Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lucky #13 - 2018 Belmont Stakes Analysis


It’s been an up and down year for my Triple Crown selections. I was a bust in the Derby with Audible and there was no denying Justify in the Preakness. While Justify was short odds, I did manage to make some money on him though.

Last year, made a killing on the Belmont Stakes with Tapwrit. I am looking to continue that trend in a race that looks to offer plenty of value.

As I remind myself (and you) every year, the Belmont Stakes is one of the toughest races to handicap. Horses are being asked to go two or more furlongs farther than they have ever gone before. For some entrants, they are trying a fast track around two turns for the first time. These three year olds are developing and maturing each day and many are more likely to improve than regress here. While pedigree seems to be playing less and less into the winners of the longer races for these young horses, you can’t simply ignore it. One of these horses will win.

Rather than get into great detail on the pace of this race, you can see my pace analysis video exclusively at US Racing which will be posted on my author page on Friday.

So let’s get down to business and see if the number 13 is a lucky number for Justify as he looks to become the 13th horse to win the coveted Triple Crown.











Above you can see my figures and assessment for the field.

4 Hofburg (9-2) – He is sired by Tapit who has had his progeny win three of the last four Belmont Stakes (Tonalist 2014, Creator 2016, and Tapwrit 2017). He is bred for the distance and had an abysmal trip in the Kentucky Derby (brushed at the start and steadied twice). He faced a hot pace in the Florida Derby (half mile in 46.1s, ¾ mile in 1:11.3s) and will relish the seemingly pedestrian projected half mile of 47.3s and ¾ mile of 1:12.3s. I expect a big improvement in this colt here.

8 Vino Rosso (8-1) – This son of Curlin never really had a shot in the Derby but looks to improve with the faster than average projected pace here. He is the stronger Pletcher entry of the two, so expect Noble Indy to be his “rabbit” and help push the pace to his liking.

7 Tenfold (12-1) – He really impressed me in the Preakness despite a troubled trip. He had a lackluster prep in the Arkansas Derby, but seems to be rounding into form and can be expected to move forward here.  He is the second Curlin colt in this race (Vino Rosso) and does have Tapit as his dam-sire. I expect a strong race – it was a tough decision between him and Vino Rosso for my second and third selections.

3 Bravazo (8-1) – Off of a gutsy performance almost catching Justify in the Preakness and finishing respectably in the Derby after a troubled trip while being forced W-I-D-E makes me think he could out run his pedigree. The ability to stalk and press the pace gives him some versatility and he should find the pace to be fairly comfortable.

1 Justify (4-5) – The horse to beat. Undefeated. Trying to be Lucky #13. He has had a great run. First horse since Apollo in 1882 to with the Kentucky Derby without starting as a two-year old. Bob Baffert produces contenders. Mike Smith rides winners. I think his form is starting to move off of peak and his pedigree isn’t suggesting he has the stamina to make it 12 furlongs. I wanted to like him in this spot, but think he is vulnerable. I think he has a solid shot of hitting your exotics, but just not making history.

Potential for Value:  High (vulnerable favorite)
Confidence:  Moderate (My most probable pace scenario is only at 30% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Win/Place/Show – 4
Small Exacta – 4,7,8 with 1,3,4,7,8
Small Trifecta – 4,7,8 with 3,4,7,8 with 1,3,4,6,7,8
Small Superfecta – 4,7,8 with 3,4,7,8 with 1,3,4,6,7,8 with 1,3,4,6,7,8,10

We'll see what the weather looks like and if there are any scratches or changes first.

So sit back and enjoy the race!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Get Your Preak On! - 2018 Preakness Analysis

So much for the Curse of Apollo!

Justify broke one of the longest droughts in sports by winning the Kentucky Derby after not running as a two year old. This was last done in 1882 by Apollo.

Streaks are meant to be broken.

My picks tanked on Derby Day. I admit that I really gave Justify no chance. Looking at his Brisnet speed ratings he did underperform (running a 102 after running a 114 in the Santa Anita Derby). This lends itself to the "law of averages" which I believe in more than the "bounce theory".

Two weeks later it is time for redemption. The Preakness is the second leg of the road to the Triple Crown and has some of its own interesting facts.

My pace analysis will be posted at US Racing, but as usual, my more detailed analysis is going to be posted here.

The smaller field favors the horse with the largest pace advantage on this field. So here is my 2018 Preakness analysis.

7 Justify (1-2) - The race sets up perfectly for him in this spot. He has a 4/5 of a second advantage on pace and while not likely to set the pace, he figures to stay close most of the way and outlast the weak front runners. Jockey Mike Smith may only have one win in 16 tries here with his lone winners coming back in 1993 on Prairie Bayou, but he has a horse that should improve off his Derby effort. Bob Baffert has won a third of the 18 times he has sent a horse to post in the Preakness, winning last in 2015 with American Pharoah.

2 Lone Sailor (15-1) - The weak early speed that is anticipated will also allow a strong closer to make strides late. The pace will be a bit slower than the Derby and will allow a late run for him to get a minor share here.

5 Good Magic (3-1) - I'll admit that I also underestimated this colt in the Derby. Honestly, I haven't given any horse that prepped in the Blue Grass any credit in years! Chad Brown won this race last year with a huge effort from Cloud Computing, yet I still feel that this one will be chasing Justify late and quite possibly on the downswing after his Derby effort.

1 Quip (12-1) - I like this colt. I wanted him to run in the Derby, but felt that the pace would be too fast for him there. It will be too fast for him here also even though he can press the pace. I think there will be great things for this colt in the future, but a modest showing here will land him in the top half of the field.

What do think I will play?

With Justify at 1-2, there is no real value to play him to win unless he floats up to 1-1. I suspect he will go off close to the morning line odds unless some major negative development unfolds in the next few days...

Exacta - 7 / 1, 2, 5

Small Trifecta -  7 / 1, 2, 5 / 1, 2, 5

Small Superfecta - 7 / 1, 2, 5 / 1, 2, 5 / 1, 2, 5, 8 (on the fence about including 6 Tenfold on the bottom here as well)

Remember to check for scratches and changes and make your changes accordingly!

Good luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Here We Go Again! – 2018 Kentucky Derby Analysis


The pressure is off now! Last year I broke out of my Kentucky Derby slump with Always Dreaming. While I basically broke even on my final wagers that day, it was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I can now say the last two Kentucky Derby winners I selected were Always Dreaming and Smarty Jones!

I didn’t fare too well with the Preakness, but rebounded to score some serious “folding money” with Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes.

This year finds me in a similar situation as last year. Overworked and traveling the state once again for the twin’s insane travel soccer schedule. I have been sneaking race replay videos on my lunch hour and on my phone while waiting for soccer games to start.

My explanation of the probable pace will be posted on USRacing. Rather than regurgitate the probable pace scenarios here, please click and watch the graphics as I explain how the race will set up.

So let’s get down to business.

5 Audible (8-1) – He ran a huge race in the Florida Derby which has produced five Derby winners since 2000 (2006 Barbaro, 2008 Big Brown, 2013 Orb, 2016 Nyquist, and 2017 Always Dreaming).
The last horse to win both the Florida Derby and Holy Bull was the great Barbaro in 2006.  He has the top Pace Based Speed Rating (PBSR) that I have computed in this field with a figure of 103. While some may be deterred by Todd Pletcher’s 2-for-48 record in the Derby and Javier Castellano’s 0-for-13 mark, these two hook up for a lot of big wins (recently 22%). Todd Pletcher will enter any horse that makes it into this field so the 46 losses skews his performance. Like the last few Kentucky Derbies, the expected weak early speed will set up nicely for Audible’s style. He overcame being wide early in the Florida Derby and ran some impressive late fractions. He did drift a little down the stretch, but you can put a knock against any horse in this field. After all, he did run one of the best final furlongs of all the entrants. Starting from post 5 next to two of the likely pacesetters (3 Promises Fulfilled and 4 Flameaway) will allow him to get a good trip early.

14 Mendelssohn (5-1) – The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf champion and UAE Derby winner. He is a bit of an enigma. Traditionally UAE Derby horses have run poorly in the Kentucky Derby, and it is hard to try to compare pace fractions from overseas races. I am not sold that he beat a great field in the UAE Derby, but did win commandingly in his lone dirt start.  Beyond his UAE win and the Turf win at Del Mar last fall as a juvenile, he hasn’t faced any real tough competition and hasn’t been that dominant. He will figure near the pace early if he can get away cleanly, but doubt remains on this one.

10 My Boy Jack (30-1) – Closers have a heck of a task navigating their way to the front with a full field of 20. Orb (2013), Mine That Bird (2009), Street Sense (2007), and Giacomo (2005) are the only horses in the last 18 years to overcome a 10 length or greater deficit at the second call to win. I think My Boy Jack can be a late factor like Lookin at Lee in 2017 and Commanding Curve in 2014 were. The Desormeaux brothers will have a live runner here.

9 Hofburg (20-1) – This lightly raced colt chased Audible home in the Florida Derby. I see plenty of chance for improvement here, but will likely find himself needing to overcome a huge deficit late. He does have some late kick, but not enough for the top spot.

Potential for Value:  High
Confidence:  Low (My most probable pace scenario is only a 50% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing? 

Small Exacta 5 / 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 17
Small Trifecta 5 / 9, 10, 14 / 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17
Small Superfecta  Box  5, 9, 10, 14 or some mix of combinations including 8, 11, 14, 16, and 17 for the lower spots
WPS 5

We'll see what the weather looks like and if there are any scratches or changes first before I finalize my bets noted above.

So sit back, enjoy a mint julep, and enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Friday, June 9, 2017

He's Going the Distance - 2017 Belmont Stakes Analysis

To quote some of the lyrics from “Going the Distance” by Cake:

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's racing and pacing and plotting the course
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He's going the distance
He's going for speed
He's going the distance

The Belmont Stakes is one of the toughest races to handicap. Horses are being asked to go two or more furlongs farther than they have ever gone before. For some entrants, they are trying a fast track around two turns for the first time. These three year olds are developing and maturing each day and many are more likely to improve than regress here. While pedigree seems to be playing less and less into the winners of the longer races for these young horses, you can’t simply ignore it. One of these horses will win. One of the will have to “go the distance”

Rather than get into great detail on the pace of this race, you can see my pace analysis video exclusively at US Racing. (This is my author link, all of my work for US Racing is compiled here and the video will be posted shortly).

So let’s get down to business.


Above you can see my figures and assessment for the field.

2 Tapwrit (6-1) – This son of Tapit has the breeding to run all day long. He was one of the many who had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby yet still managed to grind his way from fifteenth to sixth. I’ll give him a pass on being unprepared at the start of the Bluegrass two races back and expect him to give chase to a contested early pace and make a big late run.

7 Irish War Cry (7-2) – Like so many others, we’ll give him a pass on his Kentucky Derby performance. I am expecting an effort similar to his big win in the Wood Memorial, but question his ability to command the last three furlongs here.

11 Epicharis (4-1) – While I am writing this, I am hearing that he was treated for lameness in Thursday morning but expects to run. He has shown a versatile running style, both on the front end and from off the pace. He ran a huge race only to lose in a photo to Thunder Snow in Dubai after a strong effort coming off the pace in Tokyo in the Hyacinth Stakes two back. I simply question his soundness and if he can get the distance here.

10 Multiplier (15-1) – Again owns the top Pace Based Speed Rating (PBSR) in this group as he did in the Preakness. The slower fractions here should help his chances, but I am not seeing the most likely winner here being a closer. I suspect that he will be short, but factor in your exotics.

 6 Lookin At Lee (5-1) – I underestimated him going into the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Yet despite a clean trip, he wasn’t going to catch Always Dreaming in the Derby. Once again, he has a big late move, but I still don’t think it is enough for him to win. I only added him  here since I am not sure that Epicharis will run.

Potential for Value:  Moderate (you’ll have to do that on the bottoms of your tickets)
Confidence:  Low (My most probable pace scenario is only at 30% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Win/Place/Show – 2
Small Exacta – 2, 7 with 2, 6, 7, 10, 11
Small Trifecta – 2, 7 with 2, 6, 7, 10, 11 with 2, 6, 7, 10, 11
Small Superfecta  Box  2, 6, 7, 10, 11

We'll see what the weather looks like and if there are any scratches or changes first.


So sit back and enjoy the race!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Curse is Lifted! 2017 Preakness Analysis!

There have been some pretty epic sports curses. Whether it was the Cubs or the Boston Red Sox, it seems that these curses are eventually lifted. Both Boston and Chicago have gone on to finally win a World Series. As luck would have it, my mini-Kentucky Derby curse has also been lifted thanks to Always Dreaming and a pace that set up pretty darn close to as predicted (click here to see my Derby pace video).

Last week, I played "Mythbusters" with the Preakness. Click here to check that article out!

Rather than get into great detail on the pace of this race, you can see my pace analysis video exclusively at US Racing which will be up soon! (This is my author link, all of my work for US Racing is compiled here).










So let’s get down to business. Above are my Pace Based Speed Ratings (PBSR) for this field as well as my take on the pace of each horse.

4 Always Dreaming (4-5) – Went off as the favorite and won the Kentucky Derby with a clean trip. The pace set up perfectly for him as State of Honor ran right out to the front. I expect Conquest Mo Money to do the same thing here to set a favorable pace. This colt has shown he can run on the front, come from off the pace, and handle the fractions that he has seen. Always Dreaming is in top form and will be tough to beat here.

5 Classic Empire (3-1) – He was roughed up a bit early in the Kentucky Derby, but I am not sure that a clean trip would have gotten him the win. Once again the pace is favorable, so figure he been a factor late.

1 Multiplier (30-1) – Owns the top Pace Based Speed Rating in this group, but will not have the likely early pace in his favor. I expect a slight bounce downwards here from him, but he should be good enough to add value to your exotics.

 9 Lookin At Lee (10-1) – I underestimated him going into the Kentucky Derby. Yet despite a clean trip, he wasn’t going to catch Always Dreaming two weeks ago. He has a big late move, but I still don’t think it is enough for him to win. He is more likely to add some value to the bottom of a chalky ticket.

Potential for Value:  Moderate (you’ll have to do that on the bottoms of your tickets)
Confidence:  Low (My most probable pace scenario is only at 50% likelihood)


So what am I toying with playing?

Small Exacta – 4 with 1, 5, 6, 9
Small Trifecta – 4 with 1, 5, 6, 9 with 1, 5, 6, 9
Small Superfecta  Box  1, 4, 5, 9

We'll see what the weather looks like and if there are any scratches or changes first.


So sit back, enjoy a Black-Eyed Susan, and enjoy the race!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Blinkers On - 2017 Kentucky Derby Analysis

It has been an interesting year since I last posted my ill-fated Derby selections for 2016. Once I again, I kept my streak intact, having not picked the Kentucky Derby winner since Smarty Jones in 2004. I zigged when I should have zagged, I loved Nyquist and the way the race set up for him, but couldn’t help but think that Mor Spirit would rebound. I was wrong again. This year I am bucking that trend.

Smarty Jones was one heck of a horse. In 2003 I was providing daily racing selections for Parx during the Monmouth/Meadowlands off season. During those pre-children years, I often found my way to the track regularly. A two year old first time starter caught my eye. I watched him in the paddock before that debut and confirmed he was my choice that day. He was also my choice every day after that.

2004 was the last time I followed the Derby trail. That fall, my wife and I were expecting our first child who will appreciate that I didn’t try to sneak “Smarty” or “Jones” in as his middle name. We were also packing up and selling our house. No rest for the weary!

I’ll admit that work and life have been especially busy the last few months. A promotion at work coupled with driving the twins all over the great state of New Jersey for travel soccer has forced me to follow the Derby trail even less than I had in previous years. This is a good thing.

I enter this Kentucky Derby with my “Blinkers On”. I am not listening to the hype, watching endless videos of a contender gallop only to have everyone comment on what is positive or negative about the run. I downloaded and printed the contenders out a few days ago. This is the first time I am even looking back at the major preps and who did what.

My explanation of the probable pace scenario is featured at US Racing. Rather than regurgitate the probable pace scenarios here, please click and watch the graphics as I explain how the race will set up.

So let’s get down to business.

5 Always Dreaming (5-1) – He ran a huge race in the Florida Derby which has produced four Derby winners since 2000 (2006 Barbaro, 2008 Big Brown, 2013 Orb, and 2016 Nyquist). He has the top Pace Based Speed Rating (PBSR) that I have computed in this field with a figure of 99. While some may be deterred by Todd Pletchers 1-for-45 record in the Derby and John Velazquez’s 1-for-18 mark, these are two top horsemen that have both won this race (Pletcher with Super Saver in 2010 and Velazquez with Animal Kingdom in 2011). Always Dreaming was test in the Florida Derby and had to come from off the pace after two comfortable romps to break his maiden and take an allowance optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. The last horse to have a two-back prep that was an allowance optional claiming race that went on to win the Derby was Animal Kingdom.

14 Classic Empire (4-1) – The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile champion had a rough go of it in the Holy Bull being wide early and overcame some trouble and a quick pace to capture the Arkansas Derby. The last horse that had a two-back prep race in the Holy Bull that won the Derby was the great Barbaro in 2006. Neither Mark Casse or Julian Leparoux has had any success at this level, but they have a great shot here with this colt. He will need to stay a couple lengths off of the early pace but in front of the pack of runners that will sit looking for a late run.

19 Practical Joke (20-1) – He showed some good late run against a soft pace in the Blue Grass. It is tough to decipher how strong his late run can be since four of his six running lines show trouble. Steadied in the first turn of the Fountain of Youth two back, he made a wide move late, but couldn’t catch Gunnevera. A clean trip gets Joel Rosario his second Derby win (Orb 2013) and Trainer Chad Brown his first Derby win.

17 Irish War Cry (6-1) – He won both the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial, but threw in a clunker in the Fountain of Youth. I am assuming the real Irish War Cry shows up for this race and like Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, sitting a few lengths off the lead but ahead of the herd. Trainer Graham Motion did win the Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom but no horse has exited the Wood Memorial and won the Derby since Funny Cide in 2003. While a contender, it is interesting to note that since 2000, every Kentucky Derby winner has finished in the money in their two-back prep race (Irish War Cry finished seventh).

Potential for Value:  High
Confidence:  Low (My most probable pace scenario is only a 50% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Small Exacta 5, 14 / 5, 14, 17, 19
Small Trifecta 5, 14 / 5, 14, 17, 19 / 5, 7, 9, 14, 17, 19
Small Superfecta  Box  5, 14, 17, 19
WPS 5

We'll see what the weather looks like and if there are any scratches or changes first.


So sit back, enjoy a mint julep, and enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bombs Away at Big Sandy

It has been three weeks since Exaggerator upset Nyquist down in Baltimore.  Nyquist is out after having come down with a fever just after the Preakness.  Did this affect his performance on that rainy day in Baltimore or was it the decision to chase the early pace that did him in?  Maybe a little bit of both.  Regardless of my inability to put the winning horse on top, I know some of my friends who actually read this blog did manage to make a few bucks on the Preakness as Cherry Wine got up to add some value.  Let’s all make a few bucks on the Belmont Stakes this year too!

Fast forward to today and we have a weather forecast that appears less threatening as we head into the weekend.  It looks like mid to upper 70’s with a chance of rain and storms in the afternoon and evening which should not affect the running surface at Big Sandy.  There are plenty of new faces to square off against the lone two entrants to make all three legs of the Triple Crown – Exaggerator and Lani.

Saturday June 11, 2016
Belmont – Race 11
1-1/2 miles - Dirt – Belmont Stakes G1

10 Lani (20-1) – This colt intrigues me.  He is out of Tapit who sired Tonalist who won the 2014 edition of this race defeating California Chrome.  His two US starts have been busts, but there is something I like about this one.  His Preakness effort made me think of my own son Charlie and how he plays soccer on Saturday mornings.  He hangs back on defense for most of the game, playing a sound fundamental game, but somewhere in the last ten minutes things change.  Out of nowhere, he gets the ball, fakes a pass, and starts dribbling up the field passing opponents until he finds himself in position to take a shot.  Lani sat back at the Preakness and much like I predicted in my pace analysis was not much of a factor through the second call.  Then something happened.  Just like Charlie deciding to take the ball up, Lani started making a nice move closing to within five lengths at the wire with what seemed like some gas in the tank.  Rumor is that the Belmont surface is just like what he liked racing over in Japan.  I think he comes to run today.

13 Creator (10-1) – This is the other Tapit colt in this race who also possesses a big late move.  I remember watching his Arkansas Derby effort and thinking that if he could just catch another weak early pace he would have a shot.  This is his chance here.  I like the switch to the local rider in Irad Ortiz who is one of the better jocks on the NY circuit.  It could be close between him and Lani late in this race.  Assmussen’s other entry here, 6 Gettysburg (30-1) looks to play the part of the rabbit here to set the pace up for a closer – just like in the Arkansas Derby.

11 Exaggerator (9-5) – He is a deserving favorite and I expect to see the same tactics he employed in the Preakness here again.  This son of Curlin is bread for distance, but I think he hits the wall in the stretch. 

4 Suddenbreakingnews (10-1) – This son of Mineshaft leaves me scratching my head.  Thought to be a gelding, but later determined to be a ridgling.  Does this make a big difference?  It sure does to him I suppose, but with increased testosterone levels of late and being a bit of a late developer I think we have not seen his best work yet.  His pedigree suggests he can likely go the distance. 

Spoilers in the bottom of your exotics:
2 Destin (6-1) – Should show some great improvement off of a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby and the Tampa Bay Derby, but his pedigree is a little suspect for 12 furlongs today.

3 Cherry Wine (8-1) – He looks a little short on distance and when the others make a big late move he’ll be trying his best, but will fall short.

5 Stradivari (5-1) – Doesn’t look likely to get the distance but should be close to the front of the field early and may have enough in the tank to fend off a few of the late runners.

Most Likely Pace Scenario:  Weak Early Speed – Closers
6 Gettysburg (30-1) is Assmussen’s rabbit in this race.  This one dimensional front runner will get on the lead early, just like he did in the Arkansas Derby.  I expect 2 Destin (6-1) and 5 Stradivari (5-1) to stay with him early and apply some pressure.  1 Governor Malibu (12-1) and 11 Exaggerator will be a few lengths off of the leaders early.  7 Seeking the Soul (30-1) will be a bit of a wild card here, never having tried two turns and is most likely to be set with this group early.  The balance of the field will be towards the rear early. 

As Gettysburg falters between six furlongs and mile, the closers start to make their move on the early pressers.  While I think Exaggerator will be game to the stretch, I think he finds his limit in distance and Lani and Creator get past him at the wire.

In other pace scenarios, there is a relaxed early pace, although still set by the same horse.  This would benefit Exaggerator and Destin more than the pack of closers. 

If time permits, I will try to get some graphics up on my youtube channel. 

How would I play this race?

Potential for Value:  High
Confidence:  Low

I would consider playing my top four in boxes – exactas, trifectas, and superfectas.  I may play around with the trifecta or superfecta putting the top three choices on top and adding in Destin and Cherry Wine underneath. 

So grab a Belmont Breeze (bourbon, sherry, orange, cranberry, and mint) and enjoy the race!