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!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dreams of the Future: Belmont Stakes Preview

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." - Thomas Jefferson

Fresh off of my first winner in a Triple Crown race since I had Smarty Jones in the Preakness before any of my kids were born (or lived in my current house, or my company moved down to the Jersey Shore, or was promoted to my current position, or... well, you get the point), I have had a lot of time to think about, and over-analyze, this year's Belmont Stakes.

I have read everything from how American Pharoah is essentially the second coming of Christ to how he will labor to finish last from respected pundits and random online posters in various groups on social media.   Trends are tossed around (we all saw how the dreaded rail post fared for American Pharoah in the Preakness, right?), but I tend not to give most of those any merit.  Some people claim that we need a Triple Crown winner to save the sport and garner more interest, which while it would be nice to see one, I disagree and could fill another blog post or two about that topic - especially knowing that win or lose, the chance of seeing American Pharoah race beyond 3 years old is almost zero since his future breeding plans have already been locked up.  I would rather see a horse win and race for another few years.  I think a champion that continues to keep proving himself would make him (or her) a 'superstar' of the sport, but in the new world of boxers going nine to twelve months between bouts, pitchers having pitch counts, and horses being retired for breeding at three years old - how likely are we to ever see that?  I can dream, can't I?

Undeterred and ready to move forward with my new found momentum, I am ready to pick what will be my first Belmont Stakes winner, ever.

What makes this race so tough to handicap?  Essentially we are taking developing three year old horses and speculating on what will they be able to do at a distance they have never run before or have really been bred for, based on both pedigree and shorter races, and in some cases, over a track they have never touched in race conditions or for even a workout.  Six of the eight starters ran in the Derby and two of the eight went to post in the Preakness.  Only two starters have run races over this course (one at 2 years old, one less than a month ago) and one did not race in either of the other two legs of the Triple Crown.  Some horses have had three weeks to prepare, others four or five weeks.  Belmont is a quirky oval with a L-O-N-G stretch.

Over the last 37 years thirteen horses that had a shot at the Triple Crown have failed, granted one of them scratched and never made it to the starting gate.  All were bet heavily by folks betting with their heart and not their wallet.  I expect to see history repeat itself again here on Saturday with a lot of money dumped on American Pharoah who is already listed as the 3/5 morning line favorite.

With only eight starters, here is my graded analysis of the field:

#6 Frosted (5-1) - My choice in the Derby bounces back after ta long rest and won't need to make a five wide move in this race with the shorted field.  I expect Rosario to keep him somewhat closer to the pace here and this son of Tapit (who sired last year's spoiler, Tonalist, coupled with a G2 winning dam in Fast Cookie) has the pedigree to be a marathoner.  I expect him to bounce upwards off of the Derby with a long, solid stretch drive.

#2 Tale of Verve (15-1) - Would have been the lone horse in the Derby with the Rasmussen Factor should he have drawn in, which may have made things a little more interesting.  He made a wide move in the Preakness and despite some trouble did finish strong on a track that was not favoring closers.  I like the move forward he made after only just breaking his maiden prior to the Preakness.  My Preakness spoiler is also looking to spoil here at a nice price.

#5 American Pharoah (3-5) - Good horse, not a great horse, but probably one of the best of yet another weak three year old crop.  I don't like that he has not even worked over this surface and Espinoza has been uncharacteristically unsuccessful over this course - not that these are keys to failure, but they certainly don't help.  I expect him to feel more pressure than he did three weeks ago and he will not have his rabbit (Dortmund) here to set and allow him to control the late pace.  Most likely scenario will have him on the lead early and we'll see if he can hold off the pressure while once again "running beyond his pedigree".

#1 Mubtaahij (10-1) - He has had time to acclimate to the US and gets a solid local rider with Irad Ortiz, Jr.  I like the work pattern he has displayed (and still think he will excel if given the chance to go two turns on the grass).  I expect a big improvement here since he can get the distance and will be part of the late pace for a minor share.

#3 Madefromlucky (12-1) - Took the Peter Pan with Castellano in the irons over this course last out after a weak showing prior in the Arkansas Derby that featured a hot pace (45.4 / 1:10.2) that was pressured by American Pharoah.  The effort in the Peter Pan was also an aggressive pace (46.2 / 1:10.1) and he rebounded nicely to made a wide move late and rally.  It is hard to ignore that this one is a bit of a late bloomer and will be a contender late in this race.

#7 Keen Ice (20-1) - He has struggled since breaking his maiden with a fair share of wide moves resulting in mild rallies.  He leaves too much ground to cover too late to be effective here other than for a minor share.

#8 Materiality (6-1) - He showed a lot of promise heading into the Derby only to have a bad start but did make up some ground late.  Pletcher puts Velazquez back in the irons here, leaving Castellano with #3.  The pace will likely be too hot for him here though with American Pharoah out early so he will be chasing at a faster pace than he can handle.  Pedigree suggests that he could get he distance, but would be better suited to a turf marathon.  I see him being used early and flat late - maybe a shot at the superfecta at best.

#4 Frammento (30-1) - Didn't look impressive last fall in N1X conditions and has shown very little this year.  Not much to like here other than he'll have a good view of the other seven entrants.

So how am I planning on playing this one?  I think the bottom of exotics are in flux so this will require you to go deep on trifectas and superfectas.  The prospect of American Pharoah at least hitting the board with the second favorite (Frosted) in the mix tends to take some of the nice prices off the table.

WP on #6 Frosted
Small Exacta - 2,6 / 1,2,3,5,6 (8 combinations - hoping to keep AP out of the exacta, but if he gets second, we should at least cover the bet with Frosted on top)

Should you dare to go with a trifecta - the only two horses I would be keeping off of my tickets are #4 Frammento and #8 Materiality, with the latter being a possibility for the bottom of the superfecta.

Good luck all!





Thursday, May 14, 2015

Preakness Preview 2015

"There's nothing wrong with being a loser, it just depends on how good you are at it." - Billie Joe Armstrong

My Derby drought continues as American Pharoah outran his pedigree and Firing Line battled his way into second to completely upend my exacta and trifecta tickets two weeks ago.  My probable pace did not get hit (half mile was actually in 47.2; not the 46ish time I had anticipated) - maybe the scratch of Stanford, who I had thought would negatively impact the early pace, had something to do with that?  Regardless, it is over and done... on to the Preakness.

At this point last year, I was hunting for reasons to play against California Chrome, which I did, only to go to the dreaded rail and select Dynamic Impact... not one of my better picks over the last year.  This year, try as I might to find any reason to play against the heavy favorite, I have trouble doing that.  Some will contend that the rail is suicide in the Preakness with only one winner from post 1 in the last 54 years, but then again there have been some pretty weak horses breaking from the rail.  Others will tell you to throw out or downgrade the inside half of this eight horse field, which in this case, as I will explain in my probably pace, you can eliminate #2 Dortmund and #3 Mr Z; but not #1 American Pharoah and #4 Danzig Moon.

This race favors speed - not necessarily suggesting any one of these can take the field wire to wire, but that the winner will be tracking along close to the lead and be within the top four spots by the half mile call.  Closers tend to fall short here as well.

So here are my thoughts on the 2015 Preakness:

#1 American Pharoah (4-5) - Having watched how he went W-I-D-E early at Churchill to get good position and had enough left in the tank to run down Firing Line late, shows me that his tactical speed is a huge advantage in this field.  He has faced hot fractions in the Arkansas and relatively moderate fractions in the Derby and handled both well.  Despite the dreaded rail, he is the one to beat and will be tracking off of what appears to be a weak early pace.

#7 Diving Rod (12-1) - On the upswing showing patience in the Lexington last month.  He figures to be right on the tails of American Pharoah watching the early pace unfold and this son of Tapit can certainly get the distance.  I expect a forward progression here, but just short of the effort that American Pharoah will display.

#4 Danzig Moon (15-1) - Troubled trip in the Derby and still managed fifth.  Bluegrass effort prior saw a wide run for second from mid pack and he has yet to win around two turns.  Needs to prove he can finish the race and the bias here doesn't help, but I expect him to be a factor late.

#2 Dortmund (7-2) - Will likely take the bait of the early blast from Mr. Z which will find him short of top honors again here, but much like the Derby, don't expect him to finish to far from the money.  As I mentioned in the Derby blog two weeks ago, his optimal distance seems to be 9 furlongs, so expect another steady drive, just not enough late kick to make a difference.

My spoiler for exotics looks to be #5 Tale of Verve (30-1).  The bias plays against him and it did take him six tries to break maiden.  Closing run will be short, but I expect him to be gaining ground late and he could sneak into the trifecta, or more likely, the superfecta.  #8 Firing Line (4-1) certainly made a heck of a run in the Derby, but I think he regresses here and may also be around for a minor share.

Pace:  I expect #3 Mr Z to bolt right out to the lead, which he never got a chance to in the Derby as he was checked repeatedly.  #2 Dortmund takes the bait and doesn't let him get loose.  This sets up for American Pharoah, #7 Diving Rod, and #8 Firing Line to settle back between two and five lengths off the pace.  #3 Mr Z drops out before the stretch and both American Pharoah and Diving Rod overtake Dortmund.  Firing Line runs flat in the stretch while #4 Danzing Moon and #5 Tale of Verve make a late charge to hit the board with the edge to the former.

How would I bet this race?

No real value in playing American Pharoah to win, but I may go across the board on #7 Diving Rod and play a small trifecta with 1 and 7 on top, something along the lines of 1,7 / 1,4,7 / 1,2,4,5,7,8 ; or maybe a small superfecta along the same lines.

Good luck all!





Thursday, April 30, 2015

Derby Deja-Vu (Plus Oaks Coverage Too!)

"It's like deja-vu, all over again." - Yogi Berra

Here we are approaching the first Saturday of May yet again.  The band will play "My Old Kentucky Home" while folks sip mint juleps, and bet a ton of money all in the hopes of seeing the who will win the first leg of the elusive Triple Crown.

As I say every year at this time, the last Kentucky Derby winner that I picked was Smarty Jones in 2004.  Last year, I let my stubbornness and ideals get in the way of a big Derby payday as I opted against playing my annual $1 superfecta box that would have returned over $7k (granted my college roommate Mike did make quite a score with a $1,700 trifecta and Commanding Curve).

So what makes this year different?

Nothing.

I've been generally absent from blogging as well as actually following the Derby trail - which is something I tell myself that I am going to do every year, but it never comes to fruition as evidenced by my abysmal performance in the Public Handicapper "PH Prep" contest and absence from the Monmouth SSC Qualifiers for the first time in 5 years.  Some years the schedule just doesn't work out.  If anything, I have probably done less handicapping so far this year than I have in other years - even on my bread and butter tracks but just enough to keep the rust off...

So here it goes - my analysis for the 2015 Kentucky Derby... let's hope for some deja-vu however, hitting the superfecta with some value horses would be nice... all over again!

Saturday 5/2 - Churchill Downs Race 11 - 1-1/4mi - Kentucky Derby G1

15 Frosted (15-1) - He certainly has the pedigree for the distance and after having some minor surgery for breathing problems, he came back and commandingly took the Wood over several of this field.  I am willing to give him a pass on the Holy Bull (troubled trip) and the stretch drive of the Fountain of Youth (breathing issues).  Normally I would be wary of a horse with breathing issues, but with the usual torrid pace that is expected here, I expect to see Rosario get him in a good spot early, avoid the tangled start we can all expect to see here from the frontrunners, and set him down for a big late run.

2 Carpe Diem (8-1) - Pedigree suggests he has the distance, but would be better suited for turf.  Showed improvement pressing the pace in both the Tampa Derby and the Blue Grass with the lone blemish on his record being a loss to Texas Red in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last fall at 2 years old.  Connections don't get much better than Pletcher/Velazquez who are firing at a 41% clip of late.  I expect to see him hanging off the lead and also making a big late move.

18 American Pharoah (5-2) - Other than my spell check constantly trying to correct  his name, he has passed every test so far.  Pedigree is a little lacking on distance, suggesting he would be a good miler, so he has already outrun expectations (just like California Chrome last year).  He likes the lead and showed he can hang back and stalk in the Arkansas Derby, but I think the distance is too much here and Baffert goes home empty handed again.

8 Dortmund (3-1) - Has yet to fail as has steadily shown improvement.  Pedigree suggests 9 furlongs would be optimal.  He coasted home with a slower stretch run in the Santa Anita Derby, but showed solid late running in both the San Felipe as well as the Robert B Lewis where he fought back gamely against Firing Line in a rematch of the tightly contested Los Alamitos Futurity.  While I expect him to want the lead, he'll settle for being near it and will have a steady run down the stretch, yet I don't expect him to be making up much ground late.

Pace:  I expect the first half mile to be in about 46, with 11 Stanford, 17 Mr. Z, and 8 Dortmund to be the closest to the front.  18 American Pharoah will be close up with that group.  3 Materiality will try to hang, but will be lacking by the turn.  The closers kick in late, led by 15 Frosted and 2 Carpe Diem.  6 Mubtaahij is a mystery in this race, but the pace is likely too fast for him to be much of a factor late.  9 Bolo may bounce and be a factor late in exotics.

I'll throw my customary $1 Superfecta box in on 2, 8, 15, 18 and maybe a $.50 Trifecta Box on the same while enjoying a refreshing beverage from my couch!

BONUS COVERAGE:  A few thoughts on Friday's Kentucky Oaks...

7 Lovely Maria (5-1) - This one has been on my radar for a while and I think she moves forward here.  Toss the Trapeze effort in the mud and the Rachel Alexandra where Clark lost the whip late and she has shown good tactical speed with a nice pressing/stalking effort in the Ashland.

13 Birdatthewire (6-1) - Three straight troubled trips for her resulting in two wins at two turns and second by a neck in a one turn miler with figures that are deceptively good.  Tough call making this one my second choice.  Pedigree suggests that she is a miler, but I think with a contested pace here she makes a solid late run.

12 Stellar Wind (7-2) - She has the pedigree to go longer and is off of two solid efforts at Santa Anita.  She should take a big step forward again here but I think her late pace isn't as strong as others.

8 I'm a Chatterbox (4-1) - Went wire to wire in her 3 year old debut and the showed a solid closing effort in the Rachel Alexandra, and then from just off the pace int he Fair Ground Oaks.  She has good tactical speed and will be a factor late, but I think she is truly just a miler and has not had much adversity to contend with in her last three wins.  Minor share only.

Pace - Hot early pace by 5 Condo Commando will set the tone for the late runners here, she won't get clear and will get spent early trying to maintain the fastest pace she will have ever tried to set around two turns.  A lot of horses here with tactical speed and late runs.  Will be an exciting finish.  3 Include Betty will be moving from W-A-Y back and could hit for a minor share.  2 Shook Up (30-1) was wide in her last two - a better trip gets her on the board as well.

Thinking maybe a superfecta or trifecta box here for fun as well.

Oaks/Derby Double:  7,13 with 2,15

With the shuttering of my favorite turf meet at Atlantic City Race Course, I turn my attention to Monmouth Park opening on May 9th.  Only 5.4 miles door to door from the office, or as my co-worker Anthony noted, even less from his job site.  I think some lazy Friday afternoons with a good cigar and a few beers are in order this summer!

Good luck all!