Friday, June 10, 2022

Belmont 2022!

 Why is it that the week of the Belmont Stakes is one of my craziest weeks of the year? My swan song coaching rugby started, I am prepping for my first presentation at a conference, and everyone at work wants a pound of flesh!

So we'll keep it short and sweet.

I am torn 50/50 on top but will give the edge to the Uncle Mo colt...

6 Mo Donegal 5-2

5 Creative Minister 6-1

1 We The People 2-1

4 Rich Strike 7-2

The pace? I see this going down one of two ways. Either weak early speed from We The People, most likely pressured by Nest and Mo Donegal and Creative Minister pick up the pieces -or- We The People takes it wire to wire.

Like I say every year, maybe next year I'll be able to really dive into this one!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Preakness 2022

 No Triple Crown this year. Rethink the Triple Crown. The races are too long.

This porridge is too cold, this porridge is too hot... 

Give someone a reason and they'll complain about anything. Rich Strike had the race of a lifetime for connections you have never heard of (and may never hear from again).  I trust the horsemen to do what is right for their horse. I also don't think we need to rethink the Triple Crown. 

More rest, shorter distances? 


It is HARD to win the Triple Crown, as it should be. That is what makes it special and rare.

Enough of you hearing me roll my eyes from NJ every time someone decides that the Triple Crown needs to change...

On to the matter at hand. Preakness 2022.

I ran the pace a couple of ways and ended up with two possible outcomes (other than chaos - a.k.a. something goes amuck that throws off the race entirely). An off the pace horse should win with a 65% likelihood and a front running winner is a 25% likelihood.

Quick and dirty of how I see it setting up. Fenwick, Early Voting, and Armagnac set the pace. I figure an opening half mile in about 47.0s (plus or minus a tick). The second call should be in about 1:11.2s but by then the off the pace horses will make their move. The strongest of the group is Epicenter who should get a good trip being outside of the speed and the habitually slow breaking Happy Jack (now with blinkers)!

I see the chance that Secret Oath takes a step forward and has a shot at a late run here as well.

In my secondary pace scenario, Early Voting is the most likely front runner to get loose on the lead and set a more comfortable pace (47.2s / 1:12.0s). In that scenario he could take this field wire to wire. This would require the other two front runners to fail to challenge. While possible, not the most probable outcome.

As always, I reserve a 10% likelihood for the unexpected. It could be a troubled trip or a stalker that goes out and sets the pace with blazing fractions.

My top contenders (I feel the top three have the best chance at the winner's circle):

8 Epicenter 6-5

5 Early Voting 7-2

4 Secret Oath 9-2

9 Skippylongstocking 20-1

There is clearly a divide in class in this field, but I think Skippylongstocking is the best of the rest and an find his way onto exotic tickets.

As for betting, this race hits none of my metrics so I will be looking for a six pack of Natty Boh (National Bohemian Beer) to drink instead of a Black Eyed Susan. 

Good luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

That Snuck Up On Me... Thoughts on the 2022 Kentucky Derby

 I am like a broken record each year (except 2020) at this time. Where did the year go?

Admittedly I have taken one day off so far this year and finally hired some relief at work after countless 80+ hour weeks. Couple the workload with the demise of USRacing, where I spent the last six years writing for fun, and I have been off the Derby Trail again this year.

I don't always get excited about the Kentucky Derby though. In 2017 Always Dreaming ended my slump dating back to my last winning Derby horse in 2004, the great Smarty Jones.

Why don't I get excited? 

You can count on half the field encountering some sort of trouble in the race. A bump, a clipped heel, or being pinched back at the start are all common occurrences. It isn't easy for a closer to navigate through 15 or more horses late after likely going six wide in the turn.

Tradition keeps me looking at (and only watching) this race. I remember the yearly calls to my 90+ year old grandmother who anxiously awaited my call and would mail me clippings from her local newspaper so I "would have the best information".

So here we are in 2022. Drama. Bob Baffert proteges. Preps that left more questions than answers.

12 Taiba (12-1) - this son of Gun Runner bested an up and down Messier last out against a hot pace. Keeping Smith in the irons for Baffert, errr Yakteen doesn't hurt his chances either. The race figures to have some weak early speed and this colt, if he can get a good trip, will find himself in a place to make a late move without a lot of traffic to contend with.

1 Mo Donegal (10-1) - the best of the three Pletcher entrants is out of Uncle Mo who sired 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. We know he can get the distance but his success will be dependent on getting a good start, which is something that plagued him in his first four tries. The Wood Memorial is not a premier prep race and for this colt to have a shot he will need to stay a little closer to the pace than normal.

3 Epicenter (7-2) - is a well deserving second favorite. His last effort in the Louisiana Derby showed he could rate off the pace besting a few of the lesser horses in this field. He will need to rate off the pace and resist the urge to get out to the front. While he has had success on the front end, this field looks to set up more for an off the pace horse with the weak early speed we can expect to see here.

10 Zandon (3-1) - I really want to like this horse more. I made some money off of him in the Bluegrass, but wasn't thrilled with that field. The Bluegrass is a notoriously weak prep and he couldn't get it done against better stock in the Risen Star and Remsen. Figuring he is good for a minor share though.

The probable pace here points to weak early speed and the winner coming from off the pace. I am not looking at a closer, but if Mo Donegal and Zandon can get a perfect trip they will have a shot to upset the apple cart. I am looking to beat the favorite as Taiba ran a huge race and should step forward here. 

Sit back and enjoy this race, my focus is already two weeks out at Pimlico for the Preakness!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Back to Normal - Belmont Stakes 2021

 As we hit the first Saturday in June and are all crawling back out from under the rocks we were under, it is time to think about the final leg of the Triple Crown (which was the first leg in 2020, the year we'd all like to forget).

Can Rombauer continue to make history by being the only "new shooter" to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes?

Not likely. The full article about this can be found here.

Here are my thoughts on the 2021 Belmont Stakes.

#2 Essential Quality (2-1) - This son of Tapit is looking to follow in the footsteps of half-brothers Tonalist and Tapwrit who won the 2011 and 2014 Belmont Stakes. He can get the distance with this breeding and will make a huge step forward off of a troubled trip in both the Kentucky Derby and the Blue Grass (which he won) after romping home in the slop three back in the Southwest. He should get a fair, contested pace here which sets up for a big run late.

#6 Known Agenda (6-1) - Son of the great Curlin and half-brother to 2010 winner Palace Malice. He is another off the pace type who will need a new rider as Irad Ortiz, Jr is out for a couple weeks after a spill earlier this week at Belmont. He is a serious contender in this race and should have a similar trip to what he had in the Florida Derby.

#4 Hot Rod Charlie (7-2) - He figures to be close to the early pace that is expected to be set by Rock Your World. His breeding may be what holds him back here as the long stretch on "Big Sandy" may be too much for him in the last two furlongs.

#3 Rombauer (3-1) - He ran a heck of a race in the Preakness against a contested pace that set up perfectly for him, but falls short today. The reason I liked him so much in the Preakness (hidden form) is the same reason I am going with Essential Quality on top of my tickets. 

#1 Bourbonic could be a factor late on the bottom of your tickets, as could the fading front runner #7 Rock Your World. I like #8 Overtook's breeding, but question his class in this spot despite the fact that the Peter Pan has been a good pipeline for horses making their first Triple Crown start and winning the Belmont Stakes. I expect little from #5 France Go de Ina.

Bottom line is that early speed doesn't fare well in the Belmont Stakes. All the horses should have a clean race without 20 starters breaking at the same time like the Kentucky Derby. 

Good luck!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Preakness 2021

 Short and sweet this time after a week of fighting a stomach bug:

6 Rombauer 12-1

4 Crowded Trade 10-1

10 Concert Tour 5-2

3 Mendina Spirit 9-5

Expect Mendina Spirit to set the pace with Concert Tour and possibly Midnight Bourbon. Early speed doesn't usually play well in the Preakness so expect a horse to come from off the pace. Rombauer moves forward off of a troubled trip in the Blue Grass and benefits from a quicker pressured pace. Crowded Trade is another horse that will benefit from a battle on the front end. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The First Saturday in May (Again!)

 Things are getting better. People are getting jabbed with the marvels of modern medicine and we may even get to be within six feet of each other soon. As we return to a sense of normalcy, we can expect an exciting 147th running of the Kentucky Derby once again on the first Saturday in May.

 So let’s get right to it:

 17 Highly Motivated 10-1

The curse of post 17 is over. Highly Motivated will benefit from the speed that breaks inside of him, allowing him to run the race he wants from off the pace instead of inheriting the lead like he did in the Blue Grass. This son of the Into Mischief, the leading North American sire over the last two years and sire of the 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, is bred to get the distance. Jockey Javiar Castellano finished third in the 2018 running of the Kentucky Derby aboard Highly Motivated's half-brother, Audible.

 14 Essential Quality 2-1

This two-year old champion is almost too good to be true. He is undefeated after five starts which include four graded stakes. I am a fan of Tapit colts and there is nothing here that points to a bad performance other than pressing Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass when he didn’t really want to set the pace. There have been 30 undefeated Kentucky Derby entrants, 17 of which have gone to post as the favorite. Of those 17, eight have won. Horses with five or more races before the Kentucky Derby have significantly outperformed horses with four or less starts.

 What keeps him from winning?

 Others look to improve more off of their last start. Otherwise he is a very deserving favorite.

 1 Known Agenda 6-1

The post hurts a bit being on the rail with the deluge of horses pushing in after the break. This son of Curlin has late kick and is the type of runner that, if they can navigate through traffic, finds his way into your exotics.

 6 O Besos 20-1

I like to scream out four letter words. The one I would yell at this colt is “WIDE.” He ran a much improved race in the Louisiana Derby despite being five wide into the first turn. If this son of Orb can repeat the run of his sire in the 2013 Kentucky Derby he should find his way into your exotics. He will benefit from the pace here and show improvement.

How does the pace set up?

Expect a charge to the lead early by Hot Rod Charlie, Rock Your World, Mendina Spirit, and Midnight Bourbon. Essential Quality and Highly Motivated will be best suited sitting just off of the leaders. I expect a half mile call of about 46-4/5ths and a half mile of about 1:11-4/5ths seconds. The wildcard is really who wants the lead the most and we could conceivably see 46 seconds flat.

The frontrunners will tire which benefits Essential Quality and Highly Motivated the most. There are a number of horses who have the late run to find your trifectas and superfectas here. Soup and Sandwich, Dynamic One, Helium, Mandaloun, and Known Agenda are the most likely. Don’t count out Rock Your World and Hot Rod Charlie hanging on for a minor share either.

Good luck and we’ll do this all again in two weeks for the Preakness!


Friday, September 4, 2020

The First Saturday in September!

2020 has been a year like no other, so can we expect a Kentucky Derby like no other? Normally on the first Saturday of September I am excited about Rutgers football, not the quest for the Triple Crown. But what can I say, it is 2020.

The question of whether the "Curse of Post 17" would be broken this year seems less like with the early defection of King Guillermo, which moves 3-5 favorite Tiz The Law into the 16 hole and front runner Authentic into the dreaded 17 spot.

Interestingly enough, the Kentucky Derby has been run two other times outside of May. In 1901, it was run on April 29 and due to World War II it was run on June 9th in 1945. With all that has happened this year, we should all be happy that the race is even being run at all.

 So let's get down to business. My top four choices:

#16 Honor A.P. (5-1) - The pace will be favorable to his running style and he is looks to be deceptively the best horse in this field. Looking at his last three starts tells the story. In the San Felipe no one challenged Authentic who coasted home wire to wire. The Kentucky Derby is not an easy race to win wire to wire, which plays to his running style. The Santa Anita Derby was a solid performance as Authentic was off a step slow and was not able to handle the hot pace. Last out in the Shared Belief he had trouble in the stretch and was able to rally to finish within 3/4's of a length. Expect a better effort here than he had in the Santa Anita Derby with a solid work pattern showing speed and depth.

#17 Tiz The Law (3-5) - I was all over this grandson of Tapit in the Belmont Stakes and the Travers. He has proven he can get the distance and his running style is also a perfect fit for the anticipated pace here. While I always say three year olds can keep improving race to race, this one will regress a bit here, but it still may be enough to win against this field.

#7 Money Moves (30-1) - While he has only cleared the N1X hurdle, losing by a neck in a N2X race last out, he could take a big step forward here although he may get caught in a logjam at the start. He had some trouble in his last start over this course, which was his first try around two turns. He is my primary upset horse.

#2 Max Player (30-1) - Half brother to Honor A.P. has lost to Tiz The Law in two straight starts. His late fractions are deceptively good and he will be moving late. I don't expect to see him win, but he will be a factor late.

How does this one set up?

Authentic, Ny Traffic, Storm The Court, and Thousand Words look to be the group looking for the lead early. The half mile should go in under 47 seconds. The contested pace up front will set up perfectly for both Honor A.P. and Tiz The Law who will be close to the lead. Both have the legs to sustain a late run. Money Move could be right there with them and deserves at least a look.

The "Curse of Post 17" looks to continue until 2021, yet there appears to be the potential for some value in your exotics and if Honor A.P. can hold on against a formidable favorite in Tiz The Law.

So sit back and enjoy the long-awaited fastest two minutes in sports.