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.