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.

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!