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