Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gulfstream February 4th

OK, so, I never ever ever ever post on this. But, I am going to start, all the while knowing no one will read it. I don't really care, it's cathartic. 

Tomorrow is a Wednesday in February...not exactly a day casual fans will be anticipating, but there are some races that I find quite interesting. *keep in mind I am a bit of a degenerate...

First, the sixth at Gulfstream is a tremendous race. A seven furlong money allowance for older fillies and mares with Pious Ashley a very vulnerable 5/2 favorite. Just inside of her is her stablemate Camara Oculta a one-time Group 3 winner in Argentina and a filly who has repeatedly shown she has the ability to sit close to the pace, and has shown she has enough ability to run a high 80 Beyere...which will win this. Plus Jermaine Bridgmohan is aboard her instead of her stablemate who has Alan Garcia up...not a first call rider for Marty Wolfson. All this at an 8-1 morning line...I'll be happy with 7/2, at 8-1 I'll be salavating.

The Wednesday feature is the 8th race, a 1 1/8 optional claimer for older horses featuring stakes has-beens Dr. Pleasure, M B Sea, etc.  The race has some big names, but they have done VERY little lately. Dr. Pleasure will be favored in large pat due to a 102 Beyer he ran at Saratoga...he's run two Beyer's above 90 in his career...both at Saratoga...Instead of him I am looking directly at Cosmic. Shug is taking the blinkers off and I really don't know why he ever had them on to begin with, he has always run better without them. At 4 he is a spring chicken compared to many of these and his 87 at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream last winter would fit well here, and that was an early 3YO figure. He has a lot of upside, can sit close to the pace, and SHOULD run a new top, which would put him in the low to m id 90 range...and I don't think anything else here is still capable of running that type of race.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saratoga Recap: Is Lawyer Ron Legit? Is Street Sense?

Well, week one of Saratoga is in the books and I haven't lost all of my money, so I guess it's been a good opening week for me. Todd Pletcher has three wins, I think I've picked three winners, so we're right there together, and neither of us are very happy. Of course, he is the trainer of Lawyer Ron and Ready's Image, undoubtedly the two most impressive stakes performers from opening week. As for me, my only significant score was on Diabolical in the Vanderbilt, when my sleeper pick Simon Pure got his nose down in front of Benny The Bull I was left with a nice tri pay-off a few times and wishing Saratoga offered supers on every race like all other modern racetracks, as the Commentator-less super would have been very interesting to see.

The big controversy from the weekend is now how legit Lawyer Ron's final time in the Whitney was. On a track that wasn't exceptionally fast he ran an exceptionally fast 1:46 3/5. Could Lawyer Ron have run a 120? Maybe, it wouldn't be the strangest thing I've ever seen in racing history. It would not surprise me at all if it's legit. That would mean Ginger Punch ran a very slow race by grade 1 winning standards to win the Go For Wand with a 95. And, it would means Diabolical only ran a 103 winning the Vanderbilt. BUT, in watching the races this isn't unbelievable. Ginger Punch beat very little when Ermine completely failed to fire. It was a bunch of fillies that run in the high 80's and low 90's, it was a very bad group. In the Vanderbilt it became clear that the Beyer's Benny The Bull and Cougar Cat earned at Prairie last out were inflated, and I was proven right on Commentator, Attila's Storm put him to the test early, and he laid down. Diabolical looked done at the top of the stretch, but stopped less than the rest of the field and got the win. It definitely wasn't his best effort.

So in that context, yeah, maybe Lawyer Ron did run that fast. He solidified himself as the top handicap horse in training by crushing the best handicap field that's been assembled this summer. If Surf Cat or Discreet Cat don't step up big in the next few months, then the three-year-olds are the only one's with a shot to knock off Ron. I'll get to one of those 3YO's in just a minute, but I have to mention the Diana first. No race this weekend left me as hopelessly confused as the Diana did. My Typhoon, the regally bred half sister to Galileo, has never been at her best when forced to rate, she's never been her best at 9 furlongs, and she's never won a grade 1. All that changed on Saturday. Patrick Biancone's "rabbit" Countess Scala didn't do her job at all setting very moderate fractions. Makderah looked empty at the top of the stretch and none of the Biancone runners fired at all. Hand it to My Typhoon, she is an exceptional filly who looked very good in winning, despite her horribly underlaid price.

To the 3YO front, incredibly Street Sense was the first Derby winner since Thunder Gulch to run at Saratoga, and he made his effort a winning one, despite being much less visually impressive than he was in the Derby or even the Preakness. Expect the Beyer to come back in the dull 102-105 range. He was all out to beat the marginally talented CP West by 1 1/2 lengths...not exactly a superstar effort. Maybe he just needed the race, maybe he was too forwardly placed early, I don't know...all I know is it certainly wouldn't make me overly confident about his Travers chances.

Calder's Extreme Day had bad luck for the second straight year as a torrential downpour severely hurt the card and rained the King George Backwards into being the "King George rightways on dirt." The Rocketman was two furlongs of pure excitement as the old champ Caller One knocked off the two furlong king Rain Song in one of the best races of the weekend. That's right, I don't care if it was a two furlong race in the slop, it was a great race to watch, and it was cool to see Caller One keep going so strong.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Saratoga Thoughts, Whitney Card, Extreme Day at Calder

Pletcher's streak at Saratoga continues. He's still sitting on one win, that being the ultra impressive Ready's Image. This is probably one of the most shocking notes from Saratoga thus far. And, also on the Pletcher front, Rags to Riches is back at Belmont and is 50/50 to run in the Alabama, allegedly. If only I could get odds on that...

Tomorrow's Saratoga card is exceptional...does that really need to be stated? The one major problem is rain is in the forecast and could make an extremely challengin card nearly impossible to handicap. The Diana is being billed as the upcoming star Makderah vs millionaire My Typhoon...but it's not that simple. In fact, none of these races are simple, in my opinion. Most players will look to horses like Makderah, My Typhoon, Ermine and Ginger Punch for a possible pick 4 single, but all look very vulnerable to me tomorrow. Some quick race by race thoughts.....

The Diana is a great group. On a firm turf I give Makderah the edge here, the turn of foot she showed in the NY Handicap (G2) was exceptional, she made up two lengths through a 22 3/5 final quarter mile and blew away Masseuse who came back to win the Dance Smartly (G2) over Canadian superfilly Arravale at Woodbine. Quite simply, Makderah could be a really special filly. BUT, on a soft turf this race changes completely. Makderah is by Danehill who is notorious for producing horses who excel on firm turf, and her lone US defeat came over a good turf at Keeneland. Similarly, My Typhoon seems to prefer firm going as well. A yielding turf could definitely play to the Biancone runners Mauralakana and Danzon, both of whom are bred to run on soft going and have shown a preference for such going in the past. Makderah is the top pick on firm, Danzon if the going is soft. One last note on the race is on Meribel who is vastly underrated. Meribel was an easy winner in her last start until Fragoso misjudged the wire at the 1/8 pole and pulled her up, before that she made up 12 lengths in the stretch of a race with a very moderate pace, plus she is undefeated in her two starts over this turf. Don't leave Meribel off of the bottom levels of exotics or any moderately ambitious pick 4.

The Vanderbilt features another great field, but is absolutely chock full of speed. Commentator has shown time and again that with any early pressure he folds. At a short price he is a must play against with Saint Andddan, Attila's Storm, and Abraaj in here (none of them can win either, btw). The top two in here are Diabolical and Benny the Bull, in that order. I love that Benny is moving into Dutrow's barn, but Prairie played to closers when he ran his 108 Beyer last out, and Diabolical is just so solid. The sleeper - Simon Pure. Simon is two for three sprinting, second off the lay-off, and in Asmussen's barn, plus he can close.

The Go For Wand is the race many people will try to single in with Ermine or Ginger Punch. Ermine flat out came up emptt in the Fleur De Lis, and gets very little pace to fire at here. The two turn 1 1/8 distance is a major question mark for Ginger Punch. Teammate may just be over the hill even at her young age, she certainly hasn't seemed to improve. Soul Search is slow and gets no pace to fire at. SO, why not take a flier on Miss Shop or Plaid? If Jerkens could get Onion past Secretariat at Saratoga I think he can knock off Ermine. Trainer aside, Miss Shop's last effort around two turns on dirt resulted in a 101 Beyer in a 6 3/4 length romp. Meanwhile, Plaid never seems to run a bad race, she's not really fast, but she's solid, has a few races that are good enough to be competitive here...and she fits pace-wise. The more I look at this race the more complex it seems to get.

I was convinced Flashy Bull was the best older classic horse in America before the Stephen Foster and he made me look very smart that day. Albarado probably moved a bit too soon, and there is no reason he can't improve. But, this race is incredibly hard to handicap. Hopefully, I'll be alive to a bunch in here (though that probably won't happen). Papi Chullo has looked awesome in his last two and Diamond Stripes just has so much upside. Incredibly tough race.

A few notes on Calder...

I love Tomorrow's Pick to lead after the half mile in the 5th/6th race, he's shone speed in the past and has the apprentice up, I think they're sending. Oh, if you don't know, this is the race where Calder is allowing wagering on who leads after the first half...

The Rocket Man features defending champion Rain Song...and he should repeat. He has never trailed in his PP's after 1/4 mile, and should be ultra tough in here. Look for Fast Trick or either half of the entry to grab second in here.

And don't forget Spenditallbaby is back in tomorrow, good luck to her.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sanford Recap and Random Saratoga Notes

I'll admit it...Saratoga has me thoroughly confounded. On the heels of some of the best months of my gambling life Saratoga has blindsided me with a flurry of tough beats. I take comfort in knowing I'm not alone...a mere TWO sub ten dollar winners on the day, compared to three $30+ winners.

Thankfully I was a little closer on my stakes analysis today. Tale of Ekati ran a good race to run second, and The Roundhouse (who was an incredibly generous 12-1) ran a HUGE race to get up for third with a sweeping wide move. He has a lot of upside as the distances get longer. The problem was that they ran into Ready's Image, who came up with his second straight big effort...and in doing so gave Todd Pletcher his FIRST win on the meet. This seems like a pretty strong field, and, thus far at least, the 2YO crop of colts is looking fairly promising.

Tomorrow's Saratoga feature is the Lake George, thoughts on that and some other races should be up late tonight. I also plan on putting a little less emphasis on Saratoga, especially in light of Steven Crist's extremely entertaining Saratoga blog. Also coming up in the next few weeks will be a look at some Freshman stallions and my thoughts on what stallions will end up being stars from this stallion crop. If there is anything else in particular ya wanna see just let me know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Schuylerville Apology and Sanford Picks

I apologize to anyone who read my post on the Schuylerville Stakes run today at Saratoga. To say I was way off would be putting it generously. It was a great race to watch, but I have serious doubts about the level of talent of the runners involved. The time was less than inspiring (1:11 flat). Hands down the most impressive 2YO on the card was Sargent Seattle who crushed the traditionally strong opening day MSW. His final time (1:03 2/5) was impressive, and the way he did it was awesome. Everyone watching has this horse on stablemail after today.

Tomorrow's card features the Sanford (G2) which is headlined by Todd Pletcher and James Scatuorchio's Ready's Image off of his 8 length romp in the Tremont. He's 9/5 on the ML, but I doubt you get that price tomorrow. Still, he's beatable in this spot, he is facing much, much more here than he faced last out. I'll be playing against Fed Watcher, the second choice, also. With Fed Watcher I just don't trust the Beyer...were three 2YO's in an otherwise nondescript MSW at Belmont really that fast? I'll bet against it.

So, who do I like? Tale of Ekati and Sok Sok. Tale of Ekati was awesome in his debut after going off even money. He has an amazing pedigree, his second dam is the ultra blue hen mare Maplejinsky an Alabama winner whose descendants include six graded stakes winners including grade one winners Sky Beauty, Pleasant Home, and Pine Island. He has two excellent works since that debut, and seems to fit very nicely here at 5-1 on the ML.

Sok Sok was awesome closing after early trouble in his debut at Churchill. The main concern is that, for a 2YO stake, there is surprisingly little speed in here, plus he's ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan who is easily the worst jockey in this field. Still, he fits very nicely on talent, and has the best 2YO trainer in America in his corner.

The other two main contenders in here are The Roundhouse and Ascot Hall. Both were very impressive in their debuts from well off the pace, and both have some serious upside. Ascot Hall closed on a track that was very speed favoring, and he closed with an absolute rush, plus the distance can only help. The Roundhouse will be nowhere near the 12-1 ML, whoever sets the NY morning line was completely high when he set this one. Yeah, the son of Spinaway winner Circle The World, and half to Hopeful winner Circular Quay is going to be double digit odds....right....The Roundhouse is an obvious factor on pedigree alone, but like Ascot Hall, may not get enough pace to fire at in here as the only horses with real early speed are Fed Watcher and maybe Ready's Image, Little Nick, and possibly Tale of Ekati.

So, to recap, I'm taking Tale of Ekati slightly ahead of Sok Sok. Hopefully, this works out a little better than the Schuylerville.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tomorrow marks opening day at Saratoga, which means the start of the best racing on the American racing calendar year in and year out.

The opening day feature is the Schuylerville (Gr III) for two-year-old fillies.  I'll be providing detailed analysis of all of the graded stakes action at Saratoga throughout the meet, so I might as well start here.  Top to bottom this is a very intriguing race.  A few runners from Belmont and Churchill, along with Todd Pletcher's Lady Chace shipping in from Monmouth.  We'll go horse by horse for the analysis here.

I Promise breaks from the rail in here for trainer Gary Contessa (she was trained by Kim Laudati in her debut).  In her debut she crushed an overmatched group of state-bred maidens after breaking very slowly and rushing up.  She definitely has some early speed and talent, but she was under significant urging from Eibar Coa in that debut, and benefited from a very soft second quarter mile in 23 2/5.  I doubt she has the speed to go with some in here, and she doesn't seem the rating sort after watching her rush up in her debut.  I'll pass.

Dreabon's Legacy broke her maiden at first asking on May 27 before running second in the Grade 3 Debutante on July 7.  Both efforts are better on paper than in reality.  She has the look of a filly that doesn't really even want six furlongs, and will probably be an underlay since she has stakes experience which will be overrated.

According To Plan in the first real threat I see in this field.  Barclay Tagg is exceptional and this filly was awesome in her debut cutting out fractions of 22 flat and 44 1/5 in winning by an emphatic 4 1/4 lengths.  She's a good looking filly with a lot of speed, but seems to have the professionalism it takes to win this type race.

Subtle Aly shocked a lot of people winning her debut at 13-1 at Churchill for Steve Asmussen, yes I said 13-1 for Steve Asmussen.  She may have been the longest shot of any Asmussen two-year-old at the meet (not really, but close) and she not only won, but did so in track record time.  That effort led IEAH to purchase her privately and ship her to the barn of Dick Dutrow.  She has crazy speed and will definitely be a factor from the word go.  She can win, and must be left in most pick 4's, but she isn't among my top two picks.

Yes By West is a threat to pick up a check in here, but probably not a serious win candidate.  Her debut score was a hard fought neck victory at Churchill and Ronny Werner knows how to train babies but can she really outlast the other early speed types in here like Subtle Aly and hang on to win this race...I doubt it.

New York City Girl is a probable scratch which leaves Todd Pletcher with Lady Chace.  On paper her Monmouth debut is hard to figure as she won by 10 3/4 lengths, but ran a pedestrian Beyer of 65.  In this case the Beyer simply doesn't tell the whole story.  She was incredibly impressive visually going from a neck to four lengths on top in the blink of an eye.  She seems to relax well and possesses a ton of talent.  I expect this race to be reminiscent of Henny Hughes' Tremont after his visually awesome but Beyer wise slow debut at Monmouth a few years ago.  The top pick in here.

Dicey D J was awesome closing into very soft fractions and extremely wide in her debut.  Her pedigree  suggests dirt shouldn't be a problem.  She is a must use in here for me.  Oh, and she's a great looking idividual by the way.

The final entry is Blitzing.  Her debut for Asmussen was OK, she basically sat behind a very overmatched speedball who fell apart horribly leaving Blitzing to hold off a slew of closers who were gaining, though not really threatening.  

Lady Chace is the pick in here, make no mistakes about it.  her debut Beyer will make her a better price than she should be.  According To Plan is the main threat (as well as the ML favorite).  Hopefully, Dicey D J will sit back and show a little more professionalism down the stretch, if she does she is a major player to pick up a check in here, not to mention fatten up the exotics.
What a breath of fresh air trainer Barry Abrams is.

I'll start by saying I really need to get away from the west coast mindset with the best racing in America starting up tomorrow at Saratoga, but I have to mention Abrams first. In an era of supertrainers with hundreds of horses strewn out coast to coast and stakes horses that run once every few months at most isn't it nice to see a guy like Barry Abrams?

Quick recap from Sunday's Fleet Treat Stakes at Del Mar: Barry Abrams' entry Spenditallbaby, a modestly bred three-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat, is equipped with a crazy looking blindfold that sort of made her look like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Carribean 2. Anyway, long story short, she goes nuts, throws Abrams down and then gets back in his good graces by winning the race. All that is cool enough, but what is even better is that after the race Abrams declared they'll run her again in six days in the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes...but why stop there? The San Clemente is simply her prep (can we really call it a prep?) for the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks run on Augst 18, or three weeks after the San Clemente.

I would like to offer my most sincere wishes of luck to Spenditallbaby and Barry Abrams. Horseracing thanks you.

One other note on Spenditallbaby and the Fleet Treat; how good is Joe Talamo? He kept Spenditallbaby in a perfect position the entire race, saved enough ground on the turn, and navigated masterfully down the stretch. It is said all the time about young jockeys, but he is absolutely the real deal.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Del Mar opened a few days ago featuring a new polytrack surface that, as always, promised safer and fairer racing. But, just to make sure we knew we were still betting on the same ole Del Mar the stewards have taken down an incredible amount of horses, and there is an inquiry almost every race. One particularly costly takedown for yours truly came on Friday night (a card which featured 5 DQ's, btw) when 12-1 Livia La VidaLoca was moved from third to fourth (and fourth place finisher Billie Bob was moved to fifth after an incident which occurred at the break. A cursory glance at the DRF chart suggests Livia La VidaLoca finished with interest while running third. Comical Vacation, who was placed third, "could not quite summon the necessary response" while finishing 3/4 length behind Livia. It should also be noted that Comical Vacation was almost two lengths clear of Livia as they entered the stretch. Basically, there was no way any reasonable bettor would have suggested Comical vacation deserved show money on Friday evening at Del Mar.

On the week Del Mar's stewards found it necessary to DQ nine horses, seven of which affected bet's on the races (i.e. involved top 4 finishers). Meanwhile, Belmont, Monmouth, and Arlington had zero combined DQ's for the entire week. So, is every infraction in major racing occurring in Southern California? Or are the stewards taking racing into their own hands much more than is necessary? I'll leave that up to you.