Saturday, June 7, 2014

Belmont Stakes 2014 - Triple Crown Edition

BELMONT PARK - June 07, 2014
Race 11 - 6:52 PM
Belmont S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,500,000
Distance - One And One Half Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 – Medal Count
2 – California Chrome
3 – Matterhorn
4 – Commanding Curve
5 – Ride On Curlin
6 – Matuszak
7 – Samraat
8 – Commissoner
9 – Wicked Strong
10 – General A Rod
11 - Tonelist

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Triple Crown in Horse Racing means a horse must win the Kentucky Derby  (in Kentucky) on the first Saturday in May, The Preakness (in Baltimore) two weeks later and then The Belmont Stakes (in New York) three weeks after that.

It is a task that involves taking on possibly 19 other horses in the first race – an unusually brief rest (by modern terms) to win the second race, and finally (after still a relatively short rest) winning the longest race they have ever run (and likely will ever run), a mile and ½ , for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

And to top it off – you can only do this during your three year old season – meaning #1 California Chrome can’t come back and try this again next year.
Now who's up for some Atari Pong?

Many GREAT horses have fallen short since 1978 when Affirmed was the last horse to win the American Triple Crown --- and today we’ll see if California Chrome can break the drought.

Since April California Chrome has performed like clock-work – his recipe for the winners circle has been to stay towards the top of the pack until then accelerate out of the final turn like he’s been shot out of a cannon.

California Chrome has glided home, unchallenged, in his last three races – in my opinion his biggest challengers today will be Fatigue from racing in four different states (California , Kentucky, Maryland and finally New York) in almost two months, and the daunting distance of this race.

His competitors are solid --- but all things being equal he has shown that he can beat all of them on a consistent basis.

To be up front – I think when it comes to the Belmont Stakes – if you take the favorite out of it – it’s always kind of a wide open race – because you just have no idea how these horses are going to react to this distance.

#1 Medal Count – his last win was the Transylvania Stakes in April, he looked good in the Blue Grass Stakes, however when he’s faced more quality talent he has not finished well (8th in the Kentucky Derby, 5th in the Fountain of Youth)

#11 Tonelist recently finished 1st in the Peter Pan Stakes here in New York – defeating 2nd place #8 Commissoner and 4th place #3 Matterhorn.

Tonelist made a point of setting the early pace in the Peter Pan --- and ran very well on a sloppy track.  I’m not crazy about this post position today – but he could push California Chrome early and that could leave Chrome winded in the final furlong.

#4 Commanding Curve was closing on California Chrome in the final furlongs in the Kentucky Derby. This is the horse that concerns me the most – however I’m only basing that on how strong he looked at the end of the Kentucky Derby. His last victory was in November – but this horse has a solid post position and if he can finish as strongly as he did a month ago – he might be able to upset a tired Cali Chrome.

#5 Ride On Curlin could be the second best horse in this race – however this will be his fourth race in less than two months, and I think asking for a Belmont Victory out of this horse is asking too much. I like that they’re running him as if he’s going for the Triple Crown….but I think this horse needs to rest for a few months and start building towards a solid four year old season.

#6 Matuszak – his last race was a 2nd place finish in April. He has shown nothing to indicate this is his race, but he’s exactly the kind of horse that comes out of nowhere.

#9 Wicked Strong is considered the second favorite in this race – he won the Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. Reports from Belmont are that he has looked sharp in workouts…..and he does have an advantage of being more rested than California Chrome and only having to race in two states (Kentucky and New York) over the past two months.

#7 Samraat – has finished just behind Wicked Strong in his past two races (2nd in the Wood Memorial / 5th in the Kentucky Derby).  Samraat had won 5 straight races before meeting up with Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial .

I think Wicked Strong, Samraat and Tonelist are the three best New York has to offer – they are properly rested and have home court advantage here in New York – Wicked Strong closed very well in the Wood Memorial – so he deserves to be considered a solid threat.

#10 General A Rod – similar to Ride On Curlin – this horse will be running in all three Triple Crown races and I have a lot of respect for racing like you’re going for it all. The General finished 4th in the Preakness and 11th in the Kentucky Derby. Solid horse – but he comes in with no advantages and just as fatigued as the Favorite who has beaten him soundly.

When the  bell rings and the gates fly open – I look for Samraat, Tonelist and California Chrome to set up shop at the top of the pack – pace will be incredibly important in this race – if these top three horses start dueling early and set a half mile pace under 48 seconds… could disastrous if you’re hoping for a Triple Crown bid.

As the come out of the final turn I’ll be looking for California Chrome to separate from the pack – I think he’ll be able to own the rail the entire race so he could put about 4 or more lengths between him and the rest as the head for home.

At this point we’ll see if Samraat or Tonelist are still in the hunt and pushing Cali Chrome or if they’ve begun to fade – in stretch for home I’ll start looking for Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve to start closing --- at it will simply come down to how fatigued California Chrome is, and if he has the fight to hold off any of the late closers.....or if one of these horses just "has" the distance in him?? As I stated it's more wide open then most might think.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah would
love a California Chrome victory
and a Nathan's Hot Dog with
Chili Fries......

What can I say….I’d love to see California Chrome win a Triple Crown…..

Closing Speed likes: California Chrome / Commanding Curve / Tonelist

If I’m betting $26 on this race I like:
$10 – Wicked Strong to Win
$10 – Commanding Curve to Win
$6 – Exacta Box – California Chrome / Tonelist / Commanding Curve

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Preakness 2014

PIMLICO - May 17, 2014
Race 12 - 6:18 PM
Preakness S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,500,000
Distance - One And Three Sixteenth Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 – Dynamic Impact
2 – General A Rod
3 – California Chrome
4 – Ring Weekend
5 – Bayern
6 – Ria Antonia
7 – Kid Cruz
8 – Social inclusion
9 – Pablo Del Monte
10 – Ride On Curlin

#3 California Chrome enters this race as the 3/5 favorite – which means most people believe he’s got this race in the bag….and for good reason -  

California Chrome has won his last five races, many of them solid challenges. He is fresh off a strong Kentucky Derby victory – and for his style of racing he is in the perfect starting position (#3).

The only two things I can imagine preventing him from doing very well in this race is if the other horses purposefully box him in at some point and prevent him from escaping in traffic – it may seem unsportsmanlike, but I’ve seen mediocre horses do what they can to prevent a great horse from winning just to give themselves some kind of shot.

The other possible letdown would be if Jockey Victor Espinoza “asks” California Chrome to kick in at the end of the final turn and the horse just doesn’t have it in him this time.

Personally I believe that Espinoza is too good of a Jockey to let his horse get boxed in – and I also think California Chrome is going come out of the final turn firing on all cylinders -- so far this horse has run like clockwork.

It is very possible that California Chrome will go Wire to Wire in this race – meaning he’ll take the rail in the first turn and glide for most of the race until hitting the after burners coming out of the final turn and win this race by about 5 lengths. If all of this sounds a little too predictable or easy….what can I say he’s a 3/5 favorite?!?!

If (and it’s a big IF) #1 Dynamic Impact – can break very well, take the rail and push California Chrome wide in the first and final turns, and then find the strength to go toe to toe with the Kentucky Derby Champion down the stretch….he has a shot.

However if he doesn’t come out of the gate well – he could easily fall in the middle of the pack and never be heard from again – I also think he could try to keep up with a faster early pace then he’s prepared for and fade badly coming out of the final turn.

#2 General A Rod is a solid horse – but hasn’t won a race since January. Unless he “finds his stride” or California Chrome loses his – I don’t see him pulling off an upset -- General A Rod strikes me as a horse who will do very well should he continue running over the next few years.

#4 Ring Weekend – is a Tapit horse….and Tapit horses always concern me. I think this horse “could” be a lot of trouble for California Chrome – but that’s only if Ring Weekend takes an early lead and never looks back, which was his recipe for the Tampa Bay Derby.

See Video

However Ring Weekend finished 2nd against lesser competition in the Calder Stakes and it’s been 42 days since his last race. You could chalk an upset here to a horse bouncing back after a solid rest…..but I think it’s also likely this horse comes out rusty and finishes towards the back of the pack.

#5 Bayern – finished third in the Arkansas Derby and second in the Derby Trial Stakes. A solid horse – great jockey, but he seems out classed here.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
likes a Filly with an Attitude!
#6 Ria Antonia – the filly fresh off of her 6th place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. She has two victories (including the Breeder’s Cup Fillies) – but hasn’t won a race since that one back in November. I think the Owners/Management believes there’s a lack of talent in this race and maybe Ria can compete better against the fellas – interesting.

#7 Kid Cruz – He’s won 3 out of his last 4 races including his last victory which was here at Pimlico. He’s a bit of an unknown and at 20-1 could be worth a $2 bet.

#8 Social Inclusion is currently going off as the Second Favorite – however he doesn’t have a lot of experience as he has only three career races (although he won his first two). His last race was a 3rd place finish in the Wood Memorial 42 days ago.

I think most people are looking at his early speed as a sign he could be a challenger – but I disagree with him being the second favorite.

#9 Pablo Del Monte – he has won a 2 races in his 6 race career – he strikes me as a horse just happy to be here – I think 40-1 odds would be more suitable here – his  last victory was October 2013.

#10 – Ride On Curlin -  He has experience – 10 races – but he also doesn’t win much – Twice. He had a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby, but still finished a respectable 7th – I think he could easily end up in the top 3 – I just don’t see him beating California Chrome if the Cali runs his race today.

Most people agree this is California Chrome’s race to lose – I think if there’s going to be a surprise it will be Ring Weekend or Kid Cruz……but it seems unlikely.

Closing Speed like: California Chrome / Ride On Curlin / Ring Weekend (3/10/4)

With these odds it’s difficult to make a bet – but….

$1 Exacta Box (3/7/8) = $6

$1 Pick 3 (beginning with the Race before the Preakness) – 1/3/4/6/7 with 3 with 1/2/3/4/5 = $25

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Kentucky Derby 2014

CHURCHILL DOWNS - May 03, 2014
Race 11 - 6:24 PM
Kentucky Derby  (Grade I)
Purse - $2,000,000
Distance - One And One Fourth Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 –  Vicar’s In Trouble
2 –  Harry’s Holiday
3 –  Uncle Sigh
4 –  Danza
5 –  California Chrome
6 –  Samraat
7 –  We Miss Artie
8 –  General A Rod
9 –  Vinceremos
10 -  Wildcat Red
11 – Hoppertunity -  Scratched
12 – Dance with Fate
13 – Chitu
14 – Medal Count
15 – Tapiture
16 – Intense Holiday
17 – Commanding Curve
18 – Candy Boy
19 – Ride On Curlin
20 - Wicked Strong

As we prepare for the 2014 Kentucky Derby many are disappointed because of what “could have been”.

So many very talented young horses found themselves off the Derby trail due to injury – Horses like New Year’s Day and Havana who finished 1st and 2nd in the Breeder’s Cup Futurity, Florida Derby Winner Constitution, Cairo Prince who looked untouchable in the early spring and several others give this year’s Triple Crown a “depleted” feel.

And it’s my opinion that because so many horse racing fans had their eyes on other horses – #5 California Chrome may seem like he’s simply the best of the rest……however his Santa Anita Derby victory is something to behold.

As you watch this race there are a number key points to consider.

He keeps pace with Dublin Up in a 22.89 quarter mile – which is a fairly swift pace for this distance and at this age.

In the final stretch he doesn’t wobble or wander into a different lane – which is often a sign of fatigue in these young horses --- instead he runs a VERY STRAIGHT line and he runs it several lengths in front of a number of quality horses.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
wonders...why do Haters
gotta Hate??

One other item to consider – his mile and a quarter was the fastest of  “big” derby winners (Wood Memorial / Arkansas Derby / Florida Derby / Louisiana Derby) and he did it without being pushed.

Granted Santa Anita tends to be a little faster… there's room for doubt....but there's a lot of whispers that this horse ain't all that....despite his dominate victory....

See Video:

So there’s a VERY good reason this horse is the favorite – and he has a sweet post position to start the race.

However he could get swallowed up in the pack of 18 other horses --- and California Horses have fallen short many times before in Kentucky so if you don’t feel like betting the favorite here are some other horses I think you should consider.

#1 Vicar’s In Trouble – This horse has a great Twitter account….no I’m not kidding – unfortunately this very talented Colt drew the #1 spot and I believe he’s going to get engulfed by EVERYONE to his right and will probably lose this race in less than 2 seconds into it.

HOWEVER – if Vicar’s in Trouble can manage to shoot out of the 1 spot and find a way to grab the early lead….he could be very tough to catch…..but that’s asking A LOT!

No matter where he finishes – if he runs in the Preakness….don’t forget this horse.

#4 Danza….okay for those of you who don’t know – this horse’s sire was named Street Boss --- so you combine “Boss” with “Danza” and you get……

Oh --it HURTS
But you'll share this if you have the chance.

Word play aside – Danza pulled off a solid victory in the Arkansas Derby and being positioned just inside the favorite California Chrome might just be the best place to be…..however in my opinion the Kentucky Derby could be overwhelming for Danza as this will only be his fifth career race – and his only two victories are the Arkansas Derby and his Maiden race back in July 2013.

He certainly flashed talent in the Arkansas Derby – but I think this could be too much, too soon for this horse.

#6 Samraat – was undefeated  in five races, until finishing 2nd in the Wood Memorial  --- maybe this was just an off day for this horse, maybe the Trainers weren’t concern with winning and were more focused on getting ready for the KY Derby??? My feeling is that at this point in his career asking for anything over a mile and 1/8th is asking for more than he’s got.

#7 We Miss Artie – Okay you want my CRAZZZZZZZZYYYYY long shot pick – then consider We Miss Artie winner of the Spiral Stakes, and also the owner of a solid post position as well.

He’s got a solid late kick which has won a number of Kentucky Derbies – I think he’s underbet…..however in February he finished 8th behind Wildcat Red and General A-Rod, so he may be lucky just to finish in the top 10 here. But he could easily be 100-1 at the bell.....

#10 Wildcat Red finished 2nd (behind Constitution) in the Florida Derby – and I like this horse – however I think he may need the early lead to contend (which I don’t think he’ll be able to get) – and it appeared to me that he wilted at the end of the Florida Derby, which is either a lack of competitiveness or struggling with a lesser distance than the KY Derby --- neither make me optimistic.  However with a little luck he could certainly be in the top 3.

#12 Dance with Fate – If I’m betting just one horse to upset California Chrome it would be the 20-1 Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance with Fate!  I’m not real crazy about placing my hopes on the Blue Grass Stakes winner, because the surface for the Blue Grass is Synthetic which is different from the Kentucky Dirt. 

Dance with Fate also finished only 2nd in the relatively lowly El Camino Real Derby….which also doesn’t inspire…..he only has three victories in eight attempts…..HOWEVER….

Dance with Fate shows solid maturity and patience in the Blue Grass which featured 14 horses….so numbers don’t rattle this horse.

He also closed strongly and looked very comfortable stretching it out a little more distance… other thing to consider the past seven Kentucky Derby Winners all came from Posts 10 or greater (and 4 out of those 7 were #11).

#12  Orb/ #11  I’ll Have Another  / #11  Super Saver  / #11 Animal Kingdom / # 11 Mine That Bird / #20 Big Brown / #10 Street Sense. – it hasn’t been since Super Horse #8 Barbaro that we’ve had a winner inside #10.

In my humble opinion – Dance with Fate should be no less than the third favorite in this race.

See Blue Grass Stakes:

#13 – Chitu is an interesting prospect.  He’s won 3 out of 4 career races – however he hasn’t raced since his victory 41 days ago in the Sunland Derby. His Sunland time was 1:47 – similar to California Chrome. At 20-1 he may be worth a few dollars to bet……he definitely fits the bill of the horse that crosses the finish line first and everyone reaches for their program to find out who this horse is???

However in Feb. he was defeated by #18 Candy Boy --- and Candy Boy finished well behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita.

#15 Tapiture worries me strictly because he’s a Tapit horse……he’s finished progressively worse in his last two races (4th and 2nd) after showing some promise as the victor in the Southwest Stakes in February. I don’t think he can muster the distance…..but still he’s a Tapit horse, and those Tapit horses seem to be wired to win.

#18 Ride On Curlin – I loved this horses sire Curlin – and Jockey Calvin Borel definitely knows how to show up big in the Kentucky Derby…..but only 2 wins in 9 races…..and even my “boy” Curlin didn’t win the KY Derby.

#20 Wicked Strong – will likely go off as the second or third favorite in this race and it makes a lot of sense. He finished strong in the Wood Memorial, his post position doesn’t really affect his style of racing as he’s likely to stay in the middle or back of the pack and close in the final stretch.

He’s got a great closing kick and if California Chrome doesn’t show up – he could be the one to beat.

Closing Speed likes: California Chrome / Dance With Fate / Wicked Strong

If I were betting $30…….

$10 – #11 to win (Dance With Fate) = $10
$1 – Exacta Box 5/10/20 – (California Chrome / Wildcat Red / Wicked Strong) = $6
$1 – Exacta Box 5/11 with 5/6/10/11/19 = $10
$2 - #7 to place = $2

$2 - #18 to win = $2

And for the record - Alyssa Milano - DEFINITELY THE BOSS
Anytime - Anyplace!

Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Rebel Stakes

OAKLAWN PARK - March 15, 2014
Race 10 - 6:04 PM
Rebel S.   (Grade II)
Purse - $600,000
Distance - One And One Sixteenth Miles
Surface – Dirt

Jet Cat
Ride On Curlin
Strong Mandate
Sheltowee’s Boy
Street Strategy
Kobe’s Back

I feel it’s important to offer some forewarning that the forecast for this race is WET – and that can certainly alter how some Owners/Trainers will approach this race.

Owners of a horse that is already in good shape to go to the Kentucky Derby and still has another “Big Race” in front of them, like the Arkansas Derby next month, may have their “Super Star” horse just get out and breeze the track without any real effort to win.

The idea here is to make sure your horse stays on the schedule they’ve made, but more importantly make sure their prize pony comes back in one piece....they may not care at all about winning.

I’ve also seen sub par horses go all out in the mud – because Jockey’s /  Trainer’s / Owners realize this may be their best opportunity to pull off an upset, and sneak into the Kentucky Derby….better to be invited and lose than to not be invited at all!!  So Bettors Beware.

I’m approaching this race with the idea that all of the horses will be putting in their best efforts – and I really hope they do because this race features several excellent horses.

For #2 Ride on Curlin, #3 Tapiture and #4 Strong Mandate the Rebel Stakes will serve as a rematch from the Southwest Stakes here at Oaklawn last month.

If you watch the video below you’ll see Ride On Curlin makes a very early move after the quarter mile but can’t sustain the momentum --- in the end he fades into a very close third with the bulk of the pack.

Arkansas Derby Winner, Preakness Winner and
apparently cornrow wearing gangsta!
You're my boy Curlin!
As I look at Ride On Curlin’s resume he seems to be most effective racing under a mile (with his only two wins coming at 6 Furlongs and 5 ½ furlongs).

As much as I want to believe that this horse will become a repeat of his sire Curlin (one of my favorites ever!) – and as much as I also want to believe that by going nearly 8 wide in the first turn of the Southwest he just got thrown off his game…… I advise not buying into the name here.

The Southwest Stakes were seemingly set-up perfect for Tapiture as he was able to claim the rail, set the pace and close out with a very solid victory.

Unless weather somehow becomes a factor – Tapiture has the perfect starting spot for a repeat performance and with a victory or a place in this race all but assures himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Strong Mandate was the favorite in the Southwest Stakes however, in contrast to Tapiture, he had several obstacles to overcome. If you watch the race, he gets bumped coming out of the gate, squeezed and forced to fall back early which forces him to go well wide into the first turn.

They do a great job of recovering as they are less than a length  behind the leader at about ¾ of a mile, however he’s still forced to go five or six wide in the final turn – and Tapiture just had it too easy for Strong Mandate to be able to catch up.

Something to consider if the track is muddy – Strong Mandate has  a victory on a damp track and Tapiture is still untested on mud.

See Race:
Southwest Stakes 2014

#8 Kobe’s Back is currently the third favorite {7-2}, behind Tapiture and Strong Mandate – and this horse is an intrigue as he enters the Rebel Stakes. I really don’t like that this he’s traveled from California and he’s never raced at Oaklawn – especially since the two favorites have recently raced here.

I’m also concerned that his two victories were under a mile and in the Cash Call Futurity (the only race he’s run at 1 1/16th a mile) he finished 10th.

But when you stop looking at his paper and instead watch him run:

All I can envision now is a Gray late charging Monster barreling down the track and winning with ease! Tough call to make on this horse. He's the kind of horse that I think could finish 1st or finish almost dead last....very tough call here.He is also untested in the mud.

Finally there’s #7 Street Strategy – ridden by Calvin Borel -- who is giving good odds at 8-1. He’s the least experienced horse in the field with only two attempts – however out of those two races he has a victory and a 2nd place finish – he also has some experience with a damp track, and his only two races have been here at Oaklawn.

His Sire (Juvenile Champion / Kentucky Derby Winner) Street Sense certainly had no trouble with distance, so one presumes this horse will be up for a mile 1/16.

His lack of experience concerns me, especially with this caliber of talent  – however I think this horse may only need a little help to pull off an upset here.

One last consideration (especially if the track is muddy) is #6 Sheltowee’s Boy who is currently going off at 15-1. He has two victories, a place and one 4th place finish in four races.

Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
does NOT care for Mud and Rain
and neither does Tiny Cheetah!
He has a Win and a Place on Wet Tracks and for the most part though - I think Sheltowee’s Boy,  #5 Hoppertunity or #1 Jet Cat are outclassed here – but if the track is sloppy and you think the good horses will be holding back….you may want to consider Sheltowee’s Boy.

If the horses come out to run tomorrow – Closing Speed likes: Tapiture / Strong Mandate / Street Strategy.

My $1 Exacta Box is:  3,4, 7 = $6  -- the hope here is that a relative long shot will break up the two favorites.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tampa Bay Derby - 2014

TAMPA BAY - March 08, 2014
Race 11 - 5:25 PM
Tampa Bay Derby   (Grade II)
Purse - $350,000
Distance - One And One Sixteenth Miles
Surface – Dirt

Ring Weekend
Surfing U.S.A.
Coltimus Prime
Conquest Titan
East Hall
Cousin Stephen
My Kodiak Warrior
Tuscan Getaway

There are two reasons I believe these horses entered the Tampa Bay Derby – the first is to secure a portion of the 85 Kentucky Derby points available in this race…..the winner would essentially be secured a spot to the big dance in May.

The second (and no less important) reason is that none of these horses want to be in a position of “needing” points and have to face Cairo Prince in the Florida Derby.  He may be the Prince of Cairo – but he’s currently the KING of Florida.

As you’ll see in the video – #5 Conquest Titan lands a distant second against Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull….and Conquest Titan could likely be the favorite in this race when the gates open.

Link to Video:
Holy Bull Stakes

It will be very interesting to see what the strategy will be for any number of these horses.

There are three long shots who I believe will attempt to take the lead going into or coming out of the first turn.

#1 Ring Weekend has the rail and while going for the early lead isn’t necessarily his racing style I think due to his post position and the competition around him – they may attempt to stay at the front of the pack.

My biggest concern with Ring Weekend is that he was sired by Tapit….and Tapit horses always seem to get the best of me.

Ring Weekend also has three races at this distance -- and he won his last one....he's in a great spot to surprise here.

#4 Coltimus Prime is another long shot (15-1) that could bolt for an early lead in this race – in fact I expect him to set the early pace – in his last outing he ran out of gas and finished 2nd so stamina could be a concern. He also hasn’t raced in 90 days….which for the younger horses usually means they’ll struggle.

And finally #10 Tuscan Getaway (20-1) will also likely run with the early pack. This horse intrigues me and not just because his name makes me think of Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun -- which is distracting in all the best possible ways.....
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah
thinks a Zebra dinner under the
glow of the Savannah Moonlight
with Ms. Lane
is the purrfect evening.

Tuscan Getaway went wire to wire in his last outing (an Allowance Race) at this same distance – however that was 112 days ago. I think this is a lousy starting point (10th) for this horse – however his style of racing is perfect for an upset here….and if in the past 112 days he’s built up his stamina….He could steal this one - but needs a ton of help here!

However a lot of this race could depend on how the favorite 
#2 Surfing U.S.A. approaches this race. He’s also very comfortable being a front runner – but in his last race he gave way and finished 2nd at this same distance. I’m not a big fan of Surfing USA as the favorite here – he could easily fall into a speed duel that leaves him winded in the final furlongs with any of the longshots OR he may have trouble pulling back early and taking on the late closers at their own game.

#8  Cousin Stephen is yet another horse that could decide to challenge early. Cousin Stephen led the way in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and as they hit the final turn he just seems to run out of steam as #6 Vinceremos sneaks out a victory by surviving on the inside.

Cousin Stephen also doesn’t have the best starting post for his style of racing and I have similar concerns of a speed trap or lack of stamina like I do with Surfing USA.

#6 Vinceremos impressed me in the Sam F. Davis – because it appeared like he was going to fade out of contention as they entered the final turn….but as they exited the turn he slingshots back into the lead and has enough fight to hold everyone else off.

Link to the race:
Sam F. Davis Stakes

I like a horse that has a fighting spirit, I like that this horse is capable of running a “smart” race – and I like that he’s won his past two races….I’ll be very interested to see how jockey Edgar Prado approaches this challenge – because I don’t know how comfortable this horse will be running in the middle of the pack getting dirt kicked in his face…..and the battle for the “early jump” could force any number of horses to run far wide or get bottled up in traffic.

I may be emphasizing the battle for the “early jump” too much in this race but I have to think the second favorite #5 Conquest Titan would happily watch the bulk of his competitors wear themselves out in the first mile of the race so he can breeze by them in the last 16th.

Conquest Titan is a very solid late charging colt and in my opinion is in a perfect spot to pull off the victory here – I’m a little concerned he didn’t finish closer to Cairo Prince in his last outing….however if he wins here – that may be a strong indication of just how good Cairo Prince is.

They say Pace makes the Race – and I believe that to be absolutely key in this one --

Closing Speed likes:

Ahem....still distracted....But as far as the horses go -

Closing Speed likes:
Conquest Titan / Vinceremos / Surfing USA   (5/6/2)

However I would bet this race differently - because I like a "long shot" to break up the favorites.and Ring Weekend is the one that concerns me.

$1 Exacta Box - 5/6/1 = $6 -- is how I might approach it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Gotham Stakes 2014

AQUEDUCT - March 01, 2014
Race 9 - 4:17 PM
Gotham S.   (Grade III)
Purse - $500,000
Distance - One And One Sixteenth Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 – Noble Contender
1a – Samraat
2 – In Trouble
3 – Financial Mogul
4 – Uncle Sigh
5 – Monopolize
6 – Deceived
7 – Classic Giacnroll
8 – Extrasexyhippzster
9 – Master Lightning
10 - Harpoon

Hey there race fans – well Closing Speed is getting started a little late for the Triple Crown run this year – but the first race I’m covering promises to be an exciting one.

#1a Samraat and #4 Uncle Sigh are set for a rematch after finishing in a final stretch duel last month in the Withers Stakes here at Aqueduct.

Samraat exhibited fantastic poise in his last race as he stalked Uncle Sigh nearly the entire trip and pushed ahead for the victory in the last few furlongs. Samraat enters this race undefeated in four races.

As you’ll see in the video below Uncle Sigh may have pulled back a bit if he was uneasy about being pinned against the rail in the Withers. We’ll see if Uncle Sigh can find some breathing room this time around and improve when they head for home.

#2 In Trouble enters this race with some good news and some bad news – the good news is this horse has two victories in two races…..the bad news is he hasn’t raced for 153 days. 

Against this level of talent , and with his lack of experience I think a third place finish would be impressive.

#6 Deceived interests me as he enters this race after a victory in a recent allowance race – he had an absolutely horrible start in the Damon Runyon Stakes and I sense this horse has some good racing ahead. 

However in the Damon Runyon Stakes Samraat romped and Deceived wasn’t even in the same area code when Samraat hit the finish line……I like Deceived but he’ll need a lot of help to compete in this one.

Strangely Sensitive
Extra Sexy Cheetah
knows when you saw the words:
Extra Sexy, you immediately
thought of his
Extra Sexy Self.....Growl!
#8 Extrasexyhippzster has been BLAZING the racetrack over the past two races – and he has three victories in his past five races. He may end up being the 2nd favorite in this race when the gates open.

#10 Harpoon – Is currently going off at 10-1 odds and I think he’s extremely under bet! Don’t let his one victory in five attempts fool you…..he’s finished 2nd in the remaining four races and I think he’ll hit his stride as the races begin moving to longer distances.  In his last outing, the Sam Davis Stakes, he struggled with all kinds of traffic issues in the final turn and then in a blink he blew past four horses and closed about five or six lengths on the leader to lose by a nose. He's got a great starting position, and we'll see if he can pull off an upset.

I believe the race will unfold with Samraat and Extrasexyhippzster setting the pace – they may let Uncle Sigh take the lead and stalk him into the final turn, but I also believe they could shoot past him early and set a faster early pace.

As the race closes it is possible that Samraat, Extrasexyhippzster and/or Uncle Sigh will have set the pace too hot for the distance – and Harpoon would be in the perfect spot to take the victory away from the exhausted horses.

However from what I’ve seen from Samraat I don’t think he’ll get suckered into an early speed duel that leaves him gasping in the final furlong – I think either Extrasexyhippzster will have to beat him at his own game or Harpoon will wait in the middle of the pack and blow by them in the final few strides.

Then again I can also see Samraat winning this race by a neck -- he's got talent, patience and he knows this track. 

Weather permitting this should be a great race.

Closing Speed is swinging for the fences on the first pitch and likes: 
Harpoon – Samraat – Extrasexyhippster (10/1/8)
Another Race of interest is the Swale Stakes – as #1 Havana takes on #3 No Nay Never

Havana finished second in the Breeders Cup Back in November and is considered by many to be a promising Kentucky Derby prospect.

However No Nay Never has three victories, in three races….in THREE COUNTRIES! He’s beaten horses here in America, England and France – which is kind of badass! 

I think both of these horses could struggle – because they’ve had so much time off – Havana 119 days and No Nay Never 195….and it may be worth throwing some cash at #2 Can’t Stop the Kid or #4 Prudhoe Bay…..but I think (and hope) that this race will be about two major talents Havana and No Nay Never leaving everyone else in the dust. Should be a good one.