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

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!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Where's the Value in the Preakness?

Two weeks ago I went with value instead of form and selected Mor Spirit over Nyquist.  This added to my Kentucky Derby drought as Smarty Jones still remains my last Kentucky Derby Winner!  Nyquist proved to all of his detractors that he could get the distance, which was one of the same arguments many people made against American Pharoah last year. 

We are all in luck this year.  My Preakness slump ended last year when I jumped on the American Pharoah band wagon and after looking at the field for this year and the replay of the Kentucky Derby for about the umpteenth time, I find no reason to go against Nyquist.

My pace analysis is posted at US Racing and I will also discuss the pace on my youtube channel so I am not going to rehash the entire pace here again. 

3 Nyquist (3-5) – I have no knocks on this horse.  In the Kentucky Derby he faced a faster than anticipated early pace and responded showing a ton of patience as Danzing Candy went out firing on all cylinders posting a half mile time of 45.3 seconds.  This horse has the most tactical speed in the field and will handle whatever fractions are thrown at him.  As with most Preakness fields, there are several well-meant allowance horses here so Nyquist has quite a class advantage here as well.

11 Stradivari (8-1) – Lightly raced Pletcher trainee and despite Pletcher’s inability to hit the board in the Preakness with his seven career starters, this newcomer looks to be a live runner.  The pace should help him here since he has shown the ability to sit back a little early and fire late.  Yet, he hasn’t been tested late in either of his wins so it will be interesting to see how he handles the latter stages of this race when Nyquist digs in. 

5 Exaggerator (5-1) – That late run in the Kentucky Derby was no fluke, however he hasn’t caught Nyquist in four tries.  Arguably the best late runner in this field, but again falls short here.

1 Cherry Wine (20-1) – This horse has shown a strong late run in both the Rebel and Blue Grass.  Since there is so much weak early speed here, I expect him to make another big move here despite falling well short of Nyquist.

Potential for Value:  Low
Confidence:  High

So what may I potential play in a race where the 3-5 favorite is likely to dominate?

Small Exacta 3 / 1, 5, 11
Small Trifecta 3 / 1, 5, 11 / 1, 5, 7, 10, 11
Small Superfecta 3 / 1, 5, 11 / 1, 5, 7, 10, 11 / 1, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

I don’t think the wet weather affects the field here that greatly.  Should there be a couple of scratches, I think quartet of early speed horses (Abiding Star, Awesome Speed, Laoban, and Uncle Lino) will all fail under pressure anyway – either from each other or from Nyquist and Stradivari.

Grab yourself a black-eyed susan and enjoy the race! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Warning: You Are Losing Money by Not Using My Kentucky Derby Picks

I often think of my evening runs up to the Meadowlands with my friend Walter and several of the track denizens we regularly encountered.  One particular gentlemen routinely voiced his frustration over wagers that he did not place that came in as winners.  I can remember the first time Walter and I heard him exclaim, "I just lost $12,000!"  We both nearly had our beers shoot out through our noses as we stared in disbelief at each other.  How could a man lost $12,000 on a single race?  The truth was not that interesting.  Fernando simply did not win $12,000.  He never wagered a dime on the race and was merely disgusted with the outcome being favorable given his selections.   Using Fernando's logic, I lost $7,691 on the 2014 Kentucky Derby by not playing the superfecta despite touting the top four horses in that race (see my old blog post Conflicted in Kentucky).

My recent affiliation with US Racing has given me limited time to blog here, but it is the Kentucky Derby and I know many of you are eager to know what I am thinking this year, especially Mike (a.k.a. "Ace"), who was the only one to cash in on my ill fated 2014 Kentucky Derby picks.  In my weekly US Racing article, Why Your Mom Was Right about the Kentucky Derby Pace, I offer up the most probable pace scenario and will not rehash that here (click the link and get me some much needed page views!).  So I will curt right through the chase and with my contenders.

17 Mor Spirit (12-1) - This one grew on me over the past few weeks.  The pace will set up for him here with some weak early speed and a nice pressing/stalking trip.  His past performances are a bit deceiving - he had trouble in his last two races.  Last out in the Santa Anita Derby he faced some torrid fractions set by the One Dimensional Frontrunner Danzing Candy and he did not like the sloppy track.  The likely pace of the Derby should not have a half mile in under 46 seconds.  Two back in the San Felipe he ran into some trouble early which allowed Danzing Candy to get loose on the lead without any pressure causing him to falter.  I am looking for an improvement off of the race he ran three back in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.  I expect him to sit a few lengths off the lead and make a big late move here.  Bob Baffert is the best recent Kentucky Derby trainer with four wins.  Gary Stevens knows how to win big races.  He has won the Derby three times including a win for Baffert in '97 with Silver Charm and a third place finish in '98 on Orientate.

13 Nyquist (3-1) - I gave Mor Spirit a slight edge here, but Nyquist will run a huge race as well given the probable pace.  I have no knock against him given the solid connections of O'Neill and Gutierrez.  I don't think that Nyquist will move forward as much as Mor Spirit will in the Derby.

4 Mo Tom (20-1) - This is my upset horse.  Knowing that closers will have a tough time with traffic issues in this race, I expect him to run into some trouble as he did in his last three starts.

3 Creator (10-1) - He suffers the same fate as Mo Tom - trying to close through a ton of traffic against two strong late runners.  Assmussen has a strong Tapit colt here who's breeding suggests that he can run all day and he showed a huge late effort to win the Blue Grass.

2 Suddenbreakingnews (20-1) - He is another strong closer that falls victim to the strong pace of Mor Spirit and Nyquist.  He could find his way into the bottom half of your exotics.

Potential for Value:  High
Confidence:  Low

So what am I toying with playing?

Small Exacta 13,17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17
Small Trifecta 13, 17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17
Small Superfecta 13, 17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17 / 2, 3, 4, 13, 17
WPS 17

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!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Here We Go Again...

"Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it's been." - Grateful Dead (Truckin')

2016 has been a busy year so far, not that 2015 was any kind of walk in the park either!  I recently cracked the big 4-0, work has been busy (a good thing), and as the kids are getting older so we have more activities with them that have been great bonding experiences (soccer, scouts, more scouts, more soccer, football, and did I mention scouts, etc.)  So to add to my normal insanity, I took an offer to once again have a more regular online racing presence again.  If anyone here follows my Facebook or Twitter feeds, by now you have noticed that I have been picked up by US Racing to provide weekly articles on different handicapping subjects that will appear on their site every Wednesday.

Realizing that I had not blogged since my botched bid to go against history last year and play against American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes (we all know well that turned out for me - damn you Frosted!), I started to think about how I have been blogging on and (mostly) off over the last five years and how I have been involved in horse racing online over the last 16 years or so.

I started do weekly picks to be included in a newsletter for a site call C-Star Sports back in early 2000.  It was to be a "race of the week" feature to be included in the site owner's weekly freebie report.  That was a short-lived tenure since the owner never really wanted to focus on racing, but led me down the path to another seemingly more exciting website by late 2000.

Trotworld was focused solely on harness racing and since I could put speed figures on two squirrels running up a tree in the backyard, I started covering Cal Expo full time (mostly because I could get free PPs) and pinch-hit as needed covering the Meadowlands.  Trotworld fell apart after some internal politics played out with the founders, so another astute harness handicapper from that site (Scott Quinn) and I started formulating our own website ideas.

Equineinvestor was born in late 2001 and had a fairly successful run for about 5 years.  At one point, there were ten regularly contributing handicappers covering both thoroughbred and harness racing.  During this stretch, we had brokered deals for advertising with off-shore sportsbooks and I was even able to get my first article printed in a racing magazine that one of them published.  I was providing daily analysis for Monmouth, the Fair Grounds, and Philadelphia Park while helping out part time with the Meadowlands.  That pace was too much to handle and with growing demands of increased traveling for my day job and starting a family, we finally shut the site down in 2006. (It is now being run by one of the former handicappers of the site, Don Tiger, who is an excellent handicapper of both thoroughbred and harness racing - be sure to check in for his analysis of the Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup).

In 2011, I had envisioned my blog being a great avenue to talk about racing topics, which was what had been lacking in my previous three online handicapping stints, but found that it has lent itself more to my experiences at NHC events and qualifiers as well as some occasional race analysis for major stakes.  My new role at US Racing is exciting since it gives me a platform to talk about the data I have collected for over a decade, methodology, angles, and approaches to handicapping (and forces me to hit a deadline so I will actually do it regularly!)

While there will be no appearances for me at the Monmouth SSC Qualifiers again this year (the finals are when I will be camping with the Cub Scouts), I will take my blind shots in the NHC freebies against 3,000 or so of my fiercest competitors and hopefully try to enter a NHC event at Monmouth this summer!

Go over and check out my articles, as well as the other great handicapping content that is posted daily on both sports and racing at US Racing.  I am looking forward to sharing some of what I have learned over the years and still being (a little more) active with this blog.  After all, the Kentucky Derby is less than two months away and I am still looking for my first Derby winner since Smarty Jones!