sprinted for the betting booth…..apparently she had missed Paddy O’prado as representing Ireland.

In the end it was a great start to what I think will become a very interesting Triple Crown to watch – and while Closing Speed “knows” Super Saver won’t be able to win the Preakness and Belmont – as race fan I hope I’m wrong.

Kentucky Derby Video to follow:!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs
Saturday May 1st, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:24 pm
Name: Kentucky Derby Grade: 1
Purse: $2,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/4 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Lookin At Lucky          3/1           1st Rebel Stakes
Ice Box                       10/1          1st Florida Derby
Noble’s Promise         12/1           2nd Rebel Stakes
Super Saver                15/1           2nd Arkansas Derby
Line Of David             30/1           1st Arkansas Derby
Stately Victor              30/1           1st Bluegrass Stakes
American Lion            30/1           1st Illinois Derby
Dean’s Kitten              50/1           1st Lane’s End Stakes
Make Music For Me    50/1          3rd Cash Call Futurity
Paddy O’prado           20/1           2nd Blue Grass Stakes
Devil May Care           10/1           1st Bonnie Miss
Conveyance                12/1           2nd Sunland Derby
Jackson Bend             12/1            2nd Wood Memorial
Mission Impazible       20/1            1st Louisiana Derby
Discreetly Mine          30/1            4th Louisiana Derby
Awesome Act            10/1            3rd Wood Memorial
Dublin                       12/1            3rd Arkansas Derby
Backtalk                    50/1            3rd Illinois Derby
Homeboykris             50/1            5th Holy Bull Stakes
Sidney’s Candy           5/1             1st Santa Anita Derby

For the second consecutive year the prospective Kentucky Derby Favorite has dropped out of the race – last season it was I Want Revenge and this season it is Eskendereya bowing out.

Last year the result of a rainy, muddy Kentucky Derby without it’s star three year old – resulted in a 50-1 longshot (and personal headache to yours truly) Mine That Bird slopping his way to the winner’s circle and sending those with winning tickets into a delirium.

Well this year many believe that a relative “longshot” could once again bring home a victory in the rain. Weathermen are reporting that it could be a very wet track on Saturday – and to be honest that’s the most confidence anyone is showing in regards to what might happen on the track this Saturday.

Usually I break these races down by listing the horses and their accomplishments however I attempted to cover that in the horse listing above.

To keep things shorter I will start by writing that I don’t believe horses 13 thru 20 (Jackson Bend – Sidney’s Candy) will be able to seize the first “jewel” in the Triple Crown.

Awesome Act may be the most comfortable with his starting position – however I’m just not sold on him being the best closing horse in this race.

Sidney’s Candy certainly has the talent to win this race – but the 20th spot really goes against his strength of being able to run with the leaders and then break away in the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if this horse ends up going very wide in the first turn which could result in him having absolutely nothing in the tank in the final stretch. Very tough post for this immensely talented horse – hopefully he’ll have a better spot in the Preakness.

Another horse who has received a less than stellar starting outlook is the favorite Lookin At Lucky. Here is what his Trainer Bob Baffert had to say about his opening spot –

“This horse, he can’t catch a break," Baffert said. "We named him wrong. You know what? You can’t worry about that. We’ve made it this far. Nothing surprises me with this horse. He just can’t catch a break. He’s either inside or outside. It is what it is. You can’t worry about that. You’ve got to break well. If he doesn’t break well then you’re screwed."

In short, the best horses are either not in the race or they have lousy starting spots. And on top of all of that weather will probably be a factor in this race…i.e come this Saturday….

Here’s how I see the race unfolding – Line of David (#5) will establish the lead and in my estimation will hold that lead throughout most of the race and into the final stretch. Conveyance (#12) will challenge that early lead and ride on Line of David’s shoulder in the early going.

However while the camera is following the lead horse – this race will be won or lost several lengths behind him coming out of the second turn.

*If Ice Box can find an open lane without going well wide in the final turn – I think he could catch Line of David. Ice Box has those great late strides that could help him close this race out.

*If Lookin At Lucky can find an open lane without going well wide in the final turn – I know he has the talent to catch Line of David – after two sub-par rides on this horse Jockey Garrett Gomez kind of owes ownership and this horse the ride of his lifetime – and that may be exactly what he’ll need to pull off a victory here.

*If Stately Victor isn’t just a Synthetic Track horse, and he actually can run on the dirt then….if he can find an open lane without going well wide in the final turn – I believe he could challenge Line of David. Incidentally Stately Victor finished dead last in his one and only appearance here at Churchill Downs – might have been a fluke, might have been a trend.

*Super Saver will be ridden by last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Calvin Borel – and when a jockey has won two out of the last three Kentucky Derbies I think you have to give Super Saver some consideration. Super Saver gave Line of David everything he had in a second place finish in the Arkansas Derby, however Line of David showed more heart last time out….we’ll see if the added distance makes any difference.

Horse Racing Nation’s David Crone likes the Filly Devil May Care


He and I disagree on the early pace of this race, and also perhaps on the importance of the post position – but in the end I think we’re both just shrugging our shoulders and in his case saying “why not Devil May Care?”

Because again in this race –

From everything I’ve seen this season – I like Line Of David in this race, and here’s why:

He’s shown improvement with each of his last three races, he should be able to set the early pace and by doing so avoid a “mess” of traffic coming out of the final turn. He defeated four pretty solid horses on the dirt in the Arkansas Derby – so unlike an American Lion or even Stately Victor – I feel this horse has risen to the kind of challenge he’ll see in this race.

I can’t help but think that one of these powerful closers is going to catch him from behind – like we’ve seen in previous Kentucky finishes with Street Sense or Mine That Bird (both ridden by Borel). But come this Saturday I’ll be rooting for Line of David to pull off a victory.

Closing Speed likes: 5-4-1

That’s not how I would bet this race – I think if you bet $10 to win on 2,3,4,5,6,10,11,and 12 that would be $80 and if the odds stayed the same at the very least you would win about $120 at the most you’d probably win (again if the odds stay the same) over $300 - provided one of those longshots wins of course.

Make sure to tune in it should be a fun one this Saturday - also I've attached a great Mint Julep recipe in the blog below. And of course the musical selection to get your weekend going.....Mr. Frank Sinatra & an odd 1930's Hollywood Montage with of course....Anything Goes.

A Proper Mint Julep

A Mint Julep when poorly made will taste like cheap bourbon carelessly mixed with a thick syrup (probably a green syrup) and when swallowed has a leafy aftertaste of broken chunks of Mint Leaves stuck to your tongue - giving you the option of being daring and swallowing the leaf whole, or using one of your fingers to rescue the leaf from your bite and then send it to the trash. This my friends is the sad tale of how a once delightful southern drink is currently being made by those who have clearly forgotten that good things come to those who wait.

Now a proper Mint Julep will melt your cares away and refresh your being like a cool lazy Carolina breeze that has set sail from the sea just to join you as you both lay back and watch the sun's descent. So here's how you make that second, more proper Mint Julep. This recipe comes from the irreplaceable Esquire Handbook For Hosts, with a mild twist of my own.

You'll need to prepare these 30 minutes....yes 30 minutes before you wish to enjoy them or present them to your guests.

Pour a measure (per guest) of Kentucky Bourbon over several sprigs of mint and allow this to stand for half an hour (yes, seriously still half an hour).

Place glasses (must be glass) in the freezer.

In a large seperate glass dissolve a teaspoon of sugar (per guest) in a little water. When half an hour has passed, remove the mint from the bourbon (or whiskey) and pour into the glass of sugar and water. Pour this mixture back and forth between the two glasses until the liquids are well mixed.

Remove the Glasses from the freezer (with napkins or towels so not to leave fingermarks on the glass) fill with ice (preferably crushed) and pour the Bourbon / Sugar and Water mixture over it - add mint - and Stir briskly.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Derby Trial Stakes

Churchill Downs
Saturday April 24, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 5:17 pm
Name: Derby Trial Stakes Grade: III
Purse: $200,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Game On Dude
Soaring Empire
Pleasant Prince
Hurricane Ike
Miner’s Reserve
Wow Wow Wow
Hear Ye Hear Ye

The Derby Trial Stakes primarily serves as a warm-up to the Preakness in three weeks – however in a few cases a couple of these horses, should they pull off a victory here, could turn right around and run in the Kentucky Derby next Saturday. It’s unlikely but it is possible.

The favorite in this outing will be the very explosive Eightyfiveinafifty. Had it not been for a strange equipment malfunction in the Whirlaway Stakes a few months ago – 85ina50 could have possibly already secured his spot for next week’s race.

His morning odds are 8 to 5 (kind of fitting if you think about it) – and everything about this race plays in his favor. There’s mild competition in this field – but a 1 mile race is a tailor made distance for this horse who will detonate out of the gate and set the course on fire in the early quarter mile – And once he establishes the lead – he’s tough to catch.

The two obstacles he’ll need to overcome is his outside post – which does present a challenge because of how much he needs that early lead – and the second most challenging factor for this horse is that…..he’s kind of an immature horse….i.e. he might be a little on the dumb side.

He reminds me a little of the Tim Robbins character “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham –

In that he’s an incredibly gifted horse physically, however in his last race he completely lost focus in the early going (staring at the infield instead of straight ahead) and it’s that kind of lack of focus that could cost this horse what should be a relatively easy win for him. Could that lost easy win be this Saturday?

Hurricane Ike (#5) finished a fading second behind Eightyfiveinafifty in their last race, the Bay Shore Stakes – currently he sits at 5/1 which I think is a little too generous for this horse – 8/1 or 10/1 might have me interested.

Pleasant Prince (#4) lost only by a whisker in the Florida Derby finishing 2nd behind winner Ice Box – and while his Florida outing was impressive he followed it up with a less than stellar 7th place in the Blue Grass Stakes.

This will be Pleasant Prince’s third race in little more than a month – and it seems to me that Ownership here is pushing for this horse to contend in at least one of the Triple Crown races. The big question is – did this horse just not “take” to the Blue Grass track or is this horse just too spent for a great outing here? I think you bet with caution here.

For many in this field this will be a rematch of the Florida Derby including Game On Dude who finished 7th, immediately followed by Soaring Empire (8th) and finally Miner’s Reserve who finished next to last in 10th.

I really thought Soaring Empire might turn it on right about now and blossom into something formidable, and with three year old horses it could still happen, but with Game On Dude, Soaring Empire and Miner’s Reserve I don’t expect any trips to the winners circle this Saturday.

Privilaged (#3) traveled from an unimpressive stint in California and finished 3rd in the recent Swale Stakes race (#8 Hear Ye Hear Ye finished 4th)– This horse will need some help – but at 15-1 he’s an interesting prospect. I’m not necessarily thrilled with his ability as much as I am unmoved by the rest of the field – such as……

Wow Wow Wow who has simply been Bad Bad Bad in his last three races finishing from most recent to least recent 10th, 8th, 8th, and 5th. He did win a 1 mile dirt race last November but let’s just say I don’t think Thanksgiving is going to come again this April. Wow Wow Wow is exactly what I would say if he wins.

And finally there’s (#9) Aikenite who also finished very poorly, 9th, in the Blue Grass Stakes. However in the Fountain of Youth Stakes he finished 3rd behind Eskendereya and Jackson Bend – and if his current odds of 6/1 remain I think he’s a good pick for second place.

In closing I think this race is Eightyfiveinafifty’s to lose – I think there’s a chance Pleasant Prince (if he’s not fatigued) could challenge him – but even then this horse is just dominate at 1 mile.

Closing Speed likes 10-4-5

For your entertainment pleasure - the song Nuke can't figure out the correct lyrics too - Try A Little Tenderness, by Mr. Otis Redding.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coolmore Lexington Stakes - Recap

Coolmore - Recap


Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Chief Council, Prince Will I Am, Kettle River, Distorted Dave, Heavenville, Krypton, Connemara, Call Shot, Lonesome Street.

$2 Win Ticket = $41.80
$2 Tri-fecta = $1,876.40

Well…..I thought there might be an upset brewing in the Coolmore, I just didn’t foresee the “right” horses.

I do not write this blog to glamorize the gambling aspect of Horse Racing – I actually write this blog (and pester my readers to read it) for the sole purpose of entertaining and informing them in regards to the Kentucky Derby / Triple Crown excitement that begins in a very short time.

In my opinion every American should have a favorite horse.

However…..there is the Right and Wrong aspect of it – that can only be measured by people literally putting their money where their mouths are (or their thoughts are) – and as you can see by the $2 Tri-fecta investment that returned $1,876 and change – not many people saw this one coming.

As you will see Exhi made this race very simple. He broke well from the gate, was unafraid of setting an up-tempo pace in the early half mile and as they hit the final stretch we saw that no one was Waiting for Exhi ---

Too much of a strech for Waiting to Exhale?? Yeah probably.....anway Exhi proved that the remainder of these horses simply aren’t good enough, or haven’t matured enough, to go to the next level (i.e. the Kentucky Derby or Preakness).

I expect to see Exhi take a chance in the Preakness should he be invited. The distance there should be to his liking and he’ll have an advantage of being more rested than any of the contenders from the Kentucky Derby who will only have two weeks to prepare for the second jewel in the triple crown.

While I predicted surprise in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes --- I, myself was surprised when Bushwacked not only turned out to be a 5/1 choice at the start of the race, but finished in second place. Clearly Keeneland bettors knew something – that I didn’t see in Bushwacked’s previous races.

I was mildly disappointed with Heavenville’s finish, however I was stunned with Connemara’s tenth place outing - ugly.

Finally if I was going to be wrong about an upset I wanted third place finisher UptownCharlieBrown to come out on top and turn around and give the Kentucky Derby a shot. Unlike most sports there is no…..”maybe next year”….in Triple Crown racing. From what I’m reading they certainly want this horse to run in a few major stakes later this summer – so maybe we’ll see him for the last race that I’ll cover for the season, the West Virginia Derby.

Video to follow:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coolmore Lexington Stakes


Saturday April 17, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 5:15 pm
Name: Coolmore Lexington Stakes Grade: II
Purse: $300,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/16 Miles, Synthetic, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Distorted Dave
Call Shot
Prince Will I Am
Lonesome Street
Kettle River
Chief Counsel

The Coolmore Lexington Stakes is by far the most “wide-open” race I’ve looked at this season. I can easily see six different horses winning this race – and narrowing it down to even the top three is a formidable task.

In honor of the baseball season I start with the 1, 2, 3 horses that are OUT – as far as my pre-race analysis goes.

Strike One – Is the #1 horse Krypton, who has been given very encouraging odds on the morning line of 6/1 – however outside of his favorable post position I haven’t seen anything in this horse's history to indicate that a victory is likely.

Steeerike Two – (#4) Bushwhacked – hasn’t shown any promise with this kind of distance, I think the Trainers are just hoping for a miracle here.

Strike Three and sit down – (#12) Chief Counsel. With a better starting gate look he might have been a factor, but his outside post will probably be too much to overcome.

Before we move on to the more favored horses I have a definite LONG SHOT ALERT, and that would be 30/1 Prince Will I Am. The negative is that he got blown out in the Fountain of Youth and finished 8th – however five of the horses who finished in front of him are practically guarantees in the Kentucky Derby including this year’s shining star Eskendreya.

Now consider the following upsides to this horse:

· Calvin Borel (Mr. Upset himself) will be aboard as his jockey

· This horse has a tendency to bounce and should be ready for an upswing - (8th / 2nd / 9th / 1st)

· He finished ahead of last week’s Bluegrass Stakes winner Stately Victor in a January Allowance race.

· He’s been training for 1 1/8th miles and will be subtracting a 1/16th of a mile for this race.

· He has a great post position

· And finally his competition isn’t “all that”.

At 30/1 I think he’s worth consideration.

Now that we’ve looked at the longshot let’s take a look at the 4/1 favorite UptownCharlieBrown. Uptown is a local favorite here in Keeneland and his story (attached below) is one that will certainly make you root for this horse – however despite this horse’s solid starting gate position I think there are horses in this field who possess more than enough talent to beat him. As a fan I’m pulling for him, as a bettor I think there are better options.

Distorted Dave flies in from California fresh off a 1 1/16th mile allowance victory in Santa Anita. I think he’s outclassed in this one.

Call Shot is another interesting prospect in this race as his morning odds are currently 10/1. Call Shot just finished 3rd against two tough competitors (Radiohead and Homeboykris) in a recent 1 mile allowance race – however that was his first race after a three month layoff. I’m looking at his horse because I don’t think we’ll know how developed this horse is until after this race is finished. With fresh legs, and having shaken off the rust with his recent race – he could be a surprise.

Exhi and Lonesome Street (sounds like an Elvis song to me) – finished 1st and 2nd in the Rushaway Stakes – I think if either of these horses get a quick jump out of the gate and a little luck down the stretch they could certainly be a factor – I don’t think either of these two will pull off a victory, but landing in the top three wouldn’t surprise me.

Another “relative” long shot that I like in this race is 12/1 Heavenville. Very similar to Arkansas Derby winner Line Of David – Heavenville seems to be improving with each new challenge. He’s another horse that is coming off a few months rest, and he’s done well on both Turf (2nd place) and Dirt (1st place Crescent City Derby). He finished 1st here at Keeneland when he was a two year old (almost a year ago – 4/09/09 ) – bet against him with caution.

Connemara – (5/1) would probably be the favorite in this race if he had a better post position and if he weren’t carrying more weight than everybody else (121 lbs) with the exception of Exhi (also 121). His recent outings include 3 trips to the Winners Circle, 1 place, and in his last race 1 show. Against this field I think he’ll need a little luck to win it – but in the end I don’t think he’ll finish any worse than 3rd.

Finally Kettle River makes the trek from California and attempts to shake off a very poor Sham Stakes outing. Kettle River (still makes me hungry for Kettle Popcorn every time – not the brand Kettle but the cooking process of Kettle Popcorn…everytime! I could eat a whole bag right now) – I digress, Kettle River went into the Sham Stakes with all kinds of promise following two straight victories – and then he just failed to show up in the biggest race of his career.

Many think the Sham Stakes isn’t worth reviewing and that it was just a weird race (and I agree) – he’s going off at 5/1 as well – and I really liked this horse and he might have it in him to bounce off of that terrible Sham outing, however I’m not crazy about this being his first race out of California. I’ll pass on the popcorn….I mean Kettle.

As a bettor I think you have to consider putting a couple of dollars on Prince Will I Am, Call Shot and/or Heavenville – because this is the perfect race for an upset to happen. The favorite (UptownCharlieBrown) hasn’t been racing particularly well – and the next two favorites Connemara and Kettle River certainly don’t instill complete confidence.

My far more conservative $1 Tri-fecta would be – Connemara / Heavenville and UptownCharlieBrown – however….

Closing Speed likes – #6 - 30/1 Prince Will I Am and Calvin Borel for the long shot baby!

For more on Sentimental Favorite UptownCharlieBrown –

Isn't he cute -

And the musical selection for the weekend…..the King - except no substitutes!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Arkansas Derby - Recap

Arkansas Derby - Recap

Line Of David
Super Saver

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran:  Uh Oh Bango, Noble's Promise, New Madrid, Berberis, Pulsion, Northern Giant

When I wrote last week that I was not “bold” enough to say that an ever improving Line Of David could actually pull off an upset – I could not help but think of this quote as the race ended –

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!”

What impresses me most about Line Of David’s victory is that he “made” this victory happen on it’s own. His jockey (and trainer) gamble by letting the horse cut loose in a speedy 22.65 opening quarter mile – this is a pace usually reserved for shorter races. Consider that the in the Wood Memorial (which is the same distance) the opening quarter mile was 24.3.

After establishing a comfortable lead Line of David is mature enough to ease back and save something for the final stretch – and, again, what I find so impressive is that instead of starting with white hot intensity and then fading away, like so many horses often do – Line of David takes on his challengers with a great heart and steals the victory by a nose – this is just a fantastic trip by this horse.

The Kentucky Derby will tack on an extra 1/8th of a mile and it’s hard to tell if Line Of David can repeat this kind of outing – but if he receives a favorable post position in Kentucky his ability to separate from the field early will give him an excellent opportunity for victory in Kentucky – this horse has really thrown a monkey wrench in how people are going to analyze the Kentucky Derby Morning line.

As you watch the race you’ll see the #3 horse Noble’s Promise get off to a rocky beginning, as he bounces off of both Dublin and Super Saver – and then finds himself behind by several lengths before the race begins to even take shape. I was very disappointed by Noble’s Promise fifth place finish, however I suspect that with a better couple of first steps out of the gate this horse can be much more dangerous in future races.

Super Saver and Dublin did everything right except for close the deal. It appears to me that Line of David was just too bold to be reckoned with this past weekend in Arkansas.

Video to follow:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park

Saturday April 10, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 4:47 pm
Name: Arkansas Derby Grade: 1
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Super Saver
Noble’s Promise
Northern Giant
Uh Oh Bango
New Madrid
Line Of David

I think the best way to preview the Arkansas Derby is to put these horses into three categories – similar to the Good the Bad and the Ugly, these horses might be described as the Early, the Late and….well the Ugly.

I’ll begin with the last category “The Ugly” which I believe properly surmises the prospects of New Madrid and Berberis. Neither of these horses have any experience with the kind of distance they’ll be running this Saturday or any experience against the level of talent in this field. I just haven’t seen anything in their past performances that makes me believe either of these horses pose any threat.

I’ll move on to three horses that make up the group I’m calling “The Early”. Super Saver, Uh Oh Bango, and Pulsion will mostly likely compete for the early lead.

Super Saver scored an excellent post position (#1) while Pulsion received the absolute worst (#9), for their style of racing. However I believe Pulsion could pose an interesting threat to Super Saver’s chances in this race.

In Pulsion’s last two races (The Florida Derby and The Fountain of Youth) he set a hot tempo that he was unable to sustain for anything over a mile, and the results were the same in both races – 6th place.

However I believe in The Florida Derby his early challenge to Rule caused Rule (another horse who likes to be a front runner) to get out of a comfortable tempo, exert too much energy early, and it left him “spent” in the final stretch allowing Ice Box and Pleasant Prince the opportunity to fly by him.

The morning line has Super Saver as the slight favorite over Noble’s Promise, and that might be due to having last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Calvin Borel on board. As the race unfolds it will be very interesting to see how Borel and Super Saver deal with both Uh Oh Bango and Pulsion challenging for the early pace.

If Super Saver extends himself so much as to win the battle of the early – I think he’ll definitely lose the War to “the Late group” of Dublin and Noble’s Promise.

For Noble’s Promise, Dublin, and Uh Oh Bango this is the rematch from last month’s Rebel Stakes where they finished second, third and fourth behind Lookin’ For Lucky.

The best news that Noble’s Promise could have received this past week is that Lookin’ for Lucky wasn’t in this race, because Noble’s Promise has finished immediately behind the Lucky one in his last three races. Unless Noble's Promise has a hang up in this outing (like Lucky did in the Santa Anita Derby) he's my "favorite" to win this race. I think he's got the most ability and this race sets up very nicely for him.

Dublin is a horse that I believe showed a lot of promise very early in his 2 year old career but hasn’t matured at the same pace as many of his contemporaries, and in fact a number of horses who didn’t show any early promise may have passed him by in ability. It’s interesting that two Kentucky Derby analysts have Dublin in their Top 5, one has him in their Top 6 and two analysts don’t have Dublin even in their top 10. I tend to agree with the latter two opinions.

In contrast to Dublin one horse that intrigues me, because he does seem to be improving with each race is Line Of David. I’m not going to make any bold predictions here (like he’s going to win) but I think he could sneak into the Top 3 – a lot depends on how much “juice” Super Saver and the Early bunch still have left as they wheel around the final turn.

And finally there’s Northern Giant….yeah I know I wrote three categories of the Early, the Late and the Ugly and then proceeded to technically give you three categories + 2 more horses….but if we just go with my original thought I get to put this in my blog –

I say worth it.

Anyway one final horse to look at is Northern Giant – who finished 2nd in the Lane’s End with Calvin Borel as his jockey. I think Northern Giant also has a chance to crack the top 3 – because he’ll be carrying less weight (118) then the “big” three (Super Saver / Noble’s Promise / Dublin), he’s the only horse with any experience at this distance (2nd place finish in the Lane's End) and if his odds remain at 8/1 – he might look good in an exacta bet.

In conclusion I like Northern Giant to squeeze in-between winner Noble’s Promise and third place finisher Super Saver.

I will say this I don’t like betting against Calvin Borel (still really stinging from Mine That Bird last year) – but that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Closing Speed likes 3 /4 / 1

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Santa Anita Slugfest!

Santa Anita Derby - Recap

Sidney’s Candy
Lookin At Lucky

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Caracortado, Skipshot, Alphie’s Bet, Thomas Baines, Posse Power, Who’s Up, Cardiff Giant

The Funk Trio Cameo once sang the lyrics – “Look real nice, wrapped up tight… me a heart attack…’s the kind I like”. Of course the song I’m referring to is Candy.

Sidney’s Candy indeed looked real nice as he galloped to an uncontested victory in the Santa Anita Derby. As you watch the race unfold you’ll see Sidney’s Candy (after a rough patch coming out of the gate) takes an early lead, and sets up a “sensible” pace. Sidney’s Candy and jockey Smoking Joe Talamo did everything right in setting the table for a wide open final stretch run.

In complete contrast to Candy and Talamo – Lookin At Lucky and jockey Garrett Gomez had a trip to forget this past Saturday. Trainer Bob Baffert described Gomez’s ride as “horrendous” – and to make matters worse this is the second race in a row where Lookin At Lucky and Gomez make the least of their talents. (Granted they did manage to pull out a victory in the Rebel Stakes).

In the final turn Who’s Up (and Victor Espinoza) bum into and cut off Gomez and Lucky. It is still unanswered as to who initiated – what they would call in NASCAR trading paint – but the result was Gomez chasing down Espinoza after the race and going old school horse racing, by starting fisticuffs with Espinoza not once, but twice.

I certainly can understand Garrett’s frustration because after this second poor performance on this horse he may lose his job for the next race – which for Lookin At Lucky will probably mean the Kentucky Derby….you know one of the highest paid races in the USA.

Garrett Gomez remaining or being relieved as the jockey for Lookin At Lucky adds a very interesting subplot to what already looks to be an intriguing Kentucky Derby.

Setsuko very quietly stole second – and with the right post position and a little luck in the Kentucky Derby could surprise a lot of people.

I’m adding two videos this week as Eskendereya blows away the New York field in the Wood Memorial.

HorseRacingNation – has Eskendereya, Lookin At Lucky and Sidney’s Candy as their top three contenders in the country - check it out.
Santa Anita Derby

Wood Memorial

Friday, April 2, 2010

Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita

Saturday April 3, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 4:48 pm
Name: Santa Anita Derby Grade: 1
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Posse Power
Thomas Baines
Who’s Up
Sidney’s Candy
Lookin At Lucky
Cardiff Giant
Alphie’s Bet

This is my favorite weekend in horse racing – The Wood Memorial in New York, The Illinois Derby and then we finish it off with the Santa Anita Derby out West. At the end of the day at least five horses will have earned enough graded stakes to get their ticket stamped for a trip to the Kentucky Derby.

I believe the Wood Memorial may have the best horse running this weekend in Eskendereya and I would be somewhat surprised if he were defeated, however with a bad trip or a little bad luck on his side – Both Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams have enough talent that they could pull off a small upset.

The Illinois Derby, in my opinion, is a wide open race from the bettors perspective – and I think this field of horses lack any major contenders for the Triple Crown. Should be a very entertaining race to witness and the circumstances are certainly perfect for a longshot to come through for a few lucky bettors.

Backtalk, the son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, will be the favorite in that race.

And that leaves me with the wild, wild, west they call the Santa Anita Derby to further explore.

Many of the horses lining up in the Santa Derby have raced against one another before.

Both Posse Power and Thomas Baines travel south from No-Cal where they recently had unimpressive treks in the El Camino Derby finishing 3rd and 6th respectively. Both of these horses usually run in the middle or the back of the pack and look to make a late run for the finish line.

Skipshot also travels south from Golden Gate – he scored an allowance victory in late February – however I just think these three horses are out of their league…..way out of their league in this race.

Sidney’s Candy and Caracortado also share a recent history as the Candyman finished 1st in the San Felipe Stakes where Caracortado (who was the favorite in that race) finished 3rd.

Sidney’s Candy has won three straight races – the last two at Santa Anita, he has a very favorable post position and he most likely will take an early lead and attempt to hold off all of the late comers.

Caracortado may be the biggest question mark in this race – as it’s difficult to tell if he simply had a lackluster race in his last outing, or if he’s just not as good as many in the grandstands thought he might be. Tough horse to bet against or bet for in this one.

Alphie’s Bet is fresh off a Sham Stakes victory (Setsuko finished 2nd) here at Santa Anita, and this was a race where Alphie’s Bet had to contend with an outside post position very similar to what he’ll be looking at this Saturday.

Alphie’s Bet is currently going off at 8/1 and while I like this horse for a possible upset in this race – I just don’t know if he can overcome his difficult post position against this kind of talent.

Speaking of “this kind of talent” – Lookin At Lucky is perhaps the best three year old horse in the country right now – he cantors into this race having won 6 out of his last 7 races (in his last race Cardiff Giant finished in 5th). His only recent loss (a second place ending) was last November in the Breeder’s Cup here at Santa Anita.

Lookin At Lucky’s morning line odds are currently 4-5 – and while this horse has everything going for him –

  1. Momentum
  2. Post Position
  3. Experience
  4. the Distance should be to his liking
…..the one thing I think could cause a problem is…..the racetrack.

I’ve seen a number of great horses perform poorly on this track – and in contrast I’ve seen a few questionable horses do very well. It’s like some kind of weird mojo, Bermuda Triangle of horse tracks - some think it's the synthetic track.....some believe it's that legal medications for the horses vary from state to's hard to tell.

I won’t be surprised if there’s an upset in Santa Anita this Saturday – which in turn will stir all kinds of controversy going into the Kentucky Derby.

Which leaves me to one last horse – who intrigues me as a possible long shot candidate – and that would be #3 Who’s Up. His morning line odds are 20/1 – he hasn’t raced since last November, and his last two races were both on Turf – however he also won both of his last two races.

I think it’s possible that he will stalk Sidney’s Candy for most of the race, and then as they come out of the final turn – we’ll find out how much this horse has matured in the past few months. He’s a long shot for a reason – but if Lookin At Lucky has a difficult trip, if Alphie’s Bet struggles with starting so far outside, and if Sidney’s Candy fatigues in his first attempt at a mile and 1/8 – then it’s possible Who’s Up will be in a position to pull off a pretty profitable upset.

Then again – it’s more likely that Who’s Up will simply fade with Sidney’s Candy – while Lookin At Lucky blows right past them.

In closing – I like an Exacta bet on this race of

Alphie’s Bet / Sidney’s Candy / Who’s Up/ Caracortado with Lookin At Lucky finishing second. It would be a $4 bet but if Who’s Up can pull of an upset it would be a nice return.

Well with Baseball Season right around the corner, and a horse named “Who’s Up” – I just had to add this classic clip - it's a little slow to load, but well worth it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Louisiana Derby - Recap

Louisiana Derby - Recap

Mission Impazible
A Little Warm

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.

Also ran: Discreetly Mine, Stay Put, Ron The Greek, The Program, Mister Marti Gras,
Fly Down, Wow Wow Wow, Hotep, Island Soul, Backtrack

My sole purpose in writing about the Triple Crown Trail is to bring some clarity to what we can expect in the upcoming months and especially the most exciting two minutes in sports…a.k.a. The Kentucky Derby.

Last year it was difficult to get a sense of what kind of talent we were looking at because of the many injuries suffered during the racing season leading up to the Triple Crown.

This season it just seems that there isn’t a clear cut champion in the bunch – which should lead to a very difficult Triple Crown to handicap. I can think of no better example for that than the Louisiana Derby when it comes to trying to figure out what to make of these results.

Drosselmeyer may be the best horse in this field, despite his 3rd place finish. Coming out of the 13th spot proved to be more than he could overcome, so if he scores a great post in the Kentucky Derby, he’s going to be difficult to ignore…..then again he hasn’t won a major stakes race to date.

A Little Warm and Discreetly Mine went into the final stretch as first and second but hit the wire as second and fourth. Is it because Mission Impazible is just a better horse or because neither of these horses can handle this distance?

And finally what can you make of Mission Impazible? He did everything you can ask of a potential champion – he stalked the leaders for over half the race, hit the stretch going three wide and was the only horse with a strong final kick to finish the job.

My confidence is still a little shaken from last year’s zany Mine That Bird upset – so I’m not completely counting any horses just yet – however none of these horses impressed me much.

Video to follow: