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, meaning....you 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…..in 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…..so 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…..”