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