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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Two Turns to Glory - 2019 Belmont Stakes Analysis

A mile and a half. The distance I often make my son’s U12 travel soccer team run after practice. The distance it is to walk from my in-law's house, if you go the long way. The distance ten three year-olds will run in about two and a half minutes to see who captures the final Triple Crown race of 2019.

I tried to beat Justify last year. I failed. Two years ago, a nice Tapit colt made me some money as Tapwrit was first to the wire. Most, if not all, of these horses will never see this distance, or anything close to it, again. No wonder it is called the true ‘Test of a Champion’!

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

So let’s get down to business!

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

10 Tacitus (9-5) – My Kentucky Derby selection who ran into some trouble yet again on the first Saturday of May. William Mott won this race in 2010 with Drosselmeyer and Jose Ortiz won this race aboard another Tapit colt, Tapwrit, in 2017. This horse is bred to go long and I think the outside post may help as the early speed inside of him will allow him to settle into a good trip early.

9 War of Will (2-1) – It was a tough call between him and Tacitus. I feel it could very well be a toss up between these two with the only potential for value being the bottom of your exotics. Toss his Kentucky Derby performance and you are left with the odd blemish of the Louisiana Derby. Otherwise he has been a solid performer, but not lights out. His pedigree suggests that distance is not an issue, but you could argue the strength of the Preakness field last out. There is a possibility that he just gets loose early and doesn’t look back.

6 Spinoff (15-1) – My runner-up selection in the Kentucky Derby also has the pedigree to run all day by way of his sire Hard Spun. Since you can toss a sloppy, controversial Kentucky Derby where he started from the far outside, he still hasn’t run a two-turn race without any troubles. I think he could open some eyes in this race.

5 Bourbon War (12-1) – The second Tapit colt in my top four selections (Intrepid Heart is the third horse in this field out of Tapit), is most likely for a spot underneath. I think the pace is too fast for him in this spot and the others are a notch above him, but he is likely the best of the rest.

Potential for Value:  Medium-Low (could get chalky on the top of your tickets)
Confidence:  Moderate (My most probable pace scenario is at a 50% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Win – 10
Small Exacta – 9,10 with 6,9,10
Small Trifecta – 9,10 with 6,9,10 with 4,5,6,9,10
Small Superfecta – 9,10 with 6,9,10 with 4,5,6,9,10 with 4,5,6,9,10

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

So sit back and enjoy the race!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hold All Tickets! - 2019 Preakness Analysis

The 2019 Kentucky Derby was certainly…. Interesting to say the least. One of my pace scenarios almost held up. Well, it held up for about 22 minutes until they took Maximum Security down. Disqualification aside, he proved to me that he didn’t need to set a soft fraction to take a race wire to wire like he did in the Florida Derby.

Like many horseplayers, I just move on to the next race.

My explanation of the probable pace will be posted on 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.

Here is how my Pace Based Speed Ratings (PBSR) stack up:

So let’s get down to business.

12 Anothertwistafate (6-1) – The son of Scat Daddy had a rough go in the Lexington last out and still managed to place to Owendale who had a dream trip. Two back in the Sunland Derby he faced a hot pace and was forced to rate for the first time. I think this colt is developing nicely after being the early pace horse in three tries at Golden Gate.  

4 Improbable (5-2) – Bob Baffert and Mike Smith are back at it with the Kentucky Derby favorite. Toss the Kentucky Derby and he has shown he can track off the pace well. He just needs to finish. With a couple of one dimensional front runners in this field, he may have enough to last late.

1 War of Will (4-1) – Toss that Kentucky Derby effort and we’ll give him a pass on the lackluster effort in the Louisiana Derby two back. He was making up ground and setting up for a move before running into trouble in the Kentucky Derby. I think he flies under the radar a bit off of those two efforts and adds some value here.

2 Bourbon War (12-1) – He couldn’t get anything going in the Florida Derby as Maximum Security ran his race. A pace like the Fountain of Youth two back gives him a better chance here. He is out of Tapit who has produced a lot of longer distances winners. If he runs well here, I like his chances in the Belmont Stakes as well.

8 Signalman (30-1) – The faster the early pace goes, the more I like him in this spot. I don’t think he’ll land the top spot, but he’ll be looming late in your exotics.

Potential for Value:  Medium-High
Confidence:  Medium (My most probable pace scenario has a 60% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Small Exacta 12 /  1, 2, 4, 8
Small Trifecta 12 / 1, 2, 4, 8 / 1, 2, 4, 8
Small Superfecta Box  1, 2, 4, 8, 12
WPS 12

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 2, 2019

Back to the Drawing Board! – 2019 Kentucky Derby Analysis

After my defeat in the 2018 Kentucky Derby I told myself I would spend more time watching the preps and getting to know the contenders before May came around. It must have been the tenth time I told myself that. Maybe in 2020!

Regardless, I had my analysis and various contributions ready to go until I saw the news on Wednesday afternoon that Omaha Beach had scratched. With deadlines to meet and a crazy work and travel soccer schedule ahead of me I was a little crunched for time redoing my analysis.

Some people think when a horse scratches, you just pick your next horse. In the case of Omaha Beach, it completely blew up the pace model I had built. While thankful that I know about this change now, not the day of the Kentucky Derby when I am sitting at soccer tryouts, did change not only my pace model, but a few of my contenders.

Above are my Pace Based Speed Ratings (PBSR) for the Kentucky Derby.

My explanation of the probable pace will be posted on 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.

8 Tacitus (8-1) – Two races as a three-year-old, two wins. He is looking to be the first colt to exit the Wood Memorial and win the Derby since Funny Cide in 2003. As a matter of fact, in the last 19 years the Wood Memorial has produced 43 Derby runners with only three winners (Funny Cide 2003, Monarchos 2001, and Fusiachi Pegasus in 2000). He does have the highest Pace Based Speed Rating (PBSR) in the field, largely off the two hot paces he encountered in both the Wood and the Tampa Bay Derby. What makes the Wood effort even more appealing is that he overcame some early trouble and still prevailed. I expect the early pace to be contested here even with the defection of Omaha Beach and expect Tacitus to stalk the field from five to eight lengths, sitting in the top half of the field. Tacitus is a Tapit colt who should have no issue with the distance or an off track. Tapit has produced three recent Belmont Stakes winners so the distance is not going to be an issue.

19 Spinoff (30-1) – The post may hurt his chances the most here. I like his last two effort both against hot paces and a troubled trip. He wants to be close to the pace which is going to be a tough task from the far outside. Again, distance is not an issue for a Hard Spun colt with Gone West as his damsire. I think Manny Franco may roll the dice and shoot to the front early.

6 Vekoma (15-1) – He has shown some ability to rate off the pace and won the Blue Grass. The last horse to exit the Blue Grass and win the Derby was Street Sense in 2007, however in the last 19 years the Blue Grass has managed only that one winner in 73 starters sent to post in the Derby. I wasn’t overly impressed with his effort in the Fountain of Youth but think he’ll be key in pushing the expected front runner, Maximum Security, along early to set up the race for Tacitus.

17 Roadster (5-1) – I like this horse. He is entering the Derby just like Justify did last year by winning the Santa Anita Derby after winning a non-winners-of-one allowance race prior. Bob Baffert is always dangerous here and I suspect we haven’t seen this horse run to his full potential yet. I think the pedigree is strong, but others are stronger here. I expect him to be a factor late.

7 Maximum Security (8-1) – I passed on him in the Florida Derby. There was no way I thought he’d get to set a soft pace and cruise home. I was wrong. He only has that one walk in the park race around two turns for comparison, so it is hard to figure what will happen with some pressure in the Derby. With the speedy Vekoma right on his tail he will likely have to go faster than he would like early. Still a contender though given the chance that no one wants to challenge him until it is too late.

Potential for Value:  High

Confidence:  Low (My most probable pace scenario is only a 40% likelihood)

So what am I toying with playing?

Small Exacta 8 / 6, 7, 17, 19 and reversed 6, 7, 17, 19 / 8
Small Trifecta 8 / 6, 7, 17, 19 / 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 17, 19
Small Superfecta Box  6, 8, 17, 19 or some mix of combinations including 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 13 for the lower spots

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!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Process... Leading Up to the Kentucky Derby

On Friday night, a mere eight days from the Kentucky Derby, I found myself answering some questions about the Kentucky Derby. I was at a great local community fund raiser where I proudly donated boxes for food donations, hung signs, and did odd and end tasks to help the Cranford Jaycees pull off their 13th annual Beefsteak Dinner.

I love talking about horse racing to anyone who will listen. I love talking about horse racing to anyone who doesn't want to listen either.

As the room got fuller and louder, I kept running into friends and acquaintances from all aspects of my life - kid's sports, scouts, the Jaycees, etc. Several beers into the night the conversations were generally short and cordial, but many had a common theme.

"Who do you like in the Kentucky Derby?"

I was flattered. I am still flattered. I am thrilled that so many people actually pay attention to the articles and blog posts I write to want to know what I think when there are so many other "experts" on the interweb for them to follow.

I had to explain to some that I still haven't locked on my winner yet. That I have a "process" for handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

After eating what amounted to about a cow and half in filet mignon, but before the meat sweats kicked in, I did explain to one guy what I meant by the "process".

Three Weeks Out 
After the last set of qualifying prep races, I get the past performances for all the contenders. I am usually so busy with work and coaching I don't do a darn thing with them at this point.

Two Weeks Out
I have unsuccessfully prayed for rain to cancel soccer practice, however I do get a clear Wednesday night and the fun can begin!

The first thing I do is select a running line from each horse for pace analysis and create my pace based speed ratings. I assess the strength of each horse's running styles, including all of the top 30 horses at this point. I start to populate a matrix with jockeys (if named), trainers, sire and dam sire pedigree, and any of my handicapping angles that each horse may meet.

No contenders are selected at this point.

One Week Out
After seeing reports that every Derby entrant has just had the "exact workout we wanted" and they are all "primed for a big race", I get back to work. By now I have started to manually chart out my pace scenarios. Using an engineer's pad, I lay out probable fractions and adjust the positioning of each horse based on their comfortable fractions and the expected.

I will repeat this process with alternate pace scenarios.

Finally, I will have a list of contenders - both for the top spot and for the underneath. There may be as many as five contenders for the top spot and another five for the exotics.

What factors play into the selection of contenders? Pace, pedigree, class, jockey, trainer, strength of prep races, and my pace based speed figures.

The Week Of
My approach to the Kentucky Derby is different than other stakes races. If this was just the ninth race at Monmouth Park that happened to be a stakes race, I would just pass on the race at this point.

I start to refine my contenders, After all it is the Kentucky Derby and you have to at least pick one horse to be on top, right? I finish assessing the strength of the prep race fields and pace. I will "thin the herd" further at this point and land on my top contender, other top contenders, and exotic contenders.

When the post positions are drawn and final field is announced, I will go back and double check my pace analysis and pace based speed figures based on the final field.

I finalize my pace analysis. I challenge myself and each contender I have selected to this point under different pace scenarios.

Given the night off from soccer means I have a lot of work to do. I start to prep my graphics for my pace video and start cranking out a blog post. This is when my top choice will be ready!

Time to record the audio and create a pace video. My picks are set. My blog analysis is 90% done. I have started to layout my wagering structure (if any).

Production time! I try to get all my media out on Friday (or Saturday morning at the latest).

This year I'll have to figure out how to get home from soccer in time for the race.

While the Kentucky Derby never falls into the "play" category based on my handicapping, I always throw a few bucks on the race. It is always a great betting race given the amount of chaos that can happen with horses that are still developing.

Check back for my pace video at US Racing and my detailed analysis here at the end of the week.

So get ready to "Talk Derby to Me"...  Who do you like???

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!