Friday, June 7, 2013

Belmont Stakes 2013

BELMONT PARK - June 08, 2013
Race 11 - 6:36 PM
Belmont S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And One Half Miles

1 – Frac Daddy
2 – Freedom Child
3 – Overanaylze
4 – Giant Finish
5 – Orb
6 – Incognito
7 – Oxbow
8 – Midnight Taboo
9 – Revolutionary
10 – Will Take Charge
11 – Vyjack
12 – Palace Malice
13 – Unlimited Budget
14 – Golden Soul

Let me begin by writing that I really thought #5 Orb was the best three year old racing this year and that I was confident we would be looking at Triple Crown Contention this Saturday.

According to his ownership when Orb was asked to go for the win down the stretch….he just didn’t respond --- so here’s the question for horse racing fans – was his lack of response a one time thing or is he going to be asleep again down the stretch when they add more distance in the Belmont Stakes??

The Morning Line has him as the favorite and if the Florida and Kentucky Derby Orb shows up I agree that he’s the one who should win…..but it’s a bit of tough sell when he finished 4th in his last race – the Preakness.

After finishing 6th in the Kentucky Derby and not having won a race since January -- #7 Oxbow shocked the racing world (and specifically one gentleman below) by going practically wire to wire for a Preakness victory!

I'm just guessing he didn't bet on Oxbow......

I really like Oxbow – and I think if they allow him to race for another few years he could become a key horse in Stakes Races, he’s just solid all around talent and kind of a working class colt. 

Currently he’s considered the third morning line favorite – and I like his chances – he’s got a solid post position, and I think he has a chance to win with the same strategy that put him in the Preakness Winner’s Circle.The distance is a major question.....but that's a major question for everyone in this race.

The Second Morning Line Favorite is #9 Revolutionary – and he has won three out of his last five races….his two losses were both to Orb.

Revolutionary could be dangerous because he skipped the Preakness – and he could benefit by having fresher legs than Orb and Oxbow. Revolutionary has shown a powerful late kick and he may have just enough going for him this Saturday to finally beat Orb.

Moving back to the top of the order –

#1 Frac Daddy – 16th in the KY Derby and hasn’t won a race since last November. I like this rascal of a horse but I don’t think he’s got more than a mile and 1/16th in him.

#2 Freedom Child – recently defeated #6 Incognito (5th) in a romp here at Belmont in the Peter Pan Stakes. I think he could challenge Oxbow for the early lead and then it could come down to which horse is going to have the distance and is most comfortable at Belmont Park… 8/1 he’s a very interesting prospect that needs a little help.

Peter Pan Stakes:

#3 Overanalyze – if you believe in horses bouncing (meaning he wins a race than loses a race than wins the next race) then you’ll love Overanalyze who finished 11th in the KY Derby – and has won 4 out of 8 lifetime races….never having two consecutive losses or victories in a row. So he’s due for a win. 

He was rusty having not raced for several months in his Gotham Stakes loss….won with style in a tough Arkansas Derby field…and then finished poorly in a sloppy Kentucky Derby – that I’m kind of dismissing because the mud was such a factor. At 12-1….how can you not put a couple of dollars on a horse that always seems to bounce back???

#4 Giant Finish – finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby, I think he’s outclassed here.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
Starring as Jungle Cat
in the best selling novel,
adaptation for film.....
#8 Midnight Taboo – comes in as a 30-1 mystery. He has one victory in three attempts and he finished 2nd in his last race, an allowance race here in Belmont. With the quantity and quality of talent in this Belmont Stakes I just think this is asking too much of this inexperienced horse……at 100-1 he might catch my attention….although he’s got a great name….sounds like a trashy novel that everyone would read but nobody would admit too…….either that…..or a Tiki Drink that everyone would drink and never remember drinking.

#10 Will Take Charge – Defeated Oxbow in  the Rebel Stakes by a head when he stormed late down the final stretch to steal the victory……but since then he’s finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 7th in the Preakness….where O’ where did that late stormy action go? 

If Will Take Charge can find that lightning in a bottle again, I think he could upset – but my gut tells me his Rebel Stakes victory was just a unique outing for him. I think he could crack the top three – but he needs help to win, and he will need to find that great late kick that he only showed once.

#11 Vyjack – This horse was a New York favorite leading up to the Wood Memorial where he finished a disappointing 3rd place, followed by  a VERY disappointing 18th place in the KY Derby.  I’m tossing out the KY Derby result – but I don’t think this horse has got the distance for this race….in fact I think that’s what most people believe. But he may be worth a $2 bet if he stays at 20/1 odds……he is a very solid contender and if he has found the distance in his training he’ll fight for it.

#12 Palace Malice – One victory in seven attempts…..the problem with this horse is that he could push the early pace and force horses like Oxbow and Freedom Child to get caught in an early speed trap. He’s the kind of horse that really doesn't have a chance to win…but his style of racing could very well change the outcome.

The Filly #13 Unlimited Budget – has won four of her last five races, but her only loss was her most recent race the Kentucky Oaks (the filly version of the Kentucky Derby) where she finished 3rd.

She is the daughter to Kentucky Derby Champion Street Sense – which makes her Zenyatta’s niece (or whatever the horse term for that is?).  She very well could have the breeding for this distance – but I don’t know if she’s got the talent?
She’s going off at 8/1 and she has the very dangerous Rosie Napravnik as her jockey --- could this be a “Girl Power” Belmont – that would be pretty cool??

Last, but certainly not least is the 2nd place finisher in the Kentucky Derby #14 Golden Soul.  I think the distance will help Golden Soul – however he never seems to be able to “close the deal” and win the race when it counts.  Lifetime he has finished 2nd behind Orb (KY Derby), Revolutionary (4th – Louisiana Derby) and Oxbow (LeComte Stakes).

To be honest I’m rooting a little bit for Unlimited Budget – filly with a female rider taking the Belmont Stakes (certainly considered the most grueling of the Triple Crown races) would be pretty awesome! 

However that’s not who I’m going to pick to win…..I think Palace Malice, Oxbow and/or Freedom Child are going to wear out early….too fast too furious.

And I think the closers will pull out a victory.

Closing Speed likes: Revolutionary, Overanaylze, Orb

If I’m betting $20 here’s who I like

$1 Exacta Box – 3,5,9, 13 = $12

$4 – Freedom Child to win

If the following are still at 20/1 or higher:
$2 – Will Take Charge to win

$2 – Vyjack to win 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Preakness Stakes 2013

PIMLICO - May 18, 2013
Race 12 - 6:20 PM
Preakness S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And Three Sixteenth Miles

1 – Orb
2 – Goldenscents
3 – Titletown Five
4 – Departing
5 – Mylute
6 – Oxbow
7 – Will Take Charge
8 – Govenor Charlie
9 – Itsmyluckyday

I began writing this blog several years ago in hopes of following the early career of a Triple Crown winner – and we’ve come close to breaking the thirty four year drought twice in recent years with Big Brown and I’ll Have Another.

Big Brown had mechanical difficulty in the Belmont, and I’ll Have Another unfortunately sustained an injury after the Preakness and was unable to race in the Belmont.

I believe #1 Orb has the talent to be a Triple Crown winner – He’s won his last five races, against quality talent – and the distance of the Preakness should be perfect for his style.

There is a 70% chance of rain, and he's proven that he can run in the mud (see KY Derby). 

A number of people are concerned with his #1 post position – and I’ll add that I have some concerns, but I don’t see it as being a big disadvantage. 

Orb has shown a maturity and a racing style that will allow him to sit back and find a spot he’s comfortable running in. If he’s able to keep up with the middle of the pack and find an opening in the final stretch I suspect (as long as he doesn't come out flat) he’ll sail by his competition to the winner’s circle as he has in the past few races.

I certainly agree that Orb should be the favorite in this race…..but I think he’s facing a bigger challenge than his 1/1 morning odds indicate, considering the competition….and here they are......

#2 Goldenscents finished a very disappointing 17th in the Kentucky Derby – but this horse has bounced back before (With Santa Anita Derby and Delta Downs Jackpot victories). I’m throwing away his KY Derby performance – too much mud and too many horses. I disagree with his 8/1 morning line odds, I think this horse should be the second favorite here.

#3 Titletown Five is the longshot here at 30-1 odds….now these odds I completely agree with. I believe he’s completely outclassed in this one.

#5 Mylute and #4 Departing are the second and third favorites in this race respectively.  Mylute finished 2nd just ahead of Departing in the Louisiana Derby…..and Mylute was the next closest finisher to Orb in the Kentucky Derby (5th), that's facing him again today….but I’m just not a believer in these two horses being the second and third favorites in this race. I do like their post positions --- but if the ground isn’t muddy I think there are bigger challengers to Orb than these two.

Like #6 Oxbow – I like Oxbow and I think if he continues racing he’s going to be a very good horse in the next few years. I think if he runs "his" race and Orb runs into traffic Oxbow could pull off an upset here, but he’s the kind of horse that will need help. Oxbow is just kind of a Blue Collar, Lunch Pail, get the job done kind of horse – however I don’t think he has the explosive talent of some of the other contenders.

The next three horses are the ones that scare me the most…..

#7 Will Take Charge --- again I’m throwing away the muddy crowded KY Derby --- and I’m looking at his victory in the Rebel Stakes. I think on solid ground this horse is a bigger contender than his 8th place Kentucky Derby finish or his 12/1 odds would indicate. If the ground is muddy….he doesn’t seem to run well in the muck so I may cross him out at that point…..but if it’s dry – watch out.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
would like to be addressed
as Governor from time
to time.

#8 Governor Charlie – worries me the most. It’s been 55 days since he last raced, however in his last outing the Sunland Derby, he kept up with the leaders on a 23 second first quarter,  a 46 second half mile and finishes a Mile 1/8 well ahead of the rest. This horse may be able to go wire to wire in this race, and if the rest of the horses gang up on Orb and try to prevent him from winning by simply keeping him pinned to the rail or in traffic…..Governor Charlie could be the horse that benefits the most.

In my opinion this horse will be rusty having taken almost two months off – however he’ll also have the freshest legs on the track, especially compared to six Kentucky Derby challengers who just ran 14 days ago in a different state.

At 12/1 odds…..He’s definitely my LONG SHOT ALERT!

Finally #9 Itsmyluckyday --- currently going off at 10/1 after a 15th place finish in the KY Derby. I still think this horse has SCARY TALENT….because he was absolutely stunning in his Holy Bull Victory. However this will be his third time going up against Orb and he has yet to beat him. It’s getting harder to believe that Itsmyluckyday just didn’t have a lucky day in the Holy Bull.

Closing Speed likes: Orb, Governor Charlie, Goldenscents

If I’m betting $8 here’s who I like

$1 Exacta = 1/8 w 1/2/7/8/9

If Governor Charlie’s odds stay around 15-1 or 20-1 --- I like laying down $10 to win, and $10 to place.

Good Luck Champ - I'm pulling for you!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kentucky Derby 2013

CHURCHILL DOWNS - May 04, 2013
Race 11 - 6:24 PM
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands   (Grade I)
Purse - $2,000,000
Distance - One And One Fourth Miles

1 – Black Onyx
2 – Oxbow
3 – Revolutionary
4 – Golden  Soul
5 – Normandy Invasion
6 – Mylute
7 – Giant Finish
8 - Goldencents
9 – Overanalyze
10 – Palace Malice
11 - Lines of Battle
12 – Itsmyluckyday
13 – Falling Sky
14 – Verrazano
15 – Charming Kitten
16 – Orb
17 – Will Take Charge
18 – Frac Daddy
19 – Java’s War
20 - Vyjack

They're saying 90% chance of showers……historically this race is difficult to break down, the parity of this years talent makes it exceptionally difficult to break down…..and then you tell me there will likely be rain and mud?!?! Ohhhhh Kentucky Derby how you task me!

With one exception – I’m writing my breakdown with the idea that we’ll luck out and weather won’t be a barrier in tomorrow’s race --- despite the mere 10% chance of that happening.

If you decide to bet tomorrow and the track is just a mess -- my suggestion is to bet a number of long-shots ...because the playing field will (in my opinion) be more even and at the same time more unpredictable.

#1 Black Onyx (Spiral Stakes winner) – has been scratched…… If this horse returns for the Preakness I think he could be a threat – ownership probably hated the inside position and the chance of bad weather.

#2 Oxbow. I like this horse, but he needed a little help in this one and instead he picked up a difficult opening spots for his style of racing. I think he’ll get buried early in this race and won’t be able to break free until it’s too late.

#3 Revolutionary (Louisiana Derby winner) – Rarely will you see me write this in my blog, because I’m not big on “Betting the Jockey” but if the track is just a mess of mud  tomorrow – I like Revolutionary a LOT in the Kentucky Derby. He’s a very talented colt, he’ll fight for a victory – but Calvin Borel just “GETS” this track. Borel won in the mud a few years ago with Mine That Bird – and I believe (in this race) he could be a difference maker.

#4 Golden Soul – unless he’s great in the mud?? He’s got one victory last December against no one special. Sold starting spot….but that’s all I see – I think he’s over matched here.

#5 Normandy Invasion – Interesting prospect of a horse (I see him becoming a very good four and five year old), solid post position – but I think he’ll need a lot of help to win here. Wouldn't surprise me if he landed in the top 5 though. Last trip to the winners circle was in November.

#6 Mylute – (2nd in the Louisiana Derby) love the starting spot, he’s a fighter…but I see him as being outclassed here as well. Solid horse…but not a superstar.

#7 Giant Finish – (3rd in the Spiral Stakes) I think he’s a sleeping talent….but I haven’t seen enough to put my $2 down on this horse even though I love the odds (50-1…and likely higher when they go off) and I love the starting spot. He's the kind of long shot I like in bad weather.

#8 Goldencents – (Santa Anita Derby Winner) – Santa Anita is in my back yard and for a number of years I put the Santa Anita Derby winner as a sentimental favorite of mine….only to be greatly disappointed year in and year out (I’m looking at your Colonel John..and Pioneer of the Nile)….but last year Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll Have Another took the first two races in the Triple Crown against equally difficult talent, compared to this year.
Of course last year I gave up on
Santa Anita Winners.

Goldencents has talent, a great starting spot and a jockey with an extremely cool dialect!! But I can’t help but see this horse as being a very good horse among a few possibly great ones. Then again perhaps he is peaking at the right time?

#9 Overanalyze – (Arkansas Derby Winner) Great opening spot and after a long layoff this horse could be coming into his talent. I believe this horse could have another gear that he hasn't shown us yet – he won the Arkansas Derby going wide for much of the race, which he’ll have to repeat, but he’s a tempting bet. If this horse has “found his stride” than he could easily be a modest upset here. A lot of things working for this 12-1 horse.

#10 Palace Malice – (2nd Blue Grass Stakes) Good opening spot….and his Dad, Curlin, was a Champion….however his dad isn’t running today. I’d be surprised if this horse cracks the top 10.

#11 Lines of Battle (UAE Derby Winner) It’s unique to get the UAE Derby winner in the Kentucky Derby….Lines of Battle has already won the Middle East version of the Kentucky Derby and is only going off at 30-1 here?? I don’t like how much he’s had to travel….but I see this horse more like 10-1 than 30-1. I think you throw down a few bucks if the weather is bad.

#12 Itsmyluckyday – (2nd Florida Derby) First of all I think he’ll be over bet because of his name…..however this horse concerns me more than any other “longshot” in the field. He strikes me as a horse who has VERY SCARY talent…..but he also strikes me as a horse who doesn’t have that drive – that NEED to win consistently. I can see this horse winning by 5 lengths or finishing in the bottom half.  15-1 makes him considerably tempting. And sure….throw in some mud and he becomes even more of an enigma.

#13 Falling Star – Seems out classed here.

#14 Verrazano – (Wood Memorial winner) He’s undefeated. One of his owners just won the College Basketball Championship – and this horse (unlike Itsmyluckyday) seems to have the talent AND the drive to win big races. Unfortunately I believe weather hurts this horse perhaps more than the other horses.

One thing I have seen in horse racing is that if you have a champion caliber animal – you may decide NOT to push that animal if the weather is bad….it seems (in other bad weather races) a few managements have reigned in their horses, making sure the champion caliber horses have a safe trip as opposed to risking whatever you need to do for victory…and if you lose the Kentucky Derby you lose a shot at immortality…..however you could also be saving an amazing animal that breeding offers are already being whispered about.

Then could just tell the jockey to win, no matter the risk (it is the Kentucky Derby after all!!!)

Tough call. If the weather is bad and this horse comes out flat and then he turns around and tears up the Preakness (in good weather)……you’ll know my reason why.

#15 Charming Kitten – Seems outclassed here. 

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
hopes that when you read
Charming Kitten
You thought of him.

#16 Orb (Florida Derby Winner) he’s the morning line favorite and will probably flip flop a few times with Verrazano for that distinction before the gates open. The reason Orb will be favored is that he seems to have everything going his way right now.

Fantastic opening spot for his style of racing. He’s won his last four races against quality talent – and even with muddy conditions I believe he’ll be a strong contender in the end.

He’s a late charging horse, so traffic could be an issue for him late – but I think his early position will give him the opportunity to pick his spot going into the first turn and allow him to run the race he’ll want to run.  Unlike what I see right now in Itsmyluckyday – this is a horse who is both mentally and physically ready to be a champion…..but there is a LOT of talent in this race this year.

#17 Will Take Charge – (Rebel Stakes Winner) Quite frankly….this horse scares the hell out of me. He hasn’t raced in 49 days which could make him a little rusty coming into this race. He did not run well in the mud in the Southwest Stakes --- but he ran VERY well in the Rebel Stakes and Smarty Jones Stakes.

He’ll be able to stalk the likely favorite (Orb) and both of them are late charging horses.  I don’t like placing my hopes on a horse who has been sitting out for a month and a half….but this long shot is definitely worth a look. He’s a dangerous horse.

#18 Frac Daddy – Similar to Palace Malice --- I like this horse, I loved their sires….but I don’t see them doing well in the big dance.

#19 Java’s War – (Blue Grass Stakes winner and Half brother to Revolutionary) – I also really like this horse – however he doesn’t have a great opening spot for his style of racing and I think he’s slightly outclassed here. He’s the kind of horse that could also develop into a great four or five year old horse.

#20 Vyjack – (3rd Wood Memorial) he absolutely dominated the New York group before Verrazano showed up in the Wood Memorial . Very solid horse….but I don’t see him having much of a chance in this one.

In closing I believe Orb and Verrazano are the two most talented and proven horses entering the Kentucky Derby….and both of them will need luck to defeat one another (along with quite a bit of surrounding talent).

If the track is muddy – I like Revolutionary – don’t get me wrong this horse could very well win this race without the help of bad weather and a great jockey….however if the playing field becomes more even due to bad weather – Calvin Borel has been a game changer here before.

I think with a little good luck Goldencents or Overanalyze could win this race and it would be a modest upset. However with just a slight amount of bad luck I think either of these horses could end up finishing in the bottom half of the field. It really is just that talented of a field this year.

The horses that scare the hell out of me are:

 UAE Champion Lines of Battle  -- because he’s already claimed being the best three year old horse in one half of the world -- then he travels here, gets a great opening spot and is given mouth watering odds!!!

Itsmyluckyday – because I think this horse has explosive ability….but it’s also an elusive and unpredictable ability.

Will Take Charge – I see a horse that could be a little like I’ll Have Another from last year – who comes in under the radar and makes you check your program twice after he crosses the finish line.

I’m looking forward to a great race – and I hope the storm clouds spare us a soupy track.

Closing Speed likes: Orb, Overanalyze, Revolutionary.

On a personal note I’ll be very happy if a couple of different horses win……however with such a closely contested race I think you bet the longshots a little more.

If I’m betting $20 here’s who I like

$4 – Win #11 Lines of Battle

$1 - Exacta -  3, 9, 12, 17 w/ 14 & 16 = $8
$1 – Exacta – 14 & 16 w/ 3,9,12,17 = $8

**And if the track is bad $10 Win #3 Revolutionary.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

2013 Arkansas Derby

OAKLAWN PARK - April 13, 2013
Race 10 - 5:28 PM
Arkansas Derby   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles

1 – Carve
2 – War Academy
3 – Divine Ambition
4 – Falling Sky
5 – Den’s Legacy
6 – Heaven's Runway
7 – Texas Bling
8 - Frac Daddy
9 – Overanalyze
10 – Oxbow

The Arkansas Derby serves as a rematch of the Rebel Stakes for a healthy bounty of these horses, including #10 Oxbow, who finished 2nd, #5 Den’s Legacy (3rd), #7 Texas Bling (4th), and #1 Carve (6th).

Rebel Stakes:

To my surprise the horse getting all of the Morning Line Love is #2 War Academy – who has Oaklawn buzzing with comparisons to last year’s super contender Bodemeister.

Respect the Buzz!
Last year after only three relatively minor prep races, Bodemeister successfully won the Arkansas Derby (before finishing 2nd in the KY Derby and Preakness). 

War Academy enters the fray with two allowance race victories, and a fourth place finish in the Grade II San Vicente --- so why is he the favorite again??

One thing I have learned to respect is a certain “buzz” about a promising three year old horse – and it wouldn’t surprise me if the “promise” of War Academy comes to fruition (when you hear this kind of buzz you should listen)…..but I certainly don’t see this horse as a 2-1 favorite, especially considering that most of the field has been better seasoned here at Oaklawn (see Rebel Stakes), and this will be War Academy’s first attempt at this track.

In fact unlike a number of other Prep Races --- (I’m looking at you Florida Derby & Wood Memorial) – I see the Arkansas Derby as being a wide open race.

#3 Divine Ambition is starting at 20-1 – but finished with an impressive 2nd place finish in the Rushaway Stakes. He has two victories in five attempts and with a little luck could certainly contend here (that is unless he's running in the Bluegrass Stakes -- he is entered in both races).

Strangely Sensitively Cheetah is
slightly concerned about the
Religious Theme of 3,4 and 6....
#4 Falling Sky returns from a third place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby--- finishing well behind “The Monster” Verrazano – and a scrappy Java’s War (who will be contending in the Bluegrass Stakes). 

Falling Sky is going off at 10-1 and I’m not convinced he isn’t better prepared than the favorite.

#6 Heaven’s Runway is no chump. In the Southwest Stakes he finished behind Super Ninety Nine and Fear the Kitten – but ahead of Rebel Stakes winner Will Take Charge (finished 6th). Keep in mind the Southwest Stakes was a very muddy affair that day – and Heaven’s Runway could surprise if the ground is firm.  He may be the early speed in this race – and if he can muster the distance could be a lot of (profitable) trouble at 30-1!!

#8 Frac Daddy is coming off a disappointing 7th place finish in the Florida Derby – it pains me to write this because I was a big fan of Frac Daddy’s….um….Daddy – Scat Daddy – but Frac Daddy doesn’t appear to have enough talent to be a real contender here. He does strike me as a horse that may be a late bloomer, and develop into a class horse over the next year.....then again I may just be holding on to some false hope for this horse.

I believe, third favorite (4-1) #9 Overanalyze could be primed for a big run here. He returned from hiatus (after winning the Remsen Stakes in November) – and ran a predictably rusty 5th place finish in the Gotham Stakes in March.

Overanalyze showed a lot promise back in November – but his last outing certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.

And of course let’s not forget that Oxbow only lost the Rebel Stakes by a nose -- in my opinion he doesn't have the buzz....but he does have the experience -- and that could be the real difference here.

As they enter the final stretch it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see Oxbow and Overanalyze leading the charge, with Den’s Legacy somewhere in the top 5….the question is will another horse (like Heaven’s Runway) completely surprise here – will the buzz around War Academy be true or be quieted??

Throw a dart in this one – it’s practically wide open.

I’m going with some consistency and taking Oxbow to win this one – but I’m taking a surprise with Falling Sky Second and Overanalyze third.

Closing Speed likes: 10,4,9

At the betting booth I like

$2 Exacta – 9,10 w 3,4,6, = $6
$2 Win Bets on – 3 & 4 = $4

Total $10

The Bluegrass Stakes have never been especially kind to me…….

But Closing Speed likes:
Java’s War / Uncaptured  & West Hills Giant.

I like

$1 Exacta  – 4,7 w 1,11,12 = $6
$2 Win Bets on – 11, 12 = $4

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2013 Santa Anita Derby

SANTA ANITA - April 06, 2013
Race 9 - 4:05 PM
Santa Anita Derby   (Grade I)
Purse - $750,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles

1 – Flashback
2 – Hear The Ghost
3 – Power Broker            
4 – Tiz a Minister
5 – Goldencents
6 – Super Ninety Nine
7 – Summer Exclusive
8 - Storm Fighter
9 - Dirty Swagg 

The sad news from Santa Anita this week is that the San Felipe Stakes winner Hear The Ghost has been scratched from the race and due to a minor injury is off the Kentucky Derby Trail.

Last year and this year have been filled with some very talented horses (and I’m knocking on wood as I write this) most of the horses have remained  healthy long enough to make it to the Kentucky Derby and beyond – which has made these past two seasons a lot of fun to watch.

Good Luck to Hear the Ghost – his Sire Ghostzapper was a Breeders Cup Classic Champion – so Hear The Ghost may still have a very bright future in front of him….that is after a couple of months rest.

However we’re still left with a very interesting line-up in California’s Premier Derby – the Santa Anita Derby!

#1 Flashback is currently the 6/5 favorite in this outing – and for good reason – he only has 1 loss in 3 attempts and the horse that beat him was Hear The Ghost.  

However #4 Tiz a Minister was flying down the stretch and may have surpassed Flashback had the race been a little longer….which it will be (by another 16th of a mile) in the Santa Anita Derby. 

Tiz a Minster only has 2 victories in 10 attempts….however he may now be finding races that suit his style a little better. He’s currently sitting at 5/1 odds….which is a little under bet  in my opinion.

#5 Goldencents finished 4th in the San Felipe and coming out of the final turn was running stride for stride with Flashback after both horses had scorched the first half mile (45.95).

Goldencents seemed to hit a wall in the final furlong, as he faded from 1st to 4th in a matter of strides and I think the distance in the Santa Anita Derby may be a problem for this horse – unless the early pace drained him, and they have an answer for it this Saturday I’m not a big fan of his 9/2 odds – I see him more as 6/1 or 8/1.

#6 Super Ninety Nine travels from Arkansas to try his luck against the California ponies. Super Ninety Nine  showed a lot of promise when he slogged to a first place finish in a muddy Southwest Stakes in February, but he followed it up with a very disappointing 5th place finish in his last race the Rebel Stakes.

After reviewing Super 99’s resume he’s the kind of horse who will flash a lot of talent in some races – and then just come out flat, or disappear, in others. In Six races he has 3 Victories, 1 Second Place finish – with a 4th and 5th place finish also mixed in. Hard to tell if we’ll be getting Super 99…or just 99? Against this kind of talent I don’t like his chances.

#7 Summer Exclusive has one race to his name – a 6 ½ furlong race that he won in early March. He’s currently slated at 20/1 odds – is this just a desperation shot at the KY Derby?? Or will this horse completely surprise everyone?? I think there’s too much talent in this race….but I’d be lying to say the mystery with this horse doesn't concerns me.

However at least Summer Exclusive has raced recently - #3 Power Broker hasn’t raced in almost 150 days since his 5th place finish here at Santa Anita in the Breeder’s Juvenile. 

Lifetime he has only 1 victory in 5 races – and he’s bound to be rusty after such a long layoff.  He’s currently going off at 4/1 --- and unless he’s made some incredible strides in his development I think 4/1 is too optimistic for this horse.

#8 Storm Fighter is sitting at 15/1 and enters the race after his first victory in three attempts. I just think he’s outclassed here.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
wags his tail in a jaunty manner
when his Swagg is Dirty.
#9 Dirty Swagg – has a great name…..and I’m not above appreciating a great name….I’m also not above taking a serious look at a horse with 30-1 odds --- but with only 1 win in 8 attempts and a field of very talented horses – Dirty Swagg will just have to be words I enjoy using in conversation, as opposed to a horse I’ll bet on.

My guess is the Management and Jockeys of Goldenscents and Flashback are going to try a different strategy than the one they used in the San Felipe in hopes of holding off a late charging Tiz A Minister.

Super Ninety Nine is a certainly a wildcard in this race – as he could blow past everyone in this race or….finish 5th again.

Closing Speed thinks this Saturday the Minister will be Sinister….

Closing Speed likes: 4,1,6

If I’m betting $16 here’s who I like

$1 Trifecta Box – 1,4,6 = $6

$1 Exacta – 4/1 w 1/4/6/7 = $6

$4 – 7 to win 

Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Wood Memorial Stakes

AQUEDUCT - April 06, 2013
Race 11 - 6:28 PM
Wood Memorial S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles

1 – Chrisandthecapper
2 –Normandy Invasion
3 – Quinzieme Monarque
4 – Elnaawi
5 – Vyjack
6 – Mr Palmer
7 – Always in a Tiz
8 - Verrazano
9 - Go Get the Basil
10 – Freedom Child

Ring A Ding Ding Baby....
This Saturday Race 11 features a kind of turf war between two brilliant young Thoroughbreds as #8 Verrazano invades #5 Vyjack’s home course (Aqueduct) for the title of best of the Empire State….and as the song goes if you can make it here you can make it anywhere!

Both horses will enter the race undefeated – Verrazano was absolutely scary in his last trip the Tampa Bay Derby. In fact he was so superior his morning line is currently 4/5 odds. He’s won his first three victories……however my one concern is that this will be his first race out of Florida.

Verrazano's Last Race:

By contrast I like that Vyjack may have a bit of a home field advantage in this race – as all four of his victories have been here at Aqueduct. I tend to lean towards a horse who hasn’t had to travel and has already shown he’s comfortable with the track. If he stays at 4/1 odds…..he may be a bargain.

The best part about this race is that neither of these stellar horses (Verrazano / Vyjack) have really been tested – and that streak (along with at least one of their undefeated streaks) will come to an end this Saturday.

#2 Normandy Invasion is currently slated as the third favorite at 5/1 odds --- he showed a lot of promise last November here at Aqueduct….but his most recent outing was a very disappointing 5th place in the Risen Star Stakes (in Louisiana).  He’s the kind of horse that could take the next big step in his development, and he may find some comfort at Aqueduct where he was once successful. It would be a modest upset if he won – but I don’t think it’s out of the question – more likely he’s sneaks into the 2nd spot at best.

Unless weather becomes a real factor in this race…..I think the rest of the field is really out classed in this one……however I do have

Two Longshot Alerts!!!

And they are-

#6 Mr. Palmer  going off at 12-1 – he’s won his last two races, the last race at this distance 1 1/8 th miles – which is a distance neither of the two favorites have attempted yet.

Now what if I told you there was a 30-1 long shot who also recently won his last race at 1 1/8th miles – and also finished 2nd behind recent Florida Derby winner Orb and ahead of 3rd place Revolutionary (recent winner of the Louisiana  Derby)?

That current 30-1 horse would be #10 Freedom Child.

Sure it’s been since last November when he split the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby winners, but at this price I think he’s absolutely worth at least $2 at the betting booth.

In closing – after watching Verrazano’s last race it’s difficult to believe that anybody other than Vyjack is going to challenge this horse…..this is one of those weird races where –

I want Verrazano to win big with the idea that he’s the one to beat in the KY Derby.

I want Vyjack to win because I think there’s merit in being the best at a certain track.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
knows that when he writes
The writer means he can't wait
to gloat about the one
longshot he got right.

And what can I say I have a  fondness for the underdog / long shot!

But my pick is relatively safe

Closing Speed likes: 8,5,10

If I’m betting $18 here’s who I like

$1 Trifecta Box – 5,8,10 = $6

$1 Exacta – 5/8 w 2/6/7/10 = $8

$2 Win - #6
$2 Win - #10

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 Florida Derby

GULFSTREAM PARK - March 30, 2013
Race 12 - 6:19 PM
Besilu Stables Florida Derby   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,000,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Miles

I believe that the horse that wins the Florida Derby will be the Kentucky Derby favorite – three extremely talented horses make this race the most competitive race (outside of a few past KY Derbies) that I can remember.

#3  - Itsmyluckyday – ran so well in his last outing, The Holy Bull Stakes, that he broke a track record. If this horse can be consistent with those kinds of races – he’ll not only be the best three year old in the country…he’ll be the best three year old horse we’ve seen in a long time.

However he hasn’t always been consistent – in his last four races he’s won the last two, but finished 4th and 6th in the two races previously.  It’s very difficult to tell with young horses – because sometimes the light bulb just “comes on” and they make a jump in  how well they race…..but this horse could also be a BOOM or BUST kind of horse that will occasionally just not show up for a race.

I do think he’ll show up today – he’s got a great post position and he seems to like Gulfstream Park.

#1  -  Shanghai Bobby – in contrast to Itsmyluckyday – Shanghai Bobby had won his first five races including the Breeders Cup Juvenile. His only loss was against Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull and he will be looking for revenge in the Florida Derby.

Shanghai will have the rail in this race and if he can make the most of it he may be able to control the tempo and benefit from the shorter trip. Then again he could get cut off early, get bogged down in traffic before the first turn -- and it could be the difference between finishing 1st or finishing 4th.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
wonders why it's called
Ducking someone ??
Are Ducks notorious chickens?
I really like this horse – and I like that his ownership is putting him up in a rematch against the only horse he’s ever lost too…..they ain’t ducking nobody. Consider that his management could have shipped this horse to Santa Anita (where they won the Breeders Cup) and faced significantly lesser talent.

Also kudos to the Shanghai Bobby team for making the most out of twitter – this sport needs all the passion and good PR it can get!
And finally let’s not forget about #6 Orb – who has won three straight races including the Fountain of Youth stakes. His last two victories were here at Gulfstream Park and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were the sharpest coming into this race.

Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai haven’t raced for almost 2 months – Orb last ran about a month ago.

Shanghai Bobby & Orb will both hover around the same odds – I prefer Shanghai because he’s a Champion kind of horse – who will consistently run well, and has been doing it since he first hit the track. He’s seen the best horses and with the exception of Itsmyluckyday – beaten them all.

Orb – may be a horse on the rise, and as I stated – he may be the sharpest out of the three. However in my opinion he’ll need a little help to beat Luckyday and Shaghai.

Difficult to imagine any horse defeating Itsmyluckyday after his Holy Bull Performance. He’ll deservedly go off as the favorite in this race – and if he wins this race by a few lengths --- we could be watching something very special here.

If he finishes fourth…..he’ll make betting this horse in the Kentucky Derby,  a nightmare.

I don’t think the other 7 horses have a chance for an upset victory – but I do think #8 Merit Man or #7 Indy’s Illusion could sneak into the top three with a lot of help.

I’m rooting for Shanghai Bobby --- but I think Itsmyluckyday will be too tough to beat here.

This really isn’t a good race to bet --- just sit back and enjoy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 Spiral Stakes

TURFWAY PARK - March 23, 2013
Race 10 - 5:50 PM
Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral S.   (Grade III)
Purse - $550,000
Distance - One And One Eighth Mile

1 – Balance the Books
2 –Channel Isle
3 – Uncaptured
4 – Fear the Kitten
5 – My Name Is Michael
6 – For Greater Glory
7 – Mac the Man
8- General Election
9- Black Onyx
10 – Giant Finish
11 – Taken by the Storm
12 – Capo Bastone

Last week I thought there was ample reason to believe in an upset in the Rebel Stakes and there was!!!! (but I picked the wrong horses.......sigh.....again.

Well --- I’m seeing upset potential again in the Spiral Stakes this week!

 #1 Balance the Books and #3 Uncaptured are the two favorites going into this race, however Balance the Books hasn’t raced competitively in 140 days, and Uncaptured has also been enjoying a relatively long layoff of 119 days.

Both horses have raced against superior talent and there’s no question that both of these horses have shown a great deal of ability….Here’s Uncaptured in his last outing -- the Jockey Club Stakes –

I’m certainly wary of putting money on a favorite in late March on horses who haven’t competed since last Thanksgiving!

I like Uncaptured a lot – but I think he could be very beatable in this race – now, of course, the question is who is going to pull off the upset?
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
does not fear the kitten!
But he does respect
The Napravnik!

 #4 Fear the Kitten recently finished a distant 2nd in a muddy Southwest Stakes (behind winner Super Ninety Nine) – but finished ahead of #2 Channel Isle, who finished 4th.

I’m ready to believe that the mud was a BIG factor in the Southwest Stakes – so Fear the Kitten could certainly be worth looking at – especially because he’s going off at 15-1 and he’s being ridden by the red-hot jockey Rosie Napravnik.

#5 My Name is Michael recently finished 3rd in the Sam F. Davis Stakes but he only has 1 win in 5 attempts. It wouldn’t surprise me if My Name is Michael finished 3rd in this race—and at 10-1 could make a nice addition to a trifecta bet. I just don’t see him breaking through to the winners circle.

#8 General Election recently won here at Turfway Park in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes – finishing ahead of a fading #10 Giant Finish (2nd place) and #6 For Greater Glory who finished third . 

General Election is sitting at 12-1 odds, and I like that he has a recent victory here at Turfway Park.

However For Greater Glory – was gaining fast after a rough trip – and at 20-1 odds he has my attention!

#7 Mac the Man has won his last three races and all of them were here at Turfway Park – he’s currently going off at 10-1, and there is a lot of buzz about this horse. This will be his first attempt at a race over a mile which is concerning…..but Mac could very well be on the attack this week.

#9 Black Onyx is going off at 10-1 – he has two victories out of four attempts, however I think he could be out of his class here.

#11 Taken by the Storm recently won an Allowance Optional Claiming and has visited the winners circle twice in six attempts – however (like Black Onyx) I think the surrounding talent will be too much for this horse.

#12 Capo Bastone intrigues me – his resume includes a third place finish in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile and a recent win (35 days ago) in an Allowance Claiming Optional. He’s currently the third favorite in this race at 9/2 odds and I think he could be prime for this race --- in contrast to the two favorites who may have forgotten what a racetrack looks like since the last time they raced.

Closing Speed likes: 12, 6, 3

If I’m betting $20 here’s who I like

$1 Trifecta – 3/12 w 4,6,7,8 w 3/12 = $8

$1 Exacta – 3/12 w 4,6,7,8 = $8

#2 Win - #7
#2 Win - #6

Friday, March 15, 2013

2013 Rebel Stakes

OAKLAWN PARK - March 16, 2013
Race 10 - 5:48 PM
Rebel S. (Grade II)
Purse - $600,000
Distance - One And One Sixteenth Miles

2 – Carve
1 –Treasury Bill
3 – Texas Bling
4 – Delhomme
5 – Hard Rock Eleven
6 – Den’s Legacy
7 – Will Take Charge
8- Stormy Holiday
1A- Title Contender
9 – Oxbow
10 – Super Ninety Nine

As I examine the field of the Rebel Stakes I can’t help but get a funny feeling that a "perfect storm" kind of upset is very possible.

#10 Super Ninety Nine romped in his victory in the Southwest Stakes leaving #7 Will Take Charge (6th) and #3 Texas Bling (9th) and the rest of the Southwest contenders so far behind you were a little embarrassed for them – NO you were a LOT embarrassed for them!

See just how Super 99 is:

Agent 99 was kind of Super?!?
Let's hope I don't miss my prediction by
"this much"

However there are three possible problems facing Super Ninety Nine in the Rebel.

  1. #1A Title Contender (but I’ll get to that in a moment).
  2. He has a less than favorable post position (although – having no horse on his right should keep things open for him)
  3. Super Ninety Nine could end up in an early speed duel with Delhomme!! Which could leave him or both horses worn down in the final stretch.
His early speed rival #4 Delhomme looked solid in his 3rd place finish in the Remsen Stakes – Delhomme held an early lead for most of the race until he faded in the last furlong to fall behind two other horses by a neck. 

He has had quite a bit of time since that race to develop his stamina and work on his training…..however it’s the “amount” of time that could be a problem for Delhomme --- as it has been 112 days since he’s raced competitively, so there’s certainly reason to believe he’ll be rusty.

Outside of his trainers it’s hard to know how good this horse will be on Saturday.  However it appears to me that he’s got a perfect post position, and if he can own the lead and the rail early – I think he’s got a very good shot in this race….provided he still remembers what racing is.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
just wishes the writer would
get to "the moment"
And provided he gets a little help from #9 Title Contender….but I’ll get to that in a moment.

#6 Den’s Legacy has been very consistent – finishing in the money in his last 6 races against superior competition including Flashback, Goldenscents, and Violence. He would need a little help to win here, and it’s very possible #9 Title Contender will give it to him….but I’ll get to that in a moment.

#9 Oxbow could also be a “spoiler” in the Rebel.  In both the Risen Star Stakes (21 days ago) and the Cash Call Futurity  -- Oxbow went well wide in the first turn, and likely spent some early endurance that he could have used in the final stretch. 

It may have just been some bad luck in these races (although management has changed jockeys and Mike Smith will now be aboard), but if Oxbow can find a better position in the first half mile and the early speeders (Super 99 and Delhomme) wear themselves out – He could be the best horse left in the field.

Speaking of which here is rest of the field……

#2 Carve is an interesting prospect….he’s only raced twice in his career, but both races were here at Oaklawn Park, both distance were 1 1/16th miles – and he won both of them, however, this seems like a big jump in class for this horse.

#1 Treasury Bill has been inconsistent (1 win in 3 attempts) and this will be his first try at anything over a mile, I just don't see it.

#5 Hard Rock Eleven has a great name….but finished 12th , behind Oxbow in the Risen Star Stakes, and he only has 1 victory in 7 attempts.

#8 Stormy Holiday – finished well behind Will Take Charge and Texas Bling in the Smarty Jones Stakes – and Will Take Charge and Texas Bling finished well behind Super Ninety Nine in the last race….so I don’t care what kind of odds they give this horse….he isn’t worth it.

However that (finally) brings us to #1A Title Contender who may be the biggest wrinkle in this race.

I’m certainly not saying Title Contender will win this race, but I do think it’s possible he could determine the fate of two much stronger opponents – Oxbow and Super Ninety Nine.

Title Contender also likes to be a front runner and he may challenge for the opening lead. 

And as they all hit the first turn Title Contender could be in a position to push Oxbow well wide (which would be a trend at this point) and he could also push Super Ninety Nine --- three, four, five wide or more in the first turn!!

This could cause Oxbow and Super Ninety Nine to expend too much energy early as Oxbow makes it three bad early trips in a row and Super Ninety Nine completely wears himself out attempting to catch Delhomme – who will of course be looking to build a substantial early lead.

And as they hit the final stretch –

Title Contender (after having ruined the chances for two better horses) will have faded in the middle of the second turn and be on his way to a 6th or 7th place finish.

Oxbow will have once again gone wide early and be left with nothing in the tank as they approach the wire (although I can’t imagine Mike Smith doesn’t have a plan for this??)

Super Ninety Nine will be completely spent trying having gone too wide early, and falling into an early speed trap.

And Delhomme may end up fading because he was never intended to go more than a mile and he hasn’t raced in nearly four months……which in my opinion leaves only lackluster talent --- and #6 Den’s Legacy.

I see no reason why Den’s Legacy won’t enjoy a sensible paced and unobstructed trip -- which could be enough of a difference to make him the winner here.

Overall I think Super Ninety Nine possesses scary talent – but if they guess wrong on the first turn, or Super Ninety Nine can’t give up the front running position – and Delhomme finishes flat (which are both plenty likely) – that may be all the help Den’s Legacy needs.

Closing Speed likes 6, 4, 10

Since Den's Legacy is going off at 8/1 -- I think I would key him, here's how I might bet $16.

$1 Exacta: 10,9,4 w 6 = $3
$1 Exacta 6 w 10,9,4 = $3

$1 Trifecta Box - 4,6,10 = $6
$2 Carve to Win & Place = $4

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gotham Stakes 2013

AQUEDUCT - March 02, 2013
Race 10 - 5:02 PM
Gotham S. (Grade III)
Purse - $400,000
Distance - One And One Sixteenth Miles

1 – Transparent
1A – Now and Then
2 – Champion Boy
3 – Escapefromreality
4 – One Pass
5 – Amerigo Vespucci
6 – Siete De Oros
7 – Vyjack
8- Elnaawi
9- Sky Captain
10 – West Hills Giant
11 – Overanalyze

For four of these horses this will be a rematch of the Withers Stakes from 28 days ago – where Escapefromreality finished 2nd, immediately (and conveniently for me) followed by Siete De Oros, Amerigo Vespucci and finishing 5th Champion Boy.

The winner of the Withers Stakes, Revolutionary – will be sitting this one out – but I highly recommend watching Revolutionary muscle through the last two furlongs and willing his way to the Winner’s Circle in this video: 

With his late running style and courage in the final stretch he’s certainly on my radar leading up to the KY Derby.

This is also a rematch of the January 5th - Jerome Handicap – where #7 Vyjack defeated Siete De Oros and Amerigo Vespucci.

 Vyjack enters this race undefeated in three outings – however he also enters this race as the second morning line favorite – going off at 3/1.

#11 Overanalyze is the (slight) morning line favorite at 5/2 --- however he has been off for 98 days since his victory in the Remsen Stakes, where he narrowly defeated Normandy Invasion. The question you have to ask yourself as bettor is: Will this horse be better for having fresh legs and three months training since we last saw him – or – will he come out rusty?

In my opinion the Gotham boils down to the potential that Overanalyze brings to this race versus Vyjack’s recent and steady success – however there are a few horses that I believe could surprise this Saturday.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
still thinks Eartha Kitt
was the best Catwoman

#8 Elnaawi (Son of Former Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense) has only two races on his resume, but won his last outing and his breeding suggests distance may not be a factor for this horse. Going off as a bit of a mystery and at 8/1 in this race makes him intriguing.

#4 Ore Pass has won two out of his career three races and he may be the early leader in this race. He hasn’t been tested at this distance – and I think he’ll fade a few furlongs short….but I believe he’s also possible of pulling out a long shot upset here, especially if the track is muddy – 12/1 has me thinking.

Two horses that concern me are #1a Now and Then who enters this race with only one 6 furlong race to his credit – (however it was a victory) and #9 Sky Captain who was a fall time favorite with fans but has finished a disappointing 5th and 2nd in his last two races.

Sky Captain concerns me because I believe this horse could have a lot of talent and is just looking for the right race to flash his potential – at 8/1 odds he has my attention.

In closing, Vyjack is the horse to beat in this race --- and if weather isn’t a factor I don’t see this horse finishing any worse than 3rd. If the track is sloppy they may still run the horse to give him a feel of running in the beginning of the month – but they may not push him to win on a muddy track – that goes for any Kentucky Derby hopeful.

I believe Overanalyze is a bit of a risk in this race for the odds they’re giving – but he could be the most talented horse in the field.  

I also can’t help but bite on the “mystery” of Elnaawi –

Closing Speed likes:  7,8,11

I believe the best option in this race is to take one of the favorites to win followed by a longshot.

Exacta $1 – 7,11 with 3,6,8,9 = $8