Friday, February 20, 2015

Risen Star, Fountain of Youth and the Southwest (Redux)

Lots of racing this weekend as the polar vortex tightens its grip on us middle westerners and easterners (whom am I forgetting?). The skin on my shins is as dry as a Cheerios box. But this! This is as deep as the abyss gets! St. Paddys day is less than a month away. So hang in there railbirds. And remember to keep those tongues off the rail.

Fountain of Youth
The Holy Bull was a boring race, and that's why I've been endlessly analyzing it. It's too boring, there has to be some kernel of knowledge lurking in it. So far this is what we know. Bluegrass Singer had some sort of shoe problem. Frosted doesn't like kickback. Upstart was flawless. Form cycles reveal little beyond the idea that everyone should improve off last effort. Pletcher brings in a sharp winner who might dazzle, but given Upstart's natural talent and experience, he'll need the shape of the race to play a big role -- but it could. Another X-factor is Javier Castellano jumps off Bluegrass Singer and onto the rail horse Juan and Bina. They're next to each other in the gate. Juan and Bina didnt want to rate last out and I think his tactics will change especially with the rail, and I expect him to move forward. He and Bluegrass Singer could slug it out and push those fractions harder, which could make it harder on Upstart.

$5 Trifecta Upstart-Itsaknockout,Frosted-Itsaknockout, Frosted, Juan and Bina, Bluegrass Singer
$10 Ex Itsaknockout-Upstart
$10 Ex Frosted-Upstart

The Risen Star
This looks like an exciting race. Lots of shape to it. You have some speedballs on the rail and some late acceleration sprinkled throughout the wider posts. This is the race where Pyro was full of fire, and I think we're going to see another closer rise to the occasion. Even with the possible scratch of Bach. Imperia will take a lot of money and it makes sense. This Darley horse has run over turf for most of his career and has done well over dirt. International Star is a NY bred owned by rhe Ramseys and trained by Maker. Also started as a turfer, but after winning the LeComte this son of Fusiachi has signaled he wants more. Finally there's War Story who ran a nice drill at Oaklawn last week. KD picks up the mount. I see these three battling at the wire.

$25 Exacta Imperia-War Story
$10 Trifecta Impaeria-International,War-International, War
$5 Exacta Imperia-War Story

Usually Baffert sends a speedball to Arkansas but not this year. Anerican Pharoh is likely to deign the oval with his presence in the Rebel, but today we have a slugfest with the aptly named Hillbilly Royalty and maybe Far Right is somehow semantically connected, but maybe that's a reach.

I'd love to see a surprise horse emerge. Maybe Bold Conquest, The Truth or Else or Kantune. But the three big players are the Hillbilly who's undefeated from the barn that brought us fan-favorite Caleb's Posse. I'd love for then to have another. The Truth or Else gets lasix and hasn't come within single digits in high class races. Bold Conquest is the other Asmussen horse who makes his 3YO debut and never really threatened in the Futurity at Keeneland. Kantune recently broke his maiden over this dirt defeating none other than Mr. Tickle.

And now for the big heavily-betted horses: Mr Z is a headcase, Far Right needs room for his late kick, Hillbilly Royalty will have to step up his game a little. Bayerd might like it if some rain hits the track.

$28 Exacta Far Right-Mr. Z
$10 Exacta Mr. Z-Far Right
$3 Tri  Far Right-Mr. Z-Hillbilly Royalty, Bayerd ($6)
$2 Tri Mr. Z-Far Right-Bayerd, Hillbilly Royalty ($4)
$2 Exacta Far Right-Bold Conquest

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Robbie Lewis and My $50 Bindle

Big Day at Santa Anita

I'll Have Another (RL Winner)

Maybe you read Haskin's article about the San Antonio this weekend. The opportunity we get for a nice rivalry of "male horses". Because apparently female rivalries really don't matter as much and can't capture mainstream attention. Slight cringe, but yes, Shared Belief and California Chrome make the Antonio an exciting race even if mainstream outlets will likely be indifferent to it.  

Of course, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra were racing's last tap into mainstream media. They had groupies. They had Oprah. They had Vogue. A 60 Minutes piece! Haskin! WTF are you talking about?

Still, this is a race that fans are eager for, and I shouldn't blame Haskin for making every effort to hype it. The rivalry isn't there (they've only met once and neither made the exacta) and it isn't likely to be there given Chrome's plans to race in Dubai where 4-year-olds can win $10M instead of the $500k this weekend. Purse structures in the States don't promote a rivalry that might go on past the age of 3. We were lucky to have Zenyatta and are still lucky to have Wise Dan. Horses whose owners don't /didn't really give a shit about the incentives racing created for them, at least not as much as they do about their horses.  

Bodemeister and I'll Have Another (pictured above) flirted with a rivalry but both were injured before the last jewel of the Triple Crown had been set. And this is my segue into the 3YO race on the card this Saturday. The Robbie Lewis. This isn't much of a wagering affair, but the show must go on. Dortmund tries to stay undefeated and Firing Line looks for revenge after losing a bob to the former. 

$10 Trifecta
Dortmund-Firing Line-Rock Shandy
Dortmund-Firing Line-Tizcano

$30 Exacta
Firing Line-Dortmund

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sam Davis Recap

Just like the caller, I got the wrong horse. Well, not really. I sheepishly grabbed the chalk but had no eye for Divining Rod. Must be oil under that quirky track because the rod was tumesced and ready to steal the race. He was only a few steps away from getting it done. Ocean Knight was running wide to stay clear of the scrum and that nearly cost him the race to the longshot who grabbed the front and never let go. Stonestreet is happy to parade their smart Curlin boy. This was a workmanlike win, but he seemed pretty mature for a colt in his second race. It'll be fun to see what this 3YO an unfurl. He doesn't have the mighty shoulders of his dad, but certain drugs that help that are no longer legal. 

In other trail news, the Pharaoh has returned and the Calculator is off. Texas Red lost by a hair turning back to a one-turn race. Next week I'll head to California for the Robbie Lewis. I think Dortmund will be the star attraction. They make good beer in that town, but do good horses take its name? We shall see.   

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sam Davis

That Quirky Track


Is it the announcer's Porky Pig on amphetamine vocals, the general middle finger pointed at Gulfstream or is it that quirky track that I like about Tampa Bay Downs? All of the above?

There's a scene from the Coen Brothers movie Fargo where the detective interviews some young prostitutes about what a murder suspect (Steve Buschemi) looks like. They say He's, you know, kinda funny lookin. Yah, yah, kinda funny lookin' ya know. The detective redirects Well sure, but how so? You know just funny lookin'. Kinda funny lookin'.

And that is as far as I get when I try to find out what it is about Tampa Bay Downs that makes it "quirky". What type of horse has an advantage? Handicappers will tell you -- well a horse that's you know won there before. Yah, yah, one that likes it there. 

So, the horses that have proven to like it are Catalina Red and My Johnny Be Good. They'll make it onto my tickets, on the underside. I don't really trust either one all that much. Ocean's Knight from the McLaughlin barn brings in the hype with his geared down 4 length maiden victory on Aqueduct's inner. He draws very wide, but I think he'll play a role in this, though not sure I'm willing to accept too much at 5-2, but again, a 12 horse field. I won't be too clever. Ami's Flatter comes from the shrewd Josie Carroll's barn. I think the figure in the Mucho Macho Man is a little inflated, but this horse doesn't quit and with a nice ride should be in contention at the end. Royal Son right now is the horse whose ML I like a lot. He got a DQ win in last and before that took second to El Kabir one of the sharpest colts on the trail right now. Good luck everyone.


$5 Exactas
Royal Son   OVER
Ocean's Knight, Ami's Flatter, Catalina Red
Ami's Flatter OVER
Oceans Knight, Royal Son, My Johnny Be Good
Ocean's Knight OVER
Ami's Flatter, Royal Son, Catlina Red, My Johnny Be Good

Monday, January 26, 2015

Holy Bull Recap: Upstart Runs a Nice One

It was the templated Gulfstream race. Horse with the first look at the turn takes the wire. Fractions weren't all that fast, so the race had very little dimension. Frosted had an inside post but the rail is not exactly where you want to be off a layoff. He never threatened and maybe the most worrisome part of his performance was the aversion to kickback. People who look at the figures will say he moved up, but the figure is bogus.

For Upstart it was a nice effort off the layoff and he got a very smart ride. If no one had challenged BlueGrass Singer he would have stolen the race off those soft figures.

So my $50 got a fairly paltry return at $77, but at least I cashed right?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Fifty Dollar Trail Starts with The Holy Bull

The Holy Bull 

Holy Bull with Mike Smith

Last year trainer Kiaran McLaughlin shipped a hyped roan, son of Pioneerof the Nile, named Cairo Prince who took the wire and the focus of Louisville-oggling rosebirds. This year he brings a roan sired by Tapit named Frosted, who doesn't bring quite as much hype, but gets the rail and will have a lot of backing. Upstart is the other headliner. He's coming off a third in the BC Juvenile. Also, there's Bluegrass Singer who's hitting triple digit speed figures, has a recent race and is on his home oval.

Of course my hometown bias runs against the track bias with an outside post and is the high weight, but maybe it's Hawthorne's year. Work all Week, an aptly named Chicago-trained horse, won an Eclipse last week. I'm talking about Don the Bomb who was tested at Keeneland against nice horses and failed, and many thought he wouldn't be able to route after tiring badly in that Allowance race, but he handled two turns very well at Hawthorne and was pulling away on the nation's second longest stretch (HAW). But, he's faced only plodders; this is a huge class test. I will play him even with the high impost and outside post. He is cross-entered in the Hucheson so he may not make it to the gate. First Down and Frammento will also figure into my wagering. More minor roles,

The Holy Bull has 10 runners which is pretty good for a 3YO stake. This means I don't need to be so clever with the wagering and can tap that chalk more than I usually would.

Bluegrass Singer   OVER
First Down, Frommento, Don the Bomb (SCRATCH), High Noon, Frosted

$4 Exacta 
Upstart-Frosted BOX

$5 Exactas
Bluegrass Singer-Frosted-Upstart BOX

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All Eyes on California Chrome

I'm afraid to loop into the excitement. I'm just gonna try to play it wisely -- like nothing ever surprises me. (I think that's a Wu-Tang lyric). California Chrome has one obstacle left. He's already beaten every prospect in this field, according to the Morning Line (everyone under like 30-1). He's won his last 6 in a row with three G1s. There's only one other horse with even one G1 in this field. It's rare to see race resumes so disparate. But that's the trap right? That's how your heart gets crushed.   

If you want to look beyond Chrome I would recommend Medal Count, but demand at least 16-1! This horse has not won on dirt, but his pedigree is nice for the mile and a half test. He may follow in the footsteps of Palace Malice and use his place in the Blue Grass towards a victory in the Belmont. 

Don't use Wicked Strong. This is a horse that was impeded in the Derby, but would not have caught Chrome. And don't think that closers want more distance. The truth is they're just as sensitive to it. You won't get any value on him, and people are going to flock to him for the wrong reasons. 

Ride on Curlin is getting rave reviews, but he's an allowance winner turned into a herd animal. He's been hitting the minor money all year now and has shown no predilection to gut it out for the win. 

I'll post my tris and supers later in the week. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The 2013 Million

The Arlington Million
Thirteen will load for a very competitive and international iteration of the Arlington Million. Little Mike returns. I hated him last year and hate him again this year. Ramon Dominguez gave a clinic on thievery last year, lulling everyone to sleep behind Little Mike. Even Ditka who was at Arlington had the right choice with Little Mike. But there will be no lullabies this year thanks to Nate's Mineshaft who's gonna make this race honest.

I look more to class in turf races, but with a big and fairly evenly matched field, I'm gonna look deeper into the pace dynamics of this one. I think there'll be a lot of keen horses in this race, and that they could start fighting early; so I'm looking for a stayer. Grandeur has all the class and record to get this done, and he's had good luck in California so shipping shouldn't be a problem. He drew widest, but that could keep him out of trouble. There are no distance questions for this guy. He will hit the board, but I'm still gonna try to beat him. Mull of Killough is positioned nicely to get the first crack at blipping by a tiring front vanguard. He gets a jock that knows how to do it. Then there's Hunter's Light from Godolphin who gets lasix for the first time. All these Europeans should be tough as does South American Indy Point, but I'm looking domestic, to the rail. Real Solution held on well in the Manhattan last out to get third. It's hard to trust that speed figure, if you're using those for this race. It was likely inflated due to the prestige of the race and winner Point of Entry. I'm hoping he learned from PoE in that race who simply exuded class over the field to nab the wire while injured. Real Solution hasn't shown that sort of champion behavior, but the connections know how to inculcate it and I think the raw materials are there and could align. 

Real Solution
Mull of Killough/Hunters Light

Beverly D
Marketing Mix. Who knows, maybe someone can sneak a nose ahead like last year. Solid Appeal has a decent chance of doing that, but I guess there's the Euros Dank and Duntle; with names that make them sound like evil twins bent on thwarrting MM. I don't know much about either of the evil Ds, but imagine the stretch out in distance shouldn't be much of a problem. I'm gonna stick the chalk here because I think Marketing Mix has a very special ability.

Marketing Mix
Solid Appeal
Dank or Duntle

Pletcher gets the morning-line fave Jack Milton who comes out of a troubled trip in Virginia from which he took the place money. He makes a lot of sense here, but I also like the longshot Yeager who has no proven class but has been winning a lot lately. Grandeur's connections bring him along for a try in this, maybe an afterthought, who knows. I'm gonna give Tattenham from Juddmonte a shot in here as well. Desormeaux and Mott are still dangerous. I'm gonna play this horse to win as well.

Jack Milton

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Begins at Arlington
The city of two seasons: of visible breath and swollen feet has finally swung back to swollen feet. I think the races this weekend are going to be slow, and not because the heat. Because it looks like a plodderfest this Saturday with low level claimers topped with conditional state allowances. It can't always be stakes races at Arlington. And if you look at say the Grade I Mother Goose this weekend at Belmont, well I'll take a full field of plodders over 4 fast fillies. Let's get started.
Race 2 
You have to choose between speed, form and jockey. Enemy Fire is the speed and he's who I think will win. News Bulletin is in good form but he's also lost to Enemy Fire in the past and the cut back in distance does him no favors. Finally, Kent Desormeaux gets in the irons of Truebill, a closer who will have too much work to do even in good hands. With the heat the poly could be playing slowly. Use this race as a barometer.

Enemy Fire
News Bulletin

Race 3
A lot of old timers in this conditioned low-level claimer. Let's start with Pimm's O'clock, which is the British version of beer:30 (the lout's answer to what time is it). Pimm's is a ten year old that I'd love to see back in the winner's circle. I don't like the connections at all and have been frustrated with the way they've run. But at this level they could get it done. Next is Danny Miller's horse Sword and Shield who never seems to win but gets a big class break and cut back in distance but hasn't raced in many months. You won't find a win on his record over the past two years, but maybe just maybe. And if you like speed and a possible steal there's Mercadian who's been handling lesser animals as of late.

Pimm's O'clock
Sword and Shield

Race 4
Block sends a coupled entry into the race. Play the entry (1) on top, of course. Striking Hight is a nice horse, thrown to the wolves last out in a stakes race. Will he bounce back? Hard to say what it will do to his confidence. Shoot The Loop comes in off the layoff for Goldfine. He travels up in class after being on the bench, which isn't so great. I might try Lassell here.

Paired Entry (Laythatpistoldown and Fun on the Bayou)
Striking Hight
Race 5
Cheap Maidens! Blu Cobalto looks poised to win, and Kinzig comes from a red hot barn but what's with Shadwell Stable dangling a Medaglio Doro named Eben Zabeel before the claim box? Anything can happen here, but I don't like taking Shadwell's droppings.

Blu Cobalto
Eben Zabeel

Race 6
Phew! Why do we have 11 races today? This is one of the nicest ones actually. on the turf we have some top shelf first level colts. Catalano has a gaudy 41% win record and a young Empire Maker colt who started with Baffert on the coast. Coastal Empire started out slow but the light may have turned on for him. This is a typical pattern with this sire. You're not gonna get odds though on a horse that isn't class tested. Dale Bennet, also not shabby with the wins has a nice horse on the rail stretching out to break through, Next Speaker.  Most of the money could end up with Mike Maker's Wings of Fortune who tried the Lexington with poor results, but at least showing how the trainer feels about this animal. I'll be looking to get a price on Beyond Compare.

Next Speaker
Beyond Compare
Coastal Empire

Race 7
Chris Block has a lot of catching up to do to get his win percentage to where it should be. He can do it here with The Best Option. Running second in his form cycle; he should improve a bit off last and gets a little more room to hit the wire. Masquerade also looks sneaky good. The one that will take all the money is Left a Message who gets big class relief and a cut back. She should be able to push her class over these, and I'll watch the tote to see what I'm gonna do but I'm hesitant to take a very short price off the long layoff.

The Best Option
Left a Message

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Belmont

Seems like a very long time since Orb wore the garland. I guess that's a good thing. Spring should feel like it lasts forever. Just as the mint in the julep opens the season, the Belmont lets us know that summer is soon upon us.

I'm having a hard time settling on anything but the two expecteds in this one -- Orb and Revolutionary. Overanalyze is getting a lot of looks, but I can't help to think people are looking at this pattern of clunker, hit, clunker, hit and thinking he's due. I don't really trust that pattern. He did win one of the slowest Arkansas Derbies decisively and he gets Johnny V. I don't think his odds are going to be what they should, and that's something like 15-1. Freedom Child could take a lot of money. There's the tangle at the start that everyone now sees in dramatic photographic splendor. Do you want to go with a horse that popped in the slop on a speed-favoring day? I can hear the sound of mutuel slips blowing in the wind. I've never liked the cement-colored Oxbow and maybe I need to get over that, but I'm gonna need one more race opposing him. He will have contention on the front. Golden Soul was second in the Derby thanks to an astute ride by Albarado, but that may be all the gold this guy can pour this spring.

Pace has been the critical factor in handicapping the Triple Crown so far, and the pace has been opposite what the forms have suggested. So that leaves you little. It's very tough to win this type of race from far off the pace, but if there's a jock that understands Big Sandy it's Castellano. I think he'll make amends for moving too soon on Normandy, and maybe he needs to not be criticized for that ride. Most scenarios he wins that, but for some reason that's what I don't like about Casteallano and this might not be fair. But he never seems to have specific knowledge of the horse he's on. He knows the tricks that pan out and he's not afraid. He knows to bring his charge to the heat of the battle, but still. I feel the same way about Pletcher. That he understands it's a numbers game and he isn't going to get more specific in his understanding and tactics. But Pletcher seems to do well in the Belmont. And I think he's probably got a winner in Revolutionary.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Smattering of Stakes at Arlington

I love the Chicago rivalries that heat up on a Stakes days at Arlington. There's a mix of state and open stakes this Saturday starting with the Addison Cammack named in homage of a Chicago Railbird who was revered by about everyone that dealt with him at Arlington and Hawthorne. Some nice horses are shipping in including Turralure, Corporate Jungle, Great Attack and Drama Drama among others. And I love cheering for Hoo Why who continues her back from retirement rampage. Finally, the win percentage for trainer Chris Block is way too low for this very talented horseman; it will begin its correction northward this weekend.  

Addison Cammack 
Work All Week is not class-tested but he is the fastest in this race that kicks off the card with races spaced out for the Belmont Stakes simulcast. Midwest Thoroughbreds have staked out both the front end with WAW and the back with Sacred Gift. I don't see a grueling speed duel developing with the other speed Nagys Piggy Bank. I think NPB will sit off it because that's the way he wins his races. If he gets too close to the flame he burns out. With only 5 runners (the Midwesterners are not paired) there aren't many opportunities here; however, there is one horse that really likes polytrack that could be overlooked and his name is Four Left Feet. Moving out of the Janks barn isn't necessarily a good thing and he's been up the track in his last handful, but I think this guy wants to smell that burning rubber of the Arlington track. So I'm gonna put him under Work All Week.

Work All Week
Four Left Feet
Sweet Lica

Swoon's Son
An homage to the speedy Swoon's Son who set track records at sprint distances at Keeneland and Arlington. This race drew in some pretty big talent with Corporate Jungle who switches to Proctor and Turallure who was a hair shy of being the Turf Champ a couple years back. These two will take a lot of money as will local hero Workin for Hops. I'm gonna get a little sneaky and take Keep Up who was red hot ending a Kentucky campaign with a 30-1 victory in the River City Handicap. He's had trouble with a marred race and stumbling start after that but could be ready to make amends at a price. Corporate Jungle will be pounded by bettors and rightfully so, he's getting some much-needed class relief after running into Wise Dan on his ascent up the class ladder last year. Finally Turallure has been off form but has the class to make the frame.

Keep Up
Corporate Jungle 

Gaily Gaily
This is a tough one. I want to cheer for Hoo Why and this seems like a great spot for her, but Heavenly Landing has the class edge. I'll cheer for a dead heat. Closing Range also looks nice in this spot. Drama Drama is also desperate for some class relief. These are usually the races where I go with a horse on the upswing and let the classy ones drain everyone else's wallets, but I can't find a good candidate besides maybe Grandma's Rules, so I'm gonna stick with some boring, more intuitive picks here.

Heavenly Landing 
Hoo Why
Closing Range

Isaac Murphy
For backstory, it's hard to top Isaac Murphy. I simply can't do it justice like the amazing journalist Frank Borries who spent years searching for the Murphy's unmarked grave. Isaac Murphy was an African-American jockey who won the Kentucky Derby three times and had probably the best win percentage of any jockey.

And here's that Chicago rivalry I was looking for. Kip Berries has always been headstrong and has found a nice place in the turf dashes that Arlington loves to fill cards with. Here he's asked to go back to 6 furlongs on the main track, and I want him to get there. But it's probably not gonna happen. Algonquin Posse who comes with a name almost as good as Kip Berries will be tough to beat in this spot. Smiling Gambler could get up there too and Royal Posh makes a lot of sense here.

Algonquin Posse
Royal Posh
Smiling Gambler