Friday, April 24, 2009

Derby Trial S. (G3)

Churchill Downs
Derby Trial S. (G3)
7-1/2 Three-Year-Olds $100,000

The story of the Derby Trial S. (G3) is speed, speed and more speed. Usually such a race sets up perfectly for a late closer. In this race only Rendezvous fits that description. However, there are two considerations that need be addressed before handing him the race. First, even if the race is wickedly fast is he actually good enough to win against this very talented field of sprinters? Second, a race with so much speed rarely goes as fast as it appears it will. Will that be the case here? And if so who does that benefit?

I don’t like Rendezvous to win here. It’s been 70 days since he raced. His last cycle consisted of two races at a mile before attempting the 1- 1/8 El Camino real Derby (G3) on 2/14. He finished 3rd by five lengths to stable mate Chocolate Candy, in a mediocre race. A son of Victory Gallop it appears that Hollendorfer had him figured for a route horse and had him training appropriately. Generally speaking I don’t like horses going from a route to sprint first time back. Although 7 -1/2 isn’t your average sprint I think it’s really hard to train that kind of fitness into a horse, especially when facing the quality of sprinters he will be facing in this race. He does show a very nice work on 4/21 but, I don’t think his progression of works point to him being able to put forth the type of effort he would need to win. I can see him getting a small piece but that’s about all.

I don’t expect the race to go in suicidal fractions. Often a race that boasts a lot of speed horses is run in reasonable fractions, especially the first quarter; fast but not blazing. At 7 -1/2 no one wants to encourage an outright speed duel that would undoubtedly invite disaster. To my thinking that makes the second quarter the most important of this race. For that reason I like Santana Six. He is lightly raced and in his last two races, both at a mile, his second fraction was run faster than his first yet he still managed to finish professionally. In this race I think you want to be in front, but not too soon. He has the ability to take the heart away from other horses at just the right spot in a race. It’s been 28 days since his last race so he’s had plenty of time for recovery but not so much that he’s lost his edge. He had a nice tightener on 4/16 over the track at Churchill and Johnny V. stays on, forsaking the Pletcher entry of Checklist .

The horse I was leaning toward for 2nd was Silver City. He has run some really nice races. He has tactical speed and the rail. But I think his races are catching up with him. For that reason I also would have liked to see fewer works for him leading up to this race. Perhaps, then I may have stayed with him. Also, as much as I am a fan of Julien Leparoux’s talents I don’t think he fits this horse well. So I’m passing on him.

Hull, at 3-1 on the ML - second choice- was a surprise to me. Yes, he’s unbeaten but I’m not sure he’s really beaten anybody yet and this is a tough crew. I would have had him at about 5-1. He’s going to have to beat me. I don’t have the faith in him that other’s seem to.

The horse I ended up on is the Mott trained Tintim Por Tintim. His first race wasn’t great but it was a key race. And he was one of the reasons it became a key race. He returned to win next time out going a mile at Gulfstream in 1:36.66. In that race he also ran his second quarter faster than his first and finished well. This is only his 3rd race so he’s fresh and improving. He shows a nice line of works in preparation and Allan Garcia has taken the mount. Also Bill Mott places them where they fit. Perhaps this is a hunch more than a decision based on hard statistics, but those are always the best bets. I can see him and Santana Six keeping each other company two lengths off the pace until exiting the turn. But at the wire I think the added experience of Santana Six will win the day.

The Picks:
Win:------Santana Six. Not what Zito would have liked to win this meet but…
Place:----Tintim Por Tintim Not poor anymore.
Show:-----Rendezvous Still fits the race and he is trained by Hollendorfer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Coolmore Lexington S. (G2)

Coolmore Lexington S.
1 -1/16 Three Year Olds $300,000

The Coolmore Lexington S. (G2) is supposed to be all about Square Eddie, but his supposed superiority, to even this rather pedestrian field, is questionable to me in this race. The reasons are manifold. First, he hasn’t raced in 91 days. Perhaps that’s not a big deal for older horses, perhaps even older three year-olds, but for a maturing three year old it can make all the difference in the world. It’s impossible to know where he stands in comparison to his crop at this point. Second, the layoff was brought about by injury. Further, it seems from his work tab that he is being rushed and his conditioning may be a bit light for his return. One can make the argument that his class will allow him to overcome. However, one can also look at his last race, The San Rafael (G3) on 1/17 where he ran second to The Pamplemousse, as a turning point where a maturing crop of newly turned three-year-olds started to catch up to him. There are also the considerations of race fitness and experience. Even though he has had 7 races one can envision a young three year-old being a bit green after such a layoff and shipping in from California. After taking all this into consideration one also has to question his ability to come back in three weeks to run in the Derby if he has a hard race. The fact that he doesn’t need the money to enter the gate on May 2 would have me believing the connections are not going to lay him down to win here. I see this as a glorified workout. He may very well be far superior to this bunch but at 9-5 and so many negatives I’m looking elsewhere for my winner.

I didn’t have to look any farther than the next stall from which El Crespo will break. I’m tossing out his first race (Keeneland ), last October, as a learning experience. Since then he has shown some real talent on the turf. In his next race he ran second going two turns at Churchill in what was a key race and followed that up by breaking his maiden going 1- 1/16 at Gulfstream Park. Owner, G. Watts Humphrey and trainer, George Arnold must have thought they had something special at that point because they brought him back in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. Unfortunately he finished up the track. He returned six weeks later to win the 9f Grade 3T, Palm Beach S. under the guidance of J.J. Castellano for the first time. I really like a horse that comes back from an awful performance and does something special. It shows they were not demoralized. It just wasn’t their day, their surface, or something just went wrong. Well he returns here fresh off that win and while it is not turf I think he should be able to transfer his form to the Keeneland track. He is a colt that can stay close on turf and sill finish well and that seems to be a style that lends itself to running well on synthetics. Arnold has kept him fit Castellano stay aboard and I think he will win.

The outside posts haven’t fared too well at Keeneland at 1-1/16th but I’m going to put Advice into my picks even though he breaks from post 11. In his first race this cycle on 2/26 he ran a very game race finishing 3rd going 1-1/16 in an N1x at SA. The comment read “lugged in 1/8.” He obviously got a bit leg weary which is understandable. On 3/29 Pletcher shipped him to New Mexico for the Sunland Derby. In that race he finished very nicely considering he was checked early. He shows a nice work over the Keeneland track and Pletcher takes the blinkers off. Pletcher is 24% when taking the blinkers off and I think this move will help pad that statistic. Advice likes to put in that one late run so this should help relax him early saving valuable energy. The race also sets up well for this type of runner. Gomez takes the mount and that’s never bad. I’m picking him to run very well and pick off horses late but come up short of the winner, El Crespo.
The Picks:
Win:-----El Crespo------Won’t go to Deby despite the win.
Place:----Advice----------Take it he’ll be in the money.
Show:----Square Eddie----Big questions to be answered.

For more analysis on this race check out Amateurcapper's analysis using thorograph figures.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Arkansas Derby (G2)

Oaklawn Park
Arkansas Derby (G2)
1-1/8 3 Year Olds $1,000,000

According to Brisnet early speed types have won 43% at the 9f distance at Oaklawn Park this meet .The 9-5 morning line on Old Fashioned seems to be an acknowledgement that the suicidal fractions he ran in the Rebel S. (G2) were his undoing and that a repeat performance of that effort is not expected. I have to concur with that assessment. However, he will undoubtedly be on or close to the lead as always. The fly in the ointment may be Papa Clem. He likes to create the pace and will be the colt Old Fashioned tracks. He can’t ignore him but he can’t let him get away either. The race these two horses run will determine the outcome.

Danger to Society has displayed an interest in being forwardly placed but I don’t believe he can run the early fractions these two are capable of and still finish. Flying Private has also shown a proclivity to run up close in the past but more recently has taken back and that style has resulted in his best performances, so I don’t expect a change in this race.

After the Louisiana Derby (G2) rather than returning to California, Gary Stute decided to train Papa Clem at Oaklawn Park. I think that decision may turn out to make all the difference. While training on a track is not the same as racing over it, the familiarity and comfort it creates is sometimes invaluable. Following the La. Derby Papa Clem has continued to work very well and on schedule at Oaklawn.

The same can be said about Old Fashioned except that it was 17 days after the Rebel before he worked again. I am always concerned when I see a delay of that duration after a race. Did the race take too much out of him? Or is the trainer just trying to keep his horse fresh? After a race Larry Jones does have a tendency to wait longer than many trainers before his horses return to the work tab so in this case I’m going to presume the latter.

If Papa Clem goes to the front and Old Fashioned relaxes behind him, as I expect they will, we should be in store for a classic finish between the two. If they hook each other perhaps neither hits the board. I am betting on the former scenario. I don’t think the race will go fast enough to allow the field to close on the front two. While perhaps a bit boring I have to put this duo one, two.

To finish off the trifecta I’m going to take a stab at some value and pick the 30-1 morning line, Summer Bird. He is by Birdstone who is developing into a very nice sire and with his dam sire being Summer Squall, distance will never be an issue with this colt. The only question is ability and that question should be answered in this race. The light seemed to go on for this colt halfway through his first race, a 6f sprint, when he rallied from 8 lengths back to finish 4th by only a length. He broke his maiden next out going two turns. He earned a high speed figure in that race as he ran the 1- 1/16 at Oaklawn only one tick slower than the time of the Rebel S. four days earlier. He returned with a 5f bullet on 4/4. I like to see that kind of work after a horse runs a presumably hard race. To me it says the horse likes the competition and he’s ready for more. This is a pretty nice group of colts but a three year old can emerge quickly this time of year. At the price I think he’s worth risking a few dollars on.

The Picks:
Win: Papa Clem -- Papa finally gets a Black type win.
Place: Old Fashioned -- His last race leaves him a length short.
Show: Summer Bird -- He has to wait until the summer to fly

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Wood Memorial (G1)

Wood Memorial
1-1/8th 3 Year Olds $750,000

Considering all the connections that had mentioned running in the 85th Wood Memorial (G1) the field came up as a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps the combined concerns for graded stakes money and running against I Want Revenge are too much of an impediment. That’s one of the problems with the system of having graded stakes earnings being the determinant to pass the entry box, but more about that another time.

The Wood Memorial (G1) is all about I Want Revenge. He is the legitimate 4-5 morning line favorite. It is his race to play with. He doesn’t have to win, he just needs a good effort to set him up well for the Kentucky Derby (G1). That consideration leaves some possibility for another colt to step up and get into the gate on May 2.

The most likely candidate is the McGaughey trained Imperial Council. Many of the “experts” have him on their top-ten lists even though he is lightly raced. His sire, Empire Maker, won this race in 2003 and as a result was installed as the favorite to take the roses. He is developing into a top sire and as a son of Unbridled is he has the pedigree to bestow the stamina necessary for the classic distances. However, the get of Empire Maker have, thus far, been notoriously slow developing. Better for the breed, perhaps, but to collect accolades in May? That’s yet to be determined. So questions remain for both of the ML favorites.

It is possible, likely in fact, that I Want Revenge will regress a bit from his career best Gotham performance. He is assured of being in the gate on May 2, so the incentive to push the colt to his limits is not present. Of course he probably won’t need that effort to beat this field. So the question is will his performance be good enough to win?

Imperial Council is likely to continue to improve. However, he did run a 98 Beyer in the Gotham as a distant runner-up to I Want Revenge . That’s already a big number and one wonders how much he can improve in 4 weeks. Also, as already noted, being a son of Empire Maker one would expect him to bloom more around the time of the Travers. So questions remain for him as well.

I don’t doubt that these two will hit the board. With the exception of West Side Bernie they are seemingly far superior to most of this field. However, as a handicapper one has to try to figure where there is value. And with these two there is none. If you can find a colt you like aside from them and West Side Bernie, the likely third betting choice, you may be able to cash a decent ticket.

I don’t like West Side Bernie here. He’s coming off a poor race in the Lane’s End (G2) just two weeks ago and is wheeled back here, in my estimation, to collect some graded stakes money. The caveat is that his best races have been on dirt. But I’ll pass. It’s too much too quickly.

My choice to hit the board is Lime Rickey. So far he has raced only on turf but being by Lemon Drop Kid out of a Deputy Minister mare he has every right to run as well or better on dirt than grass. He has fared well against the likes of Bittel Road and Pioneerof the Nile on turf and has displayed nice works on the main track at GP. There is a concern that he is a horse that has seconditis but I’m betting he just can’t finish up as well on grass as he will on dirt. Most of the field in the Wood likes to be close to the pace and that also sets up well for him as he likes to come from off the pace. I’ll just place one bet in this race, Lime Rickey across the board. The morning line is 20-1 and I’d be happy to get 8-1.
I was hopingto see Musket Man run in the Wood. I thought his Tampa Bay Derby (G3) was an exceptional race, and thought he would fit well at Aqueduct. I'm not sure that the Illionois Derby(G2) is a better choice for him. But back to the race at hand...
The Picks.
Win: Imperial Council -----He gets it done and get’s Shug a Derby berth.
Place: Lime Rickey----------Finally finds his surface and his seasoning pays off.
Show: I Want Revenge-----He does what he has to do.