Monday, August 8, 2011

West Virginia Derby - Recap

West Virginia Derby - Recap

Prayer for Relief
Rush Now
Sherriff Cogburn

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Infrattini, Awesome Bet, Little Drama, Dreamy Kid, Skipping the Score, Loranger Native

Scratched: Fred High

Prayer for Relief continues to impress!!! He’s won 4 out of his last 5 races and his most recent loss was a second place finish at a new and extended distance. In both the Iowa and West Virginia Derbies he scored the #1 post position and he's making the most from the rail – he still has time for another Derby (possibly the Pennsylvania Derby) and he may put himself in contention for the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

With 1/16 mile left in the race I thought Rush Now was a lock for the victory – I was extremely impressed with how well Prayer for Relief closed in this race.

Let me assure you that when I write that I’m scratching a horse off my list (Rush Now) that it  isn’t code that you should make sure and bet on him! Despite any evidence in the past, to the contrary.

My Da Vinci Code-esque style of analyzing horses aside….I had read that Rush Now is a horse with quite a bit of ability, and the West Virginia Derby was an excellent showcase for him. He may be the kind of horse that puts it together in the next few months and goes on a winning streak.

I rarely ask you to watch a race twice….but after you watch Prayer for Relief seal an impressive’ve got to go back and watch Infrattini’s come from behind run….when the announcer says, near the beginning of the race, that Infrattini is WAAAAYYY in the back…you’ll see two horses barely able to stay on the screen…..Infrattini is neither of those horses….he’s still several lengths behind them. As they head for home you’ll see him in the back closing – and then he goes to the far outside and does a remarkable job just to finish with a show.

Speaking of the announcer...his accent isn't like any West Virginia dialect I remember.....

Awesome Bet and Little Drama finished about where I thought they might….these are solid horses that could blossom with even more race experience.

Dreamy Kid was a big disappointment to me – what struck me as unusual was the sprint out of the gate and into the middle of the pack at the first turn. It just didn’t appear like he was running “his” race, this is a horse who has had quite a bit of success staying towards the back of the pack….Joseph Talamo is an excellent jockey and I’m sure they had their reasons --- but I think this horse is much more capable than a 7th place finish against this group.

I’m not a big fan of horses traveling across the country ---- so that also may have been the issue for Dreamy Kid.

Video to follow:

Friday, August 5, 2011

West Virginia Derby

Mountaineer Park
Saturday August 6th  , 2011
Name: West Virginia Derby Grade: II
Purse: $750,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Prayer For Relief
Little Drama
Awesome Bet
Rush Now
Sherriff Cogburn
Skipping the Score
Dreamy Kid
Loranger Native
Fred High

For the past few years the West Virginia Derby, and it’s very attractive purse of 750,000, have attracted a few top three year olds – including a few Kentucky Derby winners. Unfortunately that isn’t "as true" this year….as the headliners (and favorites) only have modest derby or stakes wins --- however both of these favorites have beaten solid horses and could pose as contenders in the upcoming Breeder’s Cup!

The two favorites for the West Virginia Derby are Iowa Derby winner #1 Prayer for Relief and Swaps Stakes winner #8 Dreamy Kid.

In his last race – Prayer for Relief enjoyed the same rail spot he’ll have this Saturday and he used it with aplomb. He remained slightly off the pace and as they hit the home stretch he was positioned without any traffic in front of him – and he strode to with winner's circle strongly.

#6 Sherriff Cogburn challenged Prayer for Relief in the final furlongs but faded into a second place finish.

#8 Dreamy Kid will also be a favorite in this race – and his style will (most likely) be in contrast to Prayer for Relief – as Dreamy Kid will likely hang back in the middle or back of the pack and make his late push shortly before the last turn.

In his last race Dreamy Kid stole a victory, with a bob of the nose, over Coil – Coil recently won the Haskell Invitational defeating Preakness Winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice……so while the favorites here at the WV Derby may be relatively unknown….that doesn’t mean they can’t run.

#2 Infrattini has won one race in his last four starts, but placed in the remaining three. At 8/1 odds and a solid post position – he may be worth a look. The distance in this race is a slight concern for him as he’s never raced beyond 1 1/16 – but he’s not the only one in this field looking at a new distance.

#3 Little Drama has finished in the money four times out of his last five races – however most of his finishes have been for a show. I don’t like his chances for victory here, but he’s a solid look if you’re betting a trifecta.

#4 Awesome Bet was the recent winner in the Barbaro Stakes – and has won three out of his last four races – his trip in the Lone Star Derby was a very disappointing 7th  - If Awesome Bet can run his race – I think he’s got a shot to upset.

#5 Rush Now recently finished 3rd behind Awesome Bet in the Barbaro Stakes and 3rd in the Philmont behind winner Little Drama. A number of racing experts really like this horse….he’s the horse that seemingly does everything well….but win. I’m scratching him off my list.

#7 Skipping the Stone has two races on his resume and both were 6th place finishes. He hasn’t raced since January and he’s going at 50-1. For this long of odds I like that he’s a three year old we haven’t seen since January….meaning he could have matured into a very competitive horse for this field….and no one would know it except his trainer. However it’s his first time back and he didn’t have a lot of race experience to begin with – it’s a good long shot bet……but he's a long shot for a very good reasons.

The other long shot is 30-1 West Virginia bred - #10 Fred High – who (according to my material) will be making his racing debut in this derby. I suppose one could argue he’s never lost a race….but my guess is you won’t be able to say that at the end of this derby.

#9 Loranger Native at 12-1 odds is an interesting wild card to me. He’s had five career races and finished in the money in all five – he returned to racing for a second place finish in his last race in June, but that was after nearly a four month lay-off. The combination of having one race to shake off the rust, and yet relatively fresh legs and a solid record makes him an intriguing 12-1 bet.

In conclusion – I’m not crazy about the three top horses Dreamy Kid, Prayer for Relief, and Sherriff Cogburn traveling across the country for this race – while 12-1 Loranger Native is merely taking a small road trip over country roads ….. (yeah I went there for the West Virginia Derby, even though Bill Withers Lean On Me should be the state song because he’s from West Virginia instead of Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. – aka John Denver who was from New Mexico….but I digress….)

Everything looks like it’s working for Prayer For Relief and I like him for the win, followed by Awesome Bet, and a stuck in traffic at the turn Dreamy Kid.

Closing Speed likes: 1-4-8

However from the betting standpoint – Infrattini, Little Drama and Loranger Native all of enough talent to make their 8-1 / 8-1 and 12-1 odds worth a very solid consideration in either a exacta or win/place bets.

And yes we’re closing with West Virginia’s Son Bill Withers…..

Monday, June 13, 2011

Belmont - Recap

Belmont Stakes- Recap

Ruler on Ice
Stay Thirsty
Brilliant Speed

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Nehro, Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Santiva, Monzon, Master of the Hounds, Prime Cut, Isn’t He Perfect

At the end of the race the announcer yells out – a SHOCKER in the Belmont….but after a “shocker” in the Arkansas Derby, a “bombshell” in the Kentucky Derby, and a surprise in the Preakness…..I think it’s more appropriate had he just yelled….

“A long shot wins….again – WTF?!?! “

Okay so maybe the language at the end would be a bit much for NBC….but I know that’s what many people were thinking.

Despite his fifth place finish, I thought Shackleford gave a valiant effort in the Empire State slop – he broke well from the gate – ran the race we’ve seen him run twice before, and even extended himself in the lead past a mile and ¼ before he faded. This horse kept getting better throughout the Triple Crown - but his style of racing and his troublesome post position made a fifth place finish a bit of a victory in my opinion! As we exit the Triple Crown I think you have to consider Shackleford the best “healthy” three year old horse for races 1 mile to 1 1/8 miles.

Animal Kingdom – in contrast to Shackleford – did not break well from the gate….or rather his Jockey didn’t. Three seconds out of the gate Animal Kingdom appears to slip in the mud or perhaps clip heels with rival Monzon, which nearly sends his jockey flying forward – both of them seem to regain composure and Animal Kingdom makes an impressive bolt at the 1:46 minute mark – passing up seven horses in a matter of a few seconds….and then it’s as if the Kentucky Derby Champion looks at what’s still ahead and decides to quit with the last quarter ahead of him....perhaps they should call him Animal "King" Dom.....

I'm kidding - I actually think LeBron is okay.
Both he and Shackleford seemed to share a similar fatigue at this point in the race.

Stay Thirsty had been a sharp horse to watch throughout the spring, however he never showed a proclivity for this kind of distance – in fact I had him down as fading at 1 1/16th miles….his Belmont Stakes may be the sign of a horse finding his potential ! From what I’m reading he and 3rd place Brilliant Speed may run again at the end of July in the Jim Dandy Stakes - should be worth checking out!

From what I saw in the previous week – Brilliant Speed in 3rd was the only thing that made sense to me!

I was certainly surprised by the winner Ruler on Ice – the Champions were exhausted and with a sloppy field perhaps the race was completely up for grabs – all things considered, once Animal Kingdom quit and Shackleford began to fade,  I thought Nehro would be the one to watch, however he mysteriously only seems to pick up his pace after the race is finished.

The conclusion of the Triple Crown – is a frustrating mystery, making it for me, a disappointing season.

Granted there was very little serious injury this year – which is always a blessing, however as Ruler On Ice crossed the finish line – I felt like I still needed one more race to help determine how good any of these horses are/were…..which in general is a big part of why I continue to write about the sport….if the three Triple Crown winners, and a few spring hopefuls decide to meet up for 1 1/8th miles – and we don’t have yet another longshot shocker in that race….I think it would offer some resolve to the season.

Maybe the Jim Dandy, Travers Stakes…..possibly even the West Virginia Derby - I'll continue writing regardless - however a rematch between a number of these horses would make it a lot more fun.

Video to follow:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Belmont Stakes

Saturday June 11th , 2011
Name: Belmont Stakes Grade: I
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/2 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Master of the Hounds
Stay Thirsty
Ruler On Ice
Brilliant Speed
Prime Cut
Animal Kingdom
Mucho Macho Man
Isn’t He Perfect

Five of the first six horses return to Triple Crown racing after skipping the Preakness (#3 Ruler On Ice didn’t participate in the Kentucky Derby – he recently finished 2nd in the Federico Tesio stakes).

The following is how the first group of Kentucky Derby contestants faired –

(#1) Master of the Hounds – 5th
(#2) Stay Thirsty – 12th
(#4) Santiva – 6th
(#5) Brilliant Speed – 7th
(#6) Nehro – 2nd

Nehro has been a threat all year to finally “win” a big stakes race – currently he’s finished 2nd in three straight Derbies (Louisiana / Arkansas / Kentucky) – the advantage he brings against horses like Animal Kingdom and Shackleford – is he’s had more rest than the two Preakness competitors. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up being the “betting” favorite in this race at post time.

From what I’ve seen Santiva and Stay Thirsty won’t compete past 1 1/16th miles – I think the distance in this race knocks them out.

This will be the first time Ruler On Ice has really competed at this level - certainly he's the kind of "WHO?" horse capable of winning something like the Belmont Stakes....but there's nothing in his history to suggest he's got the ability to beat some of the better horses in this field.

Master of the Hounds should improve in this race – however outside of a 2nd place finish in the UAE Derby this horse hasn’t been very impressive – I’m leaning away from this 10-1 horse right now…..however the one longshot (15-1) I am interested in is Brilliant Speed.

Brilliant Speed has looked very solid at 1 1/8 miles – and if the price is right, after having rested a month he may be worth a look!

#7 Monzon and #8 Prime Cut return from a rematch in the Peter Pan Stakes here at Belmont where they finished sixth and third respectively. These two horses have a solid post position and familiarity with the track…but I don’t think either horse has the talent to beat most of the horses in this field.

The final four horses return in a rematch from the Preakness where Kentucky Derby victor #9 Animal Kingdom placed behind a resolute #12 Shackleford.

Finishing behind the two Triple Crown champions were #11 Isn’t He Perfect (9th place) and #10 Mucho Macho Man (6th place).

Fatigue will certainly be a concern for the returning champions Animal Kingdom and Shackleford who will be up against the longest race of their lives, after having already appeared in the most races in the shortest amount of time (3 races in 5 weeks) in their short careers.

Shackleford’s 12th position in this race didn’t do him any favors either – as he will have to break very well out of the gate – beat everyone to the first turn and cut across the track so that he can establish the lead and the pace which has served as his recipe for success so far.

I really like Shackleford – he’s a tough little go-getter and I’ve certainly enjoyed watching him come into his own during the Triple Crown – however a 12th spot for his style of racing and at this distance seems to be asking far too much.

All things considered this race lines up very well for Animal Kingdom v Nehro – both of these horses prefer to close late and you have to wonder which is more likely –

Animal Kingdom, despite fatigue, continues to showcase more talent than any of the other competitors?
Nehro finally gets a much anticipated trip to the Winner’s Circle?

From a bettors point of view – I like betting $24 on Mucho Macho Man, Brilliant Speed, Nehro and Animal Kingdom for a tri-fecta box. With a little luck Mucho or Brilliant Speed may end up splitting the two favorites….or even better winning!!

Sadly my “selections” are pretty boring with the two favorites winning and placing….

Closing Speed likes: Animal Kingdom, Nehro and Brilliant Speed

Just because it's a great song for the weekend!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Preakness Stakes

Preakness Stakes - Recap

Animal Kingdom

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Dialed In, Dance City, Mucho Macho Man, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Isn’t He Perfect, Concealed Identity, Norman Asbjornson, Sway Away, Midnight Interlude, Flashpoint

At the end of the Preakness I was certainly a believer in the “rapture”  --- because all of my horses had “disappeared”….

Thank you, thank you - tip your virtual bartenders
Please forgive – how often can you use a rapture joke in horse racing?

The horses I’m really talking about are Flashpoint – and to some extent Sway Away.  I really thought Flashpoint was capable of having the race Shackleford pulled off – and even if I didn’t think Sway Away would win the Preakness, he’s got more ability than a 12th place finish against a number of these horses.

More and more Sway Away appears to be the athlete with all of the talent, but none of the drive!

Last week I wrote that Shackleford appeared to be a much better horse than the racing world had come to accept. Now with his Preakness victory - the future looks very bright for this early speedster, and I don’t know how anyone couldn’t have a great deal of respect for him at this point.

Watching the race, you’ll notice he stumbles out of the gate (#5) – regains his composure – and runs stride for stride with Flashpoint….the contrast in Flashpoint’s finish (last) versus Shackleford’s (First) is a very telling sign of their talents.

Personally I didn’t think Shackleford had a mile and 3/16th in him….I thought he would fall back after a mile and 1/16 – and someone (my guess and hope was Animal Kingdom) would surpass him in the last furlong.

Another horse I thought might "be there" was Mucho Macho Man - but out of the gate he leans outwards and bumps into the horse next to him....he captures solid footing, but then runs into a pocket of horses in the first turn. I think at that point his chances of winning were over.

In the end – Shackleford had enough fight to pull off a historic victory. One interesting bit to look for as you watch the race is in the last few yards. Shackleford swerves into the middle of the track, almost at the last moment, just enough to have Animal Kingdom break his momentum.

Hats off to Animal Kingdom as well – both he and Shackleford have been relatively neglected during this racing campaign – and granted the lack of attention is justifiable – but as we close the end of an unpredictable Triple Crown Trail….these two horses have been very solid in their last three outings.

I’m reading that they may face off again in the Belmont Stakes --- however the length of that race certainly favors Animal Kingdom….my hope is that Nehro, The Factor, Uncle Mo, Animal Kingdom and Shackleford can compete in at least one race before it’s all said and done. It probably won’t happen – however perhaps the Travers Stakes in Saratoga or the West Virginia Derby can find a way to field these great horses in August….one can hope.

Video to follow:

Friday, May 20, 2011



Saturday May 21st , 2011
Name: Preakness Stakes Grade: I
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 3/16 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Norman Asbjornson
King Congie
Sway Away
Midnight Interlude
Dance City
Mucho Macho Man
Dialed In
Animal Kingdom
Isn’t He Perfect
Concealed Identity
Mr. Commons

You see this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen……many of us foresaw a season where Uncle Mo would make a serious run at becoming the first horse to win both the Triple Crown and the Juvenile Championship..….instead he scratched days before the Kentucky Derby…..please play following link for effect:

In California and in Arkansas The Factor piqued our interest with three straight victories…and then he fizzled in the Arkansas Derby - recent news indicates he's dealing with an injury.

(see ESPN stories --------------------------------------->)

After finishing 2nd in three consecutive derbies maybe Nehro would be the horse to watch in the Preakness? Nope! He’s taking the day off.

So….do you believe in #10 Animal Kingdom?

I can tell you I “want” to believe he can end the 33 year draught without a Triple Crown – but this season in particular has been so unpredictable, I’m close to advising....

Closing Speed likes: Picking a long shot….any long shot – even if the horse has given you absolutely no reason to believe they’ll be solid this Saturday.....and if they don’t win blame the Jockey.

But that seems very defeatist (along with pitiful, bitter, frustrated……etc). It also seems too easy of a way out.....

So let’s take a look at the field…..

There are only two horses who enter the Preakness off an immediate victory - Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom and recent stakes winner Concealed Identity.

#13 Concealed Identity has two consecutive victories here at Pimlico, and in my opinion this field is so unpredictable – a home field advantage is enough to make this horse at least a consideration.

Along with Animal Kingdom, four additional horses return from the Kentucky Derby -

Early speedster #5 Shackleford closed out an impressive 4th in the KY Derby and will enjoy a great starting spot in this race - a mile and 1/16 seems like the perfect distance for this horse....unfortunately the Preakness is one more furlong (1/8 of a mile).

#7 Midnight Interlude continued the grand tradition of coming out of California racing and proving to be a disappointment (16th KY Derby). He enjoyed a solid position in the KY Derby and failing to deliver. I’m reading where several people think this is the horse to watch….I’m not buying it.

#9 Mucho Macho Man – (3rd KY Derby) – he ran the kind of race we expected, but couldn’t close out as strongly as Animal Kingdom. The distance here is shorter….but I don’t know if that matters. Keep in mind the KY Derby was Mucho’s first return to racing since losing his shoe in the Louisiana Derby….so it’s possible he still wasn’t 100% going into the KY Derby. Could make a better step forward here.

#10 Dialed In – (8th KY Derby) – When this horse won the Florida Derby, I think a number of folks believed that Shackleford (60-1 odds and beaten by a nose) was just a fluke that day and that, in contrast, Dialed In was the kind of horse with plenty of late speed who would improve as the distances got longer (which they do in the Triple Crown). However, looking back I’m not so sure that Shackleford isn’t a much better horse than people are giving him credit for…and that Dialed In was only slightly better that day.

The Preakness is really going to show if Dialed In just had a bad day in Kentucky or if he was completely over hyped as the favorite. Many experts feel he fell too far behind early on in the race – we’ll see if there are any adjustments made for the Preakness.

#4 Flashpoint finished fourth in the Florida Derby (against the aforementioned Dialed In and Shackleford) – he may contend as a pace setter in this outing – and that could effect Shackleford’s performance. Flashpoint was brilliant in races under a mile.....if he somehow digs up some endurance - he'll be very dangerous....possible but very unlikely.

#1 Astrology and #12 Isn’t He Perfect last squared off in the Jerome Handicap – Astrology finished 2nd while Isn’t He Perfect loped in at 5th.

Astrology came into this season with a lot of buzz and promise – that has still by and large been unfulfilled. He is apart of one of the last wave of horses sired by A.P. Indy – which is kind of a big deal to Horse Racing people. There’s reason to believe that this horse has the talent he just hasn’t put the pieces together yet – it’s possible it happens in the Preakness. I like his 15-1 odds – but I’m not crazy about his starting spot.

Personally I believe that #6 Sway Away has the ability to be a great horse…..somebody just needs to help this horse understand that being the first to cross the wire is a good thing. When this horse wants to make up ground in the final stretch it is impressive….problem is he just hasn’t wanted to do it lately?? He’s another horse that I believe could blossom at any moment.

#3 King Congie enjoyed three straight victories on Turf before his ownership made a last second bid to get into the Kentucky Derby – by running him in the Blue Grass Stakes where he finished 3rd. I like his starting spot – and this horse will fight for the finish…..question remains if he’s any good on dirt? Which is the question Animal Kingdom may have answered in Kentucky.

#2 Norman Asbjornson – finished a respectable 4th in the Wood Memorial, and 2nd in the Gotham Stakes in New York. He may be solid enough to end up in the top 3 – but I don’t see him winning.

#14 Mr. Commons finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby (losing to Midnight Interlude) – unless he creeps up to 50-1, 100-1 --- there’s nothing here of interest.

Finally there’s #8 Dance City, who recently finished 3rd in the Arkansas Derby. I believe that Dance City has some talent – and his starting spot is favorable. The Arkansas Derby was a big step up for this horse, and he may have just needed the race to adjust to the talent level – (Similar to Norman Asbjornson) – I wouldn’t be surprised if he cracked the top three here – I just don’t see him winning.

But no matter what I see in these other horses – whether it’s untapped potential poised for fruition – like Astrology or Sway Away….or horses that are looking to rebound off of a poor race – like Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man and King Congie – the real question still remains –

Do you believe in Animal Kingdom??

His Kentucky Derby victory was remarkable – he overcame a less than preferable post, he weaved well through the traffic – and he won with driving conviction. Was he just in the zone that day?? Or is this horse a legit Triple Crown threat….that’s what Saturday is going to be all about!

From a bettors perspective - I think you roll with the unpredictable nature of this season - $2 win bets on Flashpoint, King Congie, and Astrology will cost a total of $8 - and if one of them pulls off the mild upset it should net you around $35 to $60 - not bad. With all three I like their odds and the starting spots are solid.

In Flashpoint - I see him parting from the field early, and hitting the wire before the late chargers can catch him.

In King Congie - I see a horse liking his first outing on Dirt - and returning to the winner's circle.

In Concealed Identity - home field advantage, against a questionable field - 30-1 odds and rising?

With Astrology - His talent finally comes together.

But that's not what I'm hoping for.....what I'd like to see is an even more impressive victory by Animal Kingdom, with Mucho Macho Man fighting off Sway Away for 2nd and 3rd place.

Closing Speed likes: #11, #9, #6

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kentucky Derby - Recap

Kentucky Derby - Recap

Animal Kingdom
Mucho Macho Man

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.

Shackleford, Master of the Hounds, Santiva, Brilliant Speed, Dialed In, Pants On Fire, Twice the Appeal, Soldat, Stay Thirsty, Derby Kitten, Decisive Moment, Archarcharch, Midnight Interlude, Twinspired, Watch Me Go, Comma to the Top.

I really am considering changing my blog title too – Right Idea, Wrong Horse!

I certainly wasn’t surprised that a relative long shot (20-1) won this race…..Right Idea!

However I did not see Animal Kingdom (especially coming out of the 16 spot) as a possibility – Wrong Horse!

I wasn’t sold on Dialed In for this race – and despite the size of this field – 8th place is pretty pathetic for the Kentucky Derby favorite. A number of analysis feel he fell too far behind the pack in the first mile of the race to make up enough ground for a victory....either that or he was completely over-hyped.

We’ll really know how good this horse is – should he run in the Preakness.

In contrast – the winner Animal Kingdom – only fell back as far as 12th (while Dialed In remained at 19th for the first ¾ of the race).
Last week my instinct told me that Animal Kingdom would have to do the following to win this race:
  • Go nearly 5 wide (or more) in the final turn
  • Not fall too far behind Shackleford / Pants On Fire and Soldat
  • Surpass Mucho Macho Man
  • Close better than Nehro
It seemed a lot to ask of a horse without a “major” victory – and a new jockey. And that’s why I scratched him off my list – in the end, he was able to do all of it – and (most surprising) he wins with conviction! This isn’t a bob of the head victory…..

I didn’t like Nehro for the victory here – because this horse just seems to love being the bridesmaid -

I'll give Kristen Wiig free advertising....
If Nehro runs in the Preakness it will be his fourth race in little less than two months – by today’s standards that’s quite a bit of racing. For Animal Kingdom it will be his third race in the same amount of time – which is standard.

We'll see if Nehro breaks his second fiddle streak in Baltimore...***spoiler alert - don't count on it.....

I’m disappointed in Pants On Fire – but I’m not surprised – I think he needed to running 1st or 2nd by the ¾ mile marker – and instead he only reached 4th before beginning to fade. He needed to be closer to the rail – to really challenge here.

For the most part – it has been the kind of year – where many horses are having difficulty following up their victories.

My analytical side doubts Animal Kingdom will be the best horse in the field in the Preakness – and that horses like Nehro, Mucho Macho Man, Soldat or maybe even Dialed In will prevail with less horses in the field.

However anyone who reads my blog knows that I’ll be rooting for Animal Kingdom to just keep improving and give us a long awaited Triple Crown!!! Good Luck Animal Kingdom!!

Video to follow:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kentucky Derby

Churchhill Downs

Saturday May 7th, 2011
Name: Kentucky Derby Grade: I
Purse: $2,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/4 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

#1 Archarcharch
#2 Brilliant Speed
#3 Twice the Appeal
#4 Stay Thirsty
#5 Decisive Moment
#6 Comma to the Top
#7 Pants On Fire
#8 Dialed In
#9 Derby Kitten
#10 Twinspired
#11 Master of the Hounds
#12 Santiva
#13 Mucho Macho Man
#14 Shackleford
#15 Midnight Interlude
#16 Animal Kingdom
#17 Soldat
#18 Uncle Mo
#19 Nehro
#20 Watch Me Go

The news came in on Friday that a gastro infection will be keeping Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champion  #18 Uncle Mo from running this Saturday – while I’m disappointed that he won’t be apart of racing history – his #18th spot might have knocked him out of a win at Chuchhill anyway. Hopefully Mo will be able to return for Saratoga later this year, or a return to the Breeder’s Cup - either way get well soon Uncle Mo.

As I review this race, as much as I like #19 Nehro, I’m scratching off horses #14 - #20 for a trip to the Winner’s Circle. With Shackleford, Soldat and Watch Me Go – being so far away from the rail I doubt they’ll get the early position they need for this race, and for Midnight Interlude, Animal Kingdom and Nehro – I think there are horses with better late speed who will see less of a struggle.

***I'm hearing that Soldat is made to run in the slop - so if the rain is falling - keep an eye out for Soldat at 12-1.

Working outside in – I believe that #13 Mucho Macho Man (12/1) could pose a threat – he should be able to run his preferred style of racing in the first mile – and coming into the final stretch he may have separated enough from the heavy traffic to pull off a slight upset. However he only has two wins in eight attempts – one of those losses against favorite #8 Dialed In.

#12 – Santiva – is the one horse I don’t think deserves to be in this race….I saw much better horses this year that aren’t in the field, sadly I wrote the same thing about a horse called Mine That Bird a few years ago. If this horse wins - that huge slapping sound at Hollywood Park will be my hand and forehead reuniting....and it won't feel good!!!!

I'll sing Reunited
at Karaoke if
Santiva Wins!
#11 – Master of the Hounds finished an impressive second in the UAE Derby, however that’s the only race he’s looked impressive in. I like his running style out of the 11th spot – however his resume and the fact he’s had to travel from so far away (the Middle East), justify his 30-1 odds.

#10 – Twinspired – finished 2nd in the Bluegrass – at 30-1 in a race supposedly wide open, he could be the “surprise”…..but I think there are better longshots out there.

#9 Derby Kitten (aka Senior Salsa) – now here’s a horse that runs with panache – I prefer him to Twinspired – but again the 30-1 odds seem justified. He’s fresh off a victory in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes…but he lacks a victory against a major horse.

#8 Dialed In – the current favorite – has everything working for him.
  • · A victory in a significant stakes race (Florida Derby) check!
  • · Solid post position (#8 the Barbaro spot) check!
  • · A previous victory at Churchhill Downs – check!
  • · Looks solid for extended distance – check!
The biggest obstacle for this horse will be that he’s a late closer and he’ll hit a ton of traffic in the final turn and into the final stretch, however if he sees an open path in the final furlongs – I think he can close the deal. However this race will be made up of mostly late closers – so I’m not loving his 4/1 odds.

#7 Pants On Fire – okay, seriously how can you not root for a horse called Pants On Fire?!?! Years ago I promised myself not to fall in love with any Louisiana Derby or Santa Anita Derby winners because in Kentucky they always seems to fall flat – but I like this horse….he could position himself with an early lead and leave the heavy traffic for everyone else – he’s got a little fight in him…..and his jockey Anna Napravnik has been a sensation this year!

 <---- Tell me NBC wouldn’t love to see this jockey in the winner’s circle.

I know I would!
What??? She'd be the first female jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby........what were you thinking??

#6 Comma to the Top – This horse has been all potential and no victories….I think he’ll be a solid horse after some rest – I think he’s outmatched here. Great starting spot though - and he may provide the early speed.

#5 Decisive Moment – Solid resume of racing – but only 2 victories – and has been beaten soundly before by horses in this field. (Again - great starting spot).

#4 Stay Thirsty – Looked GREAT in the Gotham! Looked asleep in the Florida Derby ?!? Possible bounce back here???

#3 Twice the Appeal – the Sunland Derby winner is being ridden by Calvin Borel who has won three out of the last four Kentucky Derbies – and he’s won on horses with far worse previous performances. You’re betting on the jockey here….and it’s not a bad bet.

#2 Brilliant Speed – Won the Bluegrass Stakes, by edging out Twinspired, however he hasn’t looked good on Dirt – as his Trainer and Ownership has moved him to Turf a few times and his most recent victory was on Synthetic. Another horse with a great starting spot.

#1 Archarcharch – This horse tends to follow up a good race with a bad race and vice versa…..his last outing was a solid victory in the Arkansas Derby, so I’m guessing he’s due for a bad race. I believe he’ll get pinned early – and finish much worse than he’s capable, just because of a difficult post position.

As a bettor for this race – I think you lay $2 on the these six horses for the WIN (total $12):

1. Twice the Appeal (Calvin Borel)
2. Stay Thirsty (Bounce Back Possible)
3. Pants On Fire (Avoiding Traffic / Jockey is a hottie very capable)
4. Derby Kitten (Good Odds for a deep closer)
5. Master of the Hounds (The Unknown)
6. Comma To the Top (early speed - solid post).

I believe any of these horses could pull off a decent upset – and with their current odds – if one of these horses win, you could cash in for between $40 to $70, for a $12 bet.

If you’re looking for a Triple Crown contender – you’re rooting for Dialed In who certainly has the tools and the ability against this field of horses. That is of course unless Uncle Mo returns for the Preakness….but my guess is he’s out for a few months, to refresh.

Closing Speed likes: Pants on Fire, Dialed In, Nehro

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coolmore Lexington Stakes - Recap

Coolmoore Lexington Stakes- Recap

Derby Kitten
Prime Cut
Casper’s Touch

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Silver Medallion, Hurricane Lake, Taptowne

If you watch the very end of the race (after the wire) you’ll notice that Derby Kitten has a unique “flow” to his run – his feet splay out, his torso swerves, his head grooves slightly – I’m not sure if Derby Kitten is running or dancing a salsa??

Whatever Derby Kitten was doing it works….he positioned himself at the back of the pack for the bulk of the race, and as they approached the final turn he rallies to pass up the three early leaders: Silver Medallion, Casper’s Touch, and Prime Cut.

Unfortunately for Silver Medallion this fourth place finish knocks him out of the Kentucky Derby and probably the Preakness – he never looked quite right in this race. I don’t think this horse liked being glued to the rail….then again, with only a two week turn around that included traveling from California to Kentucky – they may have been asking too much of this horse, because he looked jet lagged.

I’ll be curious to see where Derby Kitten (a.k.a. Senior Salsa) races next – he looks like the kind of horse who would do well in the Ohio and Iowa Derbies.

Video to follow:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Coolmore Lexington Stakes


Saturday April 23rd 2011
Name: Coolmore Lexington Stakes Grade: III
Purse: $200,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Derby Kitten
Silver Medallion
Prime Cut
Hurricane Lake
Casper’s Touch

The Coolmore Lexington Stakes and next week's Derby Trial will serve as “last call” for an opportunity to run in this year’s Kentucky Derby. The winner of this race will earn $120,000 in graded stakes, which would put (#2) Silver Medallion in the top 15 three year old earners and afford him the opportunity to run for the roses.

For Silver Medallion this could end up being a test of stamina – he finished a disappointing 4th two weeks ago in the Santa Anita Derby….if he wins here and they decide to make a run in the Kentucky Derby that will be three races in a month – which once upon a time wasn’t that rare – but that’s a lot of racing for today’s three year old.

It’s also possible that Silver Medallion is using this race to prep for the Preakness Stakes, a month from this Saturday. Either way they're looking for a win here in the Coolmore for the opportunity to advance to greater stakes.

The two horses that I think pose the biggest threats to Silver Medallion are (#1) Derby Kitten who will be making a transition from turf to synthetic dirt – this horse loves to crash the party late and he’ll have a sweet starting spot for this outing.

(#3) Prime Cut arrives from Louisiana where he defeated a very heavy favorite in a recent allowance victory. Prime Cut will sit a few lengths off the pace and then make a move near the final turn. He showed me a lot of maturity in his last race, and a lot of power in the final furlongs.

I’m not a big fan of (#4) Hurricane Lake in this race – he’s only been successful in 1 mile races….and when you consider his only victory at a mile was a fairly slow 1.38.93, it’s hard to get interested in this 6/1 horse.

(#5) Taptowne has a great predigree, sired by Tapit who was the grandpony?? of A.P. Indy…..but unlike his predecessors Taptowne has never managed to win a race. Does anyone else see this name and immediately begin humming Taptowne ladies sing this song…do da do da….

Finally (#6) Casper’s Touch who hasn’t been terribly successful against top of the line horses (finished 7th in the Fountain of Youth), but then again these aren’t top of the line horses, and Casper’s Touch is fresh off a victory here at Keeneland in a 7 furlong allowance. He’s currently the 2nd favorite behind Silver Medallion – and that’s probably because he’s the most familiar with this track.

Despite Casper’s home field advantage – I’m concerned he won’t succeed in this 1 1/16 race with strong finishers flying in the home stretch.

I like Prime Cut to edge out Silver Medallion, with Derby Kitten finishing 3rd.

Closing Speed likes 3/2/1

1959 Johnny Cash - Camptown Ladies -

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arkansas Derby - Recap

Arkansas Derby - Recap

Dance City

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Sway Away, Alternation, J.W. Blue, The Factor, J.P.’s Gusto, Elite Alex, Saratoga Red, Brethren, Caleb’s Posse, Truman’s Commander

When I began writing about horse racing – I knew very little about the sport – and while it may seem odd to showcase one’s own ignorance – I figured that the more I watched, and the more I wrote – the more I would learn….so that’s where this all began.

For me, the Arkansas Derby was yet another learning experience to draw from.

Last week, before the race, I wrote that I didn’t hold much hope for the horses numbered #7 - #12. I also wrote that I didn’t foresee a horse in that grouping bolting to the lead…..

What I should have wrote – was I didn’t foresee a horse in the group #7-#12 bolting to the front and actually winning this race!

The lesson I learned this past weekend is – just because I don’t see a way for certain horses to win a race, doesn’t mean that those same horses won’t prevent “my horse’ from winning.

As you watch the race unfold you’ll see J.P. Gusto – fly to front of the pack and he’ll hold the lead for ¾ of a mile – while pushing a fairly hot pace.

As I’ve already stated I’m certainly no expert, but in my opinion the Trainer/Jockey/Owners – were basically sending J.P. Gusto on a fast, but futile pace….I’ve seen nothing that indicates this horse can win a race with this kind of early sprint strategy.

However after giving this race some thought – while there was very little chance J.P. Gusto would win the Arkansas Derby with this smoking early lead, the people in charge may have thought it was his only opportunity to win this race - after all he doesn't possess the greatest late rally ability in this field either.

And if winning the Arkansas Derby meant having the only chance at a trip to the Kentucky Derby – I believe this group went for broke… the end J.P. Gusto runs out of steam (which comes as little surprise to people who have watched this horse) and finishes 8th.

However J.P. Gusto’s early (and futile) charge changes the entire landscape of the race I foresaw, and it appears to throw The Factor off of his game.

For the entire Arkansas Derby, it seems that The Factor is never in control of the race as he has been in his two previous victories, instead it appears that “the race” is always in control of him.

J.P. Gusto cuts The Factor off at the first turn just as Dance City manages to box him in.

The Factor, in turn, drops back and then surges to go three wide while stalking the early leaders. Very near the ¾ mark – Sway Away begins his rally and it appears to me that The Factor begins to push the tempo as well – however when they swing out of the turn, the Factor who went three to four wide in both turns is out of energy…and he just begins to slowly fade.

Weeks ago I wrote that in the Timely Writer, Uncle Mo’s people were hoping to see how he would handle an early speedster, so that perhaps they would have time to adjust in the Kentucky Derby….well The Factor just failed that same test – and now we’ll see if his group has an answer for May 7th.

As we hit the final stretch – I’m cheering because Sway Away has finally, FINALLY – seemed to figure it out….he’s pushing the lead and from what I’d seen from this horse he’ll just get stronger with every stride….that is unless…you know…he doesn’t ??

Sway Away who I thought had substantial closing speed – simply falters for a 4th place finish – It’s frustrating that this horse can’t seem to put it all together – my guess is he’ll be a very strong four year old – or he’ll start picking up wins when he faces a little less talent.

The two horses that do have substantial closing speed are Archarcharch and Nehro --- both of these guys make powerful final furlong strides and Nehro (similar to his 2nd place finish in the Louisiana Derby) just misses stealing the race.

I'm not terribly surprised that Elite Alex finished so far behind….but I am very surprised that Brethren and especially Caleb’s Posse finished even further back.

The scuttlebutt is that this is the most “wide” open Kentucky Derby in years…..we soon shall see.

*I apologize in advance for what is perhaps the worst commentary I’ve ever heard for a race….maybe they were having technical difficulties….or it was the guy’s first day on the job…..sheesh!

Video to follow:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park
Saturday April 16th 2011
Name: Arkansas Derby Grade: I
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Caleb’s Posse
Elite Alex
The Factor
Sway Away
Truman’s Commander
Dance City
J.P.’s Gusto
J W Blue
Saratoga Red

Historically the Arkansas Derby has showcased a few of “my favorites” for the Triple Crown.

Champions such as:

1. (2004) Smarty Jones – KY Derby & Preakness

2. (2005) Afleet Alex – Preakness & Belmont Stakes
(also father to Elite Alex & Sway Away)

3. (2007) Curlin – Preakness

Florida Derby winner Dialed In remains a little spotty with his past performances for my taste – (however the Florida Derby has showcased horses like Barbaro and Big Brown – so I’m definitely taking a hard look at Dialed In).

Also with news coming out of New York that Uncle Mo has a slight health issue –

I feel that an Arkansas Derby victory for The Factor will definitely make him a favorite for the Triple Crown.

However after watching Upset Saturday last week….the task of winning the Arkansas Derby certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.

For the bulk of these horses this will be a rematch of the Rebel Stakes – a race that featured The Factor pushing an early lead and finishing the final furlongs with enough strength to earn a trip to the Winner’s Circle.

Following The Factor in the Rebel –
2nd  (#1) Caleb’s Posse
3rd  (#9) Archarcharch
4th (#12) Saratoga Red
5th  (#11) J W Blue
6th (#6) Sway Away
and 7th  (#10) J.P. Gusto

Making a quick turn around from the Louisiana Derby (Mar. 26th) – (#2) Nehro (2nd place) and (#3) Elite Alex (4th place) look to improve their graded earnings – and possibly secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

For (#1a) Alternation, (#7) Truman’s Commander, and (#8) Dance City this will be their first graded stakes endeavor.

And finally there is Sam Davis Stakes winner (#6) Brethren – who enters the Arkansas Derby after a disappointing 3rd place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby.

As I look at the line-up for this Saturday – I don’t hold much hope for any of the horses to the right of Sway Away (meaning the horses numbered 7 – 12).

I haven’t seen any evidence that these horses will be able to rally late as well as Sway Away and certainly Caleb’s Posse – so waiting until the last furlongs to make a big push will only be effective if Sway Away and Caleb’s Posse hit traffic or come out flat.

I also don’t foresee these horses (#7-#12) bolting to the front and giving a significant challenge to The Factor, Nehro and Brethren – these three will most likely separate from the pack early and settle in as close to the rail as they can – meaning any of the horses outside of these three will have to go at least 3 or 4 wide in the first turn. And for those “outside” horses (#7-#12) I just don’t see them having the speed or endurance to pull that off.

So I’m knocking them off my list – (which means you should probably bet on them with abandon).

The Factor is positioned beautifully in this Derby – unless he falters early I’m looking for him to enjoy an early lead – looking for a half mile just under 48 seconds – I also see Brethren just off his right shoulder – waiting to make a move – which could happen as early as the ½ mile or as late as the final turn.

Nehro has an interesting spot in this race – because he’ll have the opportunity to get right behind The Factor (or the early leader) and run along the rail until everything shakes out in the final turn. If The Factor and Brethren wear each other out in the first mile – and Nehro has an opening in the final stretch – he has a prime spot for the upset he “could” have had in the Louisiana Derby.

Of course should the early leaders take an impossible pace in the opening mile – Nehro will have some company with his late charge from Caleb’s Posse and Archarcharch.

I also think Sway Away has a chance to rebound in this race after a very disappointing Rebel Stakes….however I think this horse could either win this race or finish 9th --- currently he’s priced at 6-1 odds – I think at 8-1 odds you’d have to consider him worth a look.

Two horses that are priced “nicely” are Caleb’s Posse (10-1) and Brethren (10-1) – I think Caleb’s Posse will need help to win this race, but it’s certainly not out of the question.

And Brethren had a set-back in the Tampa Bay Derby – but if he regains his stride here, I think he contends from the very beginning of this race.

If you’re looking to “make” money in this race I think you bet against the 7-5 favorite The Factor – if someone pushes him too fast and too furious early – he’ll be vulnerable to a few very solid late charging horses (Caleb’s Posse, Sway Away, Nehro).

Also Brethren may find his giddy up again – and pass him in the final turn.

However as a fan of the Triple Crown – nothing would be more satisfying than to see The Factor win with conviction, leave the winner’s circle healthy, and then board a plane to Kentucky.

Closing Speed likes: The Factor, Nehro, Sway Away

To make your weekend swing a little - Jackie Wilson and Count Basie

Monday, April 11, 2011

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial - Recap

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial - Recap

Santa Anita Derby

Midnight Interlude
Comma To The Top
Mr. Commons

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Silver Medallion, Anthony’s Cross, Indian Winter, Bench Points, Quail Hill, Offlee Wild Boys.

Comma To The Top enjoyed an early lead – found himself in the perfect position to land a big derby win and a little momentum for the Kentucky Derby, but instead went flat (again) at the defining moment.

Some are saying Midnight Interlude may be a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby, I just think he found a way to beat a number of sub-par horses….after all somebody “had” to win this race.

Video to follow:

Illinois Derby

Joe Vann
The Fed Eased

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Sour, El Grayling, Watch Me Go, Roman Flame, Lagoon Of Diamonds, Vouch For Victory, Smarter Than Ever, Southern Sculptor, Future Empire.

First of all I’d like to point out that Future Empire was ridden by T. Riggs and not Anna Napravnik.

From what I’m reading Joe Vann will be going to the Ohio Derby next (not the Kentucky Derby). Should tell you a little something about the talent pool in this year’s Illinois Derby.

I think Watch Me Go could be one of those horses that bounce back – he may have not taken to the travel….then again he may have just been a fluke in the Tampa Bay Derby….only time will tell.

Video to follow:

Wood Memorial

Toby’s Corner
Arthur’s Tale
Uncle Mo

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Norman Asbjornson, Isn’t He Perfect, Starship Caesar, Son Of Posse, Preachintothedevil, Duca

The announcer makes an interesting comment at the end of this race – reminding us that a horse hasn’t suffered this big of an upset in the Wood Memorial since Secretariat. (There is nothing lower than 1-9 odds!)

Of course Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown…..we’ll see if Uncle Mo has the same ability to bounce back.

I do disagree with the announcer that the Kentucky Derby is “now” up for grabs - I believe with this race all eyes turn to the Arkansas Derby – and if The Factor can win with conviction I believe he will be your Kentucky Derby favorite along with Dialed In, after his victory in the Florida Derby.

Uncle Mo will still be in the mix as a favoriter it’s just here in New York he simply runs out of gas – while his competitors sail right past him. It appeared to me (and from the sounds of it the announcer) that Uncle Mo had found the race he wanted – he paces himself well in the first ¼ and ½ miles – he hits the final turn in complete control and he builds a length or two from his surrounding early leaders….and that’s when this horse is “supposed” to respond.

Questions abound as to – if the 1 mile Timely Writer has thrown this horse off – after all it’s been since November since he’s raced any further than a mile….and he needed a mile and 1/8th here.

Video to follow:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial

Santa Anita Derby / Illinois Derby / Wood Memorial

This weekend is usually one of my favorite racing weekends of the year. The winners of the Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby and Wood Memorial will accrue enough graded stakes to insure a spot in the Kentucky Derby – for me there’s something very special about watching three horses score a date with destiny.

In previous years I believed that the winners of the Santa Anita Derby, and occasionally the Illinois Derby had a solid shot at winning the Kentucky Derby or any of the Triple Crown races. This year, however, the Santa Anita and Illinois horses lack the promise that we’re seeing in other areas of the country – such as the Florida Derby winner Dialed In….or the Wood Memorial Favorite, and Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Champ Uncle Mo.

Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita received some bad news this week as it appears the San Felipe Winner, and morning line favorite Premier Pegasus will be scratched due to a minor injury that will take him off of the Triple Crown trail. In my opinion Premier Pegasus was the only horse still on the West Coast that could have been a difference maker in the Kentucky Derby.

Also *possibly scratched is Jaycito. Jaycito had a number of experts excited about him from his efforts in 2010. Personally I never saw the potential in this horse that others seemed to see.

With these two horses off the Kentucky Derby trail and out of the Santa Anita – the Santa Anita Derby becomes a much more wide open affair, however I don’t think the winner of this race gives the West Coast much of a “contender” in the Triple Crown.

(#4) Silver Medallion will most likely be the favorite in this race, and he’s in a great starting spot for his style.

(#5) Comma to the Top had a lot of people excited about his potential at the beginning of the year, but he hasn’t been able to make the leap from potential to winner’s circle yet….could be his golden opportunity.

(#9) Anthony’s Cross – winner of the Robert B. Lewis stakes in Feb. here at Santa Anita could go off as the second favorite and if he doesn’t win – I suspect he’ll finish second.

(#10) Bench Points – Morning odds have him at 12-1, but I suspect his odds will go down when the other horses are officially scratched….I think this horse could pull off a minor upset here – I’m not crazy about his outside post, but if the price is right - he might be a tempting win bet.
In closing I’m rooting for Anthony’s Cross – I think he’ll need a little help, but I believe he’s the best horse left in this bunch.

Illinois Derby

Twelve horses take the field in the Illinois Derby – and the morning line favorite is Tampa Bay Derby winner, and former 43-1 long shot, (#4) Watch Me Go who scored an impressive victory in the T.B. Derby against quality talent like Brethren.

The second favorite in this race is (#10) El Grayling, the 8th place finisher in the Fountain of Youth, followed by the 5th place finisher in the Gotham Stakes (#7) The Fed Eased.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a 10-1 horse or higher (meaning like 20-1 odds) wins this race. While Watch Me Go was fantastic in the Tampa Bay Derby – it was a complete surprise and it may end up being a fluke, especially now that he’s traveling to a new track.

My confidence doesn’t increase when I see 8th place and 5th place finishers immediately behind him on the tote board. I think The Fed Eased could do very well in this race – and I also believe (#6) Sour has a great opportunity to score a trip to Kentucky….but I think this race is completely up for grabs.

As a Triple Crown enthusiast I would be very happy to see Watch Me Go repeat his last outing and show some great momentum as we head to the Triple Crown….but if I were betting on this race I might just throw some money at:

15-1 (#2) Smarter Than Ever, sired by Smarty Jones,
15-1 (#5) Vouch For Victory – who won his last race here at Hawthorne
30-1 (#12) Future Empire, sired by Empire Maker – who is being ridden by red hot jockey Anna Napravnik.

Too many variables and not enough evidence – if you’re somebody who just likes the color of a horse, a funny name or a jockey….this might be the race for you.

Wood Memorial

The real reason to tune in this weekend – is to see what Uncle Mo is going to do in the Wood Memorial. There are a number of people writing that this horse is more hype than talent – and they point to a sloth-like ¼ mile in the Timely Writer to back-up their premise that this horse isn’t as good as he’s cracked up to be.

Well the morning line seems to think that Uncle Mo is exactly as good as he’s cracked up to be. His odds for this race are 1-5.

That’s no typo, 1-5, which is about as strong of odds as they dole out at the track (there’s also 1-9 odds – however both pay $2.20 for a $2 win ticket).

Perhaps it’s a more telling sign to look at the odds board and see that there are two horses going off at 20-1, followed by three horses going off at 50-1, and one horse going off at 100-1. I don’t believe these horses are that bad – it’s just that Uncle Mo has looked that good!

I think a few of these horses would be the favorites in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Illinois Derby – like (#8) Norman Asbjornson who receives 15-1 odds here, or (#2) Toby’s Corner going off at 8-1.

As a racing enthusiast I want Uncle Mo to receive a challenging race that really tests his ability, I’d like to see how he handles an early speedster flying out for a 21 second ¼ mile – in the end however I’m hoping to see him in the winner’s circle for his fifth straight victory.

As a bettor – I’m thinking take the six long shots (20-1 thru 100-1) and put them in an exacta with Uncle Mo. So that if Uncle Mo wins and a long shot comes in second you’ve got a winning ticket….and if a long shot wins with Uncle Mo finishes second you’ve got a really great winning ticket. It would cost $12 for a $1 exacta bet covering those horses.

These are still very young horses – so Uncle Mo could come out flat, and another horse could finally put together his talent and find a winning stride….it happens.

Closing Speed likes:  Anthony's Cross / Future Empire and Anna Napravnik / Uncle Mo

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Florida Derby - Recap

Florida Derby - Recap

Dialed In
To Honor and Serve

Unplaced horses listed in order of finish.
Flashpoint, Soldat, Arch Traveler, Stay Thirsty, Bowman’s Causeway

I knew I was in trouble with my selections when I tuned in Saturday afternoon to watch the race and found out it wasn’t until Sunday (my bad).

My picks and Trackmasters looked pretty solid as the horses turned for the final stretch.

To Honor and Serve was perfectly positioned to kick in his final gear and take over the race from long shot Shackleford (who I was positive would just begin a sad pitiful fade) – and Soldat was sitting pretty on the rail ready to make a move and give us a great show down at the wire between my one and two selections – in what I foresaw as payback for the Fountain of Youth defeat To Honor and Serve had suffered.

As I heard Dialed In was quickly approaching in the final turn and had already passed up Stay Thirsty – I took comfort in knowing that I still had the first two horses on the board.

And then, in what one usually only sees in a Freaky Friday kind movie, my two horses seemed to exchange talents with Shackleford ?!?! To Honor and Serve, Soldat and Stay Thirsty have nothing left in the tank for the final couple of furlongs, and towards the end they look like they’re running in molasses.

And instead of watching Shackleford lose ground – as his 68-1 odds suggested he would – he pushes Dialed In to the wire and almost sends Gulfstream Park into a delirium!! One of the joys of three year old horse racing is watching a horse make a "jump" like this - if Shackleford is able to get into the Kentucky Derby and he gets a favorable post position - he'll  be a huge headache to bettors.

Dialed In, whom many liked in this race, proved to be the only top favorite to run the race everyone expected. He goes straight to the rail, and 14 lengths back in the early outset – and then makes a late charge to the winner’s circle.

A number of race fans think he’s got what it takes to challenge Uncle Mo…the intrigue continues.

Video to follow:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park
Saturday April 2nd 2011
Name: Florida Derby Grade: II
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

To Honor and Serve
Arch Traveler
Bowman’s Causeway
Stay Thirsty
Dialed In

I believe it’s easiest to analyze the upcoming Florida Derby by writing about how I believe these horses will approach this race.

(#8) Flashpoint will most likely shoot out of the gate and attempt to cut off his seven competitors and get as close to the rail in the first turn as possible. Flashpoint was nothing less than impressive in his last victorious outing, the Hutcheson Stakes, where he seemed to fly for the first ½ mile and then kick in the after burners for the last three furlongs.

However that race was only 7 furlongs – and the Florida Derby will add an additional 2 furlongs to the distance. There’s also a very impressive horse who will most likely challege him for the rail – and that is (#1) Soldat.

Soldat had the 1st post position in his last race, The Fountain of Youth, and used it to his advantage as he cruised to the early lead – and maintained enough of a lead to defeat 3rd place (#2) To Honor and Serve and 5th place (#5) Shackleford.

At the head of the pack, the question is –

Will Flashpoint offer an impossible pace for the first mile and just fade in the last few furlongs….additionally will Soldat want to run with him early, and in doing so join him in a pitiful fade? In the first ½ mile we’ll probably learn a lot about Flashpoint’s strategy in this race, and Soldat’s ability to be patient and run at his own pace.

Just off the pace – To Honor and Serve will most likely run in the 3rd or 4th position early, and Gotham Stakes winner (#6) Stay Thirsty will also keep in the middle of the pack and look to make a move coming out of the final turn.

On a bit of a side note – Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo are apart of the same stables (Repole Stables). Stay Thirsty probably left New York to race in Florida because Uncle Mo will be at the next big prep in New York – The Wood Memorial. Obviously the Stable would prefer two winners in different derbies – as opposed to 1st and 2nd in the same derby.

Also Stay Thirsty and To Honor and Serve are half brothers – both sired by (2006 Preakness winner) Bernardini.

In the far back will be (#7) Dialed In who may actually appear to be running backwards in the first ¼ mile – this horse could be nearly 20 lengths behind the leaders at the ½ mile marker…..especially if Flashpoint decides to go for a 43 second ½ mile. However Dialed In will…dial in at about the ¾ to 1 mile marker and attempt to make a late rally past the impressive early leaders.

I’ve read where a number of writers like Dialed In at the Florida Derby because his style will be unique against his competitors – however in Dialed In’s last 1 1/8th mile race – he finished 2nd against a less then impressive field – I’m just not sold that he’ll do better against this caliber of horse. Currently Dialed In is the second favorite at 2/1 odds – just slightly behind Soldat who is currently being priced at 9/5.

The horse that I think is being overlooked a little is To Honor and Serve – who finished 3rd behind Soldat in their last outing (the Fountain of Youth), however To Honor and Serve had to make the most out of his 7th post position – and struggled slightly with how the race played out in the first turn. Now positioned in the 2nd post – I think To Honor and Serve will bounce back here – and unlike Flashpoint or Stay Thirsty – has experience (2 races) at this distance.

In closing – I believe that if Flashpoint decides to burn up the track early – Soldat will fall for the speed trap – and To Honor and Serve will be in a great position to win this race. To Honor and Serve will most likely sit at the rail in third place and breeze past the two exhausted leaders as they fade…..I also believe he’s got more going for him then Stay Thirsty who will probably have to go wide in the final turn, and I also believe To Honor and Serve won’t be caught from behind by Dialed In.

However if Soldat (and/or Flashpoint) decide to keep the pace reasonable in the first ½ mile – I think Soldat will be in the perfect spot to repeat his Fountain of Youth performance.

Checking in with Trackmaster here is who they like:

Trackmaster likes: Soldat, Stay Thirsty, To Honor and Serve.

Closing Speed likes: To Honor and Serve, Soldat, Stay Thirsty.