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:


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Louisiana Derby


Saturday March 27, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 4:48 pm
Name: Louisiana Derby Grade: 2
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Mission Impazible
Fly Down
The Program
A Little Warm
Ron The Greek
Discreetly Mine
Island Soul
Stay Put
Wow Wow Wow
Mister Marti Gras

It’s a Risen Star rematch for five of the thirteen horses lined up in the Louisiana Derby.

Last month Discreetly Mine drove to the winner’s circle while Drosselmeyer (the Risen Star morning line favorite) finished 4th, Stay Put followed in 5th, Ron The Greek came immediately after in 6th, and at the back of the pack was Hotep finishing 10th.

The good news for Discreetly Mine is that in the past two years the winner of the Risen Star has returned to win the Louisiana Derby (Pryo and Friesan Fire) – the bad news may be that Drosselmeyer, Stay Put and Ron The Greek looked poised to have a much better performance in the Risen Star stakes than they actually did – so any of the three could bounce back this Saturday.

Drosselmeyer hits a bit of bad luck with the 13th spot – however his style isn’t to jump out to an early lead, so it might not be a complete deal breaker but I do believe it’s enough to keep him out of the winner’s circle.

Stay Put and Ron the Greek have excellent closing speed and at this distance have to be considered as possible challengers for an upset.

In my opinion Hotep should have been named Nostep – let him go up to 50/1 odds or even 100/1 odds before thinking about placing $2 on him.

In complete contrast one long shot to keep an eye on is Backtrack (#12), who comes into this race off of two straight six furlong victories and is currently slated at 30/1. At this distance, and on this racetrack he is a relative unknown – however I certainly like that he “knows” how to win! May be worth a look.

Another 30/1 to look at is Mister Marti Gras (how can you not love that name?) who is fresh off a turf victory and finished 2nd in the two races he ran before that. This will be his first attempt against this talented of a field, but if the price is right – you might want to “show your beads”.

Wow Wow Wow is yet another 30/1 longshot, however he has raced against several of these horses and hasn’t faired very well. I don’t think he’s an option in this one.

Island Soul (another great name) was favored in his last race and failed to win, finishing second in a race slightly over a mile. He’s another horse that will be seeing this kind of talent for the first time, and from my perspective he’s going to be overwhelmed.

To me the most interesting prospect iwill be (#5) A Little Warm who finished 2nd in the Hutcheson Stakes, after winning his previous two races. My concern is that he’s never raced any further than 7 furlongs and it’s his first date with the Louisiana Dirt. However he’s got a great post position, he’s the second morning line favorite behind Discreetly Mine, and he has shown very respectable flashes of speed. This race seems built to bet against him in this one, but it should be no surprise if A Little Warm is the winner.

The Program travels from Pasadena California in hopes of having better luck than his last trip in the Sham Stakes where he finished 3rd. The Program enjoys getting out to an early lead, but he was unable to close in the Sham and I’m afraid he could have the same kind of outing here.

Fly Down seems to be flying below the radar into this derby. He has consecutive victories at a 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 and reports are saying he had a very sharp workout last week. I like his post, and while I believe he’ll need a little help in this race – I like his chances to finish a little better than expected.

Finally – Mission Impazible hasn’t done anything so far to impress me (of course I said the same thing about Pleasant Prince from last weekend). In his last outing he finished 4th in the Southwest Stakes and he hasn’t scored a victory since April of 2009.

Mission Impazible may prove to be a factor if he takes an early lead into the first turn and pushes The Program a little wide. Wow Wow Wow will also contend to set the pace but I figure he’ll go well wide in the first turn and begin to fade at about the mile marker.

In the end I think Discreetly Mine will continue the trend of Risen Star / Louisiana Derby winners, followed by Fly Down, and finally The Program who will fade once again in the final stretch.

You weekend musical assignment, should you choose to accept it


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Monday, March 22, 2010

Florida Derby - Recap

Florida Derby - Recap

Ice Box
Pleasant Prince

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Lentenor, First Dude, Pulsion, Game On Dude, Soaring Empire, Radiohead, Miner’s Reserve, Best Actor.

Louis Prima used to sing a song called Jump, Jive and Wail – which seems very appropriate for my feelings about this past UPSET Saturday we witnessed not only in Horse Racing but in NCAA Basketball – (my brackets are wrecked – you suck Kansas!).

I find that song apposite because as I watched this race unfold I JUMPED when I saw Icebox go 7 to 8 wide coming out of the final turn as he blew by seven other horses to win by a whisker over Pleasant Prince.

I realized I had already JIVED – by not giving much credit before the race to Pleasant Prince who could have easily won this race.

And I was left to WAIL – with how poorly my predictions had turned out (again – you suck Kansas!).

Of course Jump Jive and Wail also had the lyric – “Papa’s in the Icebox looking for a can of ale……”

Similar to my brackets (and the fact that I did say Cornell would go this far!) I take some comfort in that I did see trouble for Radiohead and Miner’s Reserve – both of whom had rough outings.

As I watched the beginning of the race – it looked to me like Radiohead’s post position was too much for him to overcome. He goes wide in the entire first turn, and I believe he wanted to catch up to the brisk early pace that was being set by both Rule and Pulsion.

Radiohead needed former Florida Derby Champion Big Brown’s ability in this outing – and he just didn’t have it.

I believe the pace which Pulsion set – may have also thrown off Rule. By the half mile mark the pace was a little hot for a 1 1/8 mile race – and I think Rule may have just run out of gas as Pleasant Prince and Ice Box stormed by.

If you take Pulsion out of the equation in this race – perhaps Rule could have set a more comfortable pace for himself and had more umphff (yes that’s official horse racing terminology) for the final stretch.

According to ESPN – Rule, Pleasant Prince and winner Ice Box are all headed to the Kentucky Derby, so in six weeks we’ll see what kind of repeat performance they’ll have in store.

As we head to that fateful day in May – I don’t know whether Rule peaked early and is now just an above average horse, probably suited best for 1 mile – or if Pleasant Prince and Icebox pose a real threat in the Kentucky Derby – this could be Mine That Bird all over again….

One other note - Barbaro's baby brother ran a solid race, and I believe his owners will focus more on turf races for this horse. Lentenor is a soild horse with some upside - but he just isn't Barbaro.

If you watch until the 4:00 minute mark – when Icebox gets a refreshing douse of water on his head…..if he could speak I think he’d say something like –

“Oh yeah – that’s the stuff!”

Video to Follow


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park

Saturday March 20, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:20 pm
Name: Florida Derby Grade: 1
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Soaring Empire
Pleasant Prince
Game On Dude
First Dude
Ice Box
Miner’s Reserve
Best Actor

This weekend’s Florida Derby, which is one of biggies in horse racing with a purse of three quarters of a million, features, in my opinion, one major contender and a number of horses who probably don’t belong in the same league.

The major contender I’m referring to is the #7 horse Rule who cantors into the Florida Derby having chalked up four straight trips to the winners circle, including the very lucrative (and aptly named) Delta Jackpot – where he defeated Uh Oh Bango and Co.

Rule also racked up a solid win in the Sam F. Davis stakes where he took the lead early and never looked back. He goes into the race as the morning line favorite and as much as I’d like to guess on a Murray State (Go Racers) over Vanderbilt quality upset here – I think the Rule will be golden once again at the end of the day.

I suppose I could just end my Florida Derby analysis with Rule coming in first – but that just isn’t my style.

I’m just going to go ahead and lump together the Jeff Bridges special of Game on Dude, First Dude and Best Actor – (I call them the Jeff Bridges special because of him playing “the Dude” in the Big Lebowski – and his Best Actor victory in the Oscars this year)…..

However the only one of the three that I think have an outside chance is First Dude who finished in second place in his last outing at this distance at this racetrack. I just don’t see these horses in the same class as the more favored horses, and while First Dude could crack the top 3 – even then I think he needs a lot of things to go right.

Soaring Empire (#1) is fresh off of a 1 mile victory here at Gulfstream, however he’s never attempted anything further than a mile – which may not prove to be a problem because the Empire tends to strike late as opposed to looking for an early lead. Again I think this horse is out of his class, and could struggle with the distance – but at 20/1 he may be worth a $2 gamble.

For those who don’t know Lentenor the #2 horse is a full baby brother of former Kentucky Derby Champion, and one of my personal favorites Barbaro. In horse racing circles Barbaro was known as being even better on Turf than he was a Dirt horse….and at the time he was arguably the best dirt horse in the world.

Lentenor, like his brother before him, has had some good fortune on Turf having a victory and two second place outings in his last three races. However, unlike his brother, Lentenor isn’t as dominant a horse as Barbaro was…..then again very few horses ever are. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Lentenor finish in the top 3, because he’s familiar with the distance and seems to handle it relatively well, but I would be surprised to seem him win the Florida Derby.

Pulsion’s last two finishes are 6th and 11th – I think the owners are just throwing up a hail mary in hopes of him getting an invite to the Kentucky Derby.

Pleasant Prince, who finished two spots ahead of Pulsion in the Fountain of Youth stakes, has two outings at this distance and at this racetrack but I just haven’t seen enough talent to believe he’s a real contender in this race.

Ice Box had two straight victories (one over Pleasant Prince) before landing in 5th place in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. A more telling race may be his 4th place finish behind winner Rule back in October. Considering the lack of talent in this race (aside from Rule) Ice Box may be an intriguing bet for second place as he’s currently going off at 15/1

Miner’s Reserve could be in the best position to challenge Rule this weekend. With jockey Kent Desormeaux in charge and solid closing speed – I think Miner’s Reserve could very well end up being the 2nd favorite in this race. The one factor I’m not crazy about is that he doesn’t have any experience at this distance – which in turn makes me more reserve about the Miner.

And finally the English gentlemen Radiohead who is currently the second favorite on the morning line – and some handicappers like him to have a modest upset over Rule this Saturday. I’m going the other way on this one however – Radiohead, while very impressive in his last outing – has (similar to a number of these horses) never attempted this distance, and I’m really not a big fan of his post position. Radiohead has a tendency to creep up to the lead very early in races and as the 11th horse I think he’s going to struggle in the first turn. Especially if Rule and Miner’s Reserve decide to also challenge the pace and force Radiohead to run three or four wide – making it dimensionally an even longer race than 1 1/8 miles. At his current 3/1 odds – I don’t like him to finish well in this outing.

Can’t say I’m offering much of a surprise here – but I’m taking Rule in the winner’s circle, followed by a mild surprise of Lentenor and Miner’s Reserve just edging out First Dude and Radiohead.

Closing Speed likes – 7-2-9

· I also think this would be a very good race to put Rule in an exacta with a few longshots – such as Soaring Empire, Ice Box, First Dude and even Lentenor – the $4 investment is worth a look.

To kick off a musical weekend – I present Japan’s Ayumi Hamasaki who’s video Rule features her in a tight black outfit, Dancing Ninja’s, and lyrics I can’t understand.

Ms. Hamasaki is like the Lady Gaga of Japan – however Hamasaki’s song Poker Face (same title / different song) came out almost a decade before Lady Gaga, and the guitar riffs in this song sound very familiar as well – makes you think….enjoy!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Rebel Stakes Recap

Rebel Stakes - Recap

Lookin At Lucky
Noble’s Promise

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Also ran: Uh Oh Bango, Cardiff Giant, Pleasant Storm, Royal Express

In any sport a Champion is usually defined not necessarily by dominating his rivals – but just as often from fighting off adversity. When you think of Michael Jordan do you remember him blowing teams out – or him hitting a game winning shot at the buzzer? When remembering Cool Joe Montana – do you visualize his 20 point victories over sub-par teams or his last second, playoff, toss against the Cowboys to an outstretched Tight End in the end zone?

Or maybe what defines a champion is also that rare blend of talent….and, well – luck, as in bad luck often gives you a chance to steal away victory from the jaws of defeat.

Well if luck is what you need – you are quite literally Lookin at Lucky – as you watch the video you’ll see that he gets squeezed between horses coming out of the gate as last place finisher Royal Express charges to a lead that he’ll possess for three quarters of a mile.

At the 1:00 minute mark on the video you’ll see Lookin At Lucky jump in the air as he gets boxed in and almost clips heels with Noble’s Promise and in the process loses a length or more on the pack.

A four horse wall is created coming out of the final turn forcing Lookin At Lucky to go wide in his only attempt to find room for a late charge.

Noble’s Promise (who seemingly had a much easier trip) is barely nosed out in the end by the Lucky one.

*In fact as I watch the replay – it still looks to me like Noble’s Promise beat him – but I trust the photo finish.

Dublin and Uh Oh Bango gave quality outings, but the top two horses are clearly on a different level.

Video to Follow:


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rebel Stakes

Oaklawn Park

Saturday March 13, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 5:47 pm
Name: Rebel Stakes Grade: 2
Purse: $300,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Cardiff Giant
Looking At Lucky
Royal Express
Uh Oh Bango
Pleasant Storm
Noble’s Promise

On the road to the Triple Crown the Rebel Stakes are one of my favorite stops. This race has helped Kentucky Derby victor Smarty Jones and Preakness Winner and Super Horse Curlin take flight on their way to horse racing supremacy. Of course it’s also featured a few surprises like Win Willy from last year, which should have been a good indicator of how a strange a three year old season it would be in 2009!

This year the Rebel Stakes could once again offer up a great Triple Crown preview with the #2 horse Looking At Lucky.

Looking At Lucky has got the name, the talent, five trips to the winners circle in his last six races and practically everything you look for in an up and coming star. However for this particular race there are a few strikes going against both he and (#6) Noble’s Promise. Both horses will be carrying 119 lbs, which is 2lbs more than everyone except (#1) Cardiff Giant who will be carrying only 115 lbs.

Both Looking At Lucky and Noble’s Promise are coming back from almost a three month lay-off, having not raced since Looking At Lucky defeated Noble’s Promise in the Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park back on December 19th.

One other interesting factor is that both of these horses will be transferring from a synthetic track to a dirt track, which they may or may not like racing on – we’ll only know after it’s all said and done.

While I expect these two horses to be among the favorites – the Rebel Stakes should be a very competitive race.

The Irish Bookends Cardiff Giant and Dublin (both are American horses with Irish names) – finished behind winner Conveyance in the February 20th Southwest Stakes here at Oaklawn Park (Dublin was driving for a 2nd place finish, while Cardiff Giant trailed in third).

In the last nine races Cardiff Giant has finished no worse then 4th – and he only did that once.

Dublin looks like he’ll benefit with more distance in this race than the 1 mile Southwest Stakes he just raced in – and both of these horses will be thankful that Conveyance (who has defeated Cardiff Giant in two consecutive races) will be sitting this one out.

One of Dublin’s previous races includes finishing behind (#4) Uh Oh Bango who finished 2nd in the Iroquios Stakes last November, as Dublin finished 7th.

Uh Oh Bango has been an impressive colt so far, finishing 2nd in a muddy Delta Jackpot last December – the only thing this horse hasn’t done is win a major stakes race, and it’s very possible he could be on his way to doing that here at the Rebel. Uh Oh Bango will most likely challenge for the early lead with Royal Express.

When I think of Royal Express, I just think of the words “No problem”.

Break well out of the gate – no problem
Take the lead and hold it – no problem
Win two straight races on dirt – no problem
Run in the mud – no problem
Run more than just 6 furlongs - no problem…….well….that might be a problem.

Royal Express has impressed me so far with his ability to make a break for the rail, contain it for 5 furlongs and then bolt for a victory in the last few seconds of the race. However he’s never won a race more than 6 furlongs – so when he reaches the final turn he’ll either stretch out and make a very impressive victory or fade…..I’m guessing the latter of the two. Still in a 6 furlong race – this horse is money.

Finally there’s Pleasant Storm who has nothing on his resume to suggest that he’s going to be able to compete with these horses. His last two races have been here at Oaklawn Park with a 7th place finish in the Southwest Stakes (behind Dublin and Cardiff Giant) and a 2nd place finish in January. If I could bet on one horse coming in last it would be this horse.

I believe the race will unfold with Royal Express and Uh Oh Bango leading the charge – I think Looking At Lucky will ride the rail slightly behind these two horses as Dublin, Noble’s Promise and Cardiff Giant position themselves for the second turn. I think this race all comes down to:

If Uh Oh Bango expends too much energy chasing the lead with Royal Express – both horses could fade down the stretch after burning up the track for 6 furlongs. However if Uh Oh Bango can remain patient – and position himself with a lead coming out of the final turn, then I think you have to look and see if Looking At Lucky has a lane to make a move on the inside – if for any reason Looking at Lucky gets boxed in coming out of the final turn, it could mean the difference between finishing 1st and finishing 5th for this horse.

I think Looking At Lucky will find enough luck to battle Uh Oh Bango for the victory and have just enough of a smart trip and an early lead to keep a late charging Dublin and Noble’s Promise from stealing a victory.

My pick –

Looking At Lucky, Uh Oh Bango, Dublin.

*Looking At Lucky will be sporting new blinkers for this upcoming race, which has the ZZ Top classic Cheap Sunglasses running through my head – with the awesome lyric –

“She had a west coast strut that was as sweet as molases”

I suspect the song is now in your head as well –


Friday, March 5, 2010

Sham Stakes

Sham Stakes

Saturday February 27, 2010 - Race 8
Estimated Local Post Time: 4:07 PM
Name: Sham S. Grade: 3
Purse: $150,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

The Program
Outlaw Man
El Mirage King
Boulder Creek
Kettle River
Wolf Tail
Alphie’s Bet

Last week the Sham Stakes were rained out - so they're going to give it another try this Saturday and if the rain pours again - try it again on Sunday. Some of the horses have changed - but overall I believe the story of this race remains the same.

What makes the Sham an intriguing stakes races is that many of these horses weren’t on a career path of attempting a Kentucky Derby run, most of these horses have the bulk of their races on Turf and I believe the only reason many of these horses are in this race – is that their owners figure…..why not?

Nobody in this race is a hot prospect for the big dance in May, no one entered a Super horse….there’s only one horse who has a Stakes win and he’s going off at 20/1– so this race could mean an owner just picking up a sizeable purse and calling it a day, or this race could also mean the first step for bigger races for the winner.

Marcello (new entry) - similiar to many of these other horses Marcello has had some moderate success on Turf and is looking to give the Synthetic track another try. His last outing wasn't very successful as he finished 5th in the Cash Call Futurity last December, a race that saw The Program finish just ahead of him in 4th. Marcello has a favorable post position for this race as he will have no problem riding the rail among the middle of the pack for the bulk of this race. At the final turn if an alley opens up along the rail - Marcello could easily be in the best position to turn on the after burners and steal the Stakes - however if there's no alley along the rail - he could be shut out - at 15/1 odds he's definitely worth a look.

The Program will enjoy a very favorable post position for his style of racing. The Program will look to grab a very early lead and set the pace. This colt is fresh off a 1 1/16 mile victory here at Santa Anita at the beginning of this month. Martin Garcia returns as his jockey, however he’s one of two horses carrying 118 lbs. instead of 116. I think this horse has everything going for him in this race - the only question is how will he handle the distance?

Kettle River recently defeated The Program at Santa Anita, in a 1 1/16th race in early January. Kettle River (which simultaneously makes me hungry for Kettle Popcorn and the desire to sing Old Man River) has won two out of his last three races. His only loss came in a very muddy 6 furlong slop fest that I don’t believe they tried their hardest in. His jockey Brice Blanc returns for his 3rd straight race and Kettle will also carry 118 lbs.

Outlaw Man – his last three races were on turf and he finished those races 1st / 3rd and 2nd. I believe he’ll like the distance of the Sham Stakes – but the transition from running on the grass to running on a synthetic track is difficult to predict – however three straight races he’s been in the money and the odds maker has him at 10/1 ?

Setsuko – is currently going off at 3/1 – he has only 1 victory in his past 6 races however in those 6 races he finished no lower than 4th. The Program defeated Setsuko in a 1 mile race back in October, and yet the odds makers prefer Setsuko in this race – this is usually the time when I write that somebody must know something I don’t – but wait it gets a little stranger….

Wolf Tail – has been the model of consistency as he has finished in the top three 5 races out of 8 – pretty good if you ask me. From what I’m reading he’s the only stakes winner in this race….and of course he’s going off at 20/1……HUH?

El Mirage King is fresh off a victory here at Santa Anita, however he doesn’t have a race over 1 mile on his resume. It’s possible that they’ll stretch him out in this race and be rewarded for it – but even in this race a victory would be a surprise.

Boulder Creek looks to be a horse on the rise here at Santa Anita. He finished first here in a 1 1/16 mile trek in early February and seems to be improving with time and distance. He's finished no worse than 4th in his last 4 races and with his 12/1 odds I'd look to include him in a trifecta bet, because frankly his competition isn't that impressive.

Alphie’s Bet is also fresh off a 1 mile turf victory here at Santa Anita – and very similar to Outlaw Man you have to wonder what the results will be as he transfers from the lush grass to the fake dirt? The day after last Christmas he finished 2nd in a 1 1/16 mile race here at Santa Anita, so you have to figure Alphie’s Bet could challenge as well (he’s going off at 8/1).

And finally we come to the favorite in this race Nextdoorneighbor who returns from his Jan. 24th victory at this track and at this distance. That is his only victory in his last three races and I have no idea why this horse has been chosen as the favorite. He hasn’t defeated anyone of consequence, his post position in this race isn’t great, and personally I think there are more proven horses racing this Saturday.

Since the post positions have shaken (but not stirred) things up a little - I'm forced to rethink my selections - I'm still taking The Program to win, Setsuko to place and Kettle River just edging out Boulder Creek for third.

Of course should the favorite “put me in my place” again – I’ll certainly be having a hard day’s night…..and thinking I should have known better – back me up Beatles.