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!