Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pick 4 at Belmont and a Tour de France note

Happy Independence Day to all! A quick Tour note and a pick 4 at Belmont.

My favorite sporting event of the year,the Tour de'France, begins today with a time trial. I posted a lot about the race last year but don't intend to do quite as much this year. After all this space is supposed to be about horses. But I will say I expect Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, to reaffirm himself as the tour champion. He was unable to race last year because his team, Astana, was suspended from competing in the Tour because team members had been caught (and banished)for doping the previous season. It was an unfortunate circumstance for Contador as he was not part of the team the year in question. But cycling has taken a hard stance against doping and, in my opinion, it's working. Horseracing can certainly learn a lot from cycling on the issue of how to handle drug violations. However, to prove his mettle Contador did win the other two grand tours of cycling last year; The Giro (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain). The only questions in my mind are about the team. Bruyneel (former director of team Discovery during the Armstrong years) has assembled a sort of all-star squad both in GC contenders with Contador, Armstrong, and Leipheimer as well as with his domestiques Popovych, Horner, Kloden and Rubiera. Sometimes those type of teams just don't work. Who will be the leader? - Armstrong says they'll work it out on the road. And he has been very supportive of the cast while riding in his prep races. But to win the Tour a team needs to be on the same page and supporting the same we shall see. Contador is just a superior climber and the mountains is where the Tour is really won. I expect Lance to ride well but in the end realize that Alberto is the man to support. Of course he's proven many wrong before: seven times! And as with every grand tour a rider needs a little luck in avoiding injury during almost 2,200 miles of racing!
Another highlight this year should be watching Team Columbia's, Mark Cavendish compete for the green jersey (sprinter) this year. He has established himself as the most exciting and swiftest sprinter in the world.

The Pick four at Belmont.

The Dwyer (G2)
I like Kensei to win in this spot. To me he is the classiest horse in the race. I think the race will be very quick early, he rates well and Prado is patient. He has given a good measure of himself in every race and seems to still be improving. He should also improve with the added distance. His workout on 6/22 is about as fast as a Asmussen horse will go first work after a race so you know he's happy and healthy. A freshener on 6/29 has him ready.
I'm lukewarm on the ML favorite Warrior's Reward. Obviously he is maturing well and has run his two best races since coming off the layoff. He received a 113 Beyer for his NW1x Churchill score on 5/1 but I'm always a skeptic when it comes to those numbers on Oaks or Derby day. As a matter of fact I'm not a real big speed figure handicapper though obviously I consider them. I really don't think they were very tough spots either. Maybe he will emerge here as the real deal but I have too many questions to bet him at 9-5.
For some value I'm adding Convocation. He had an excuse in each of his first three races and still ran respectably in 3 of them. He finally put it all together last race on the under card on Belmont S. day. He also earned a career high 96 Beyer on a big day but he had earned a similar number before so it doesn't seem to be an anomaly. His pedigree is impeccable, Alan Garcia has the mount and the remainder of the field all have a lot of holes in the resume.

The Prioress (G1)
This is going to be a great race! A case can be made for every fillie. I'm going with Gabby's Golden Girl. She can obviously run a hole in the wind going a mile. I don't usually like a horse coming off several route's to a sprint but this case is a little different. she has carved out fast early fractions in each contest. The last was a one mile sprint for her after fractions that would win any true sprint. Baffert has had her east on dirt tracks for several months already and at Belmont since at least the end of may. She keeps shooting bullets in the morning and doesn't seem to have missed a beat so she must be very sound. I think today can be a career best for her. If she stays around the 7-2 ML she's a bargain.
For the purposes of a P4 ticket I'll add, On the Menu and Heart Ashley. Perhaps On the Menu has the better situation as he breaks from the outside.

Suburban H. (G2)
I like Asiatic Boy to win. He's obviously a very classy horse. I can forgive his runner-up finish (as if a G1 placing needs to be excused) in the S. Foster because it was his first race in the U.S. and he had a little trip trouble. He's back at Belmont where he's at home, he will have pace to close into and is not running into the most difficult of fields. I'm tempted to single him here for the P4 but will also add Rising Moon to my ticket.
Rising Moon is an ouchy horse, but by all signs he remains healthy and on schedule for a big performance. I like the 4f bullet on 7/1, just three days ago. He's flying a little under the radar for a Dutrow horse and he has shown he likes the track. Like Asiatic Boy he will track the pace and try to pick up the pieces in the lane. I think he may give the winner a run for his money here.
While I think It's a Bird will hit the board I just don't like him in this spot. I think he is a little over rated, has ran some very big races this year and likes to be a little too close to what I believe will be a fast early pace.
This is a very good spot for Finallymadeit but I just don't think he quite has the class of Asiatic Boy. Though he can control the race from his post he has a bad habit of folding late when seriously pressed going shorter so at 1-1/4 I don't see him hitting the board.

11th MSW $44K

It's nice to have a handful of horses for the final leg of a pick 4 but I don't think it's necessary here. The Clement entry looks extremely tough, perhaps worthy of a single but I'll pad the ticket with a value saver, Harlan's Band. He's got a race into him now and he didn't embarrass himself in that spot. McLaughlin is terrific with turf horses. In my estimation with the exceptions of the first time starter, Flight Song and Tawaared he has the most possible upside as far possible improvement. I'm throwing Flight Song out as I think it's just too tough of a field for a firster and it seems that Tawaared may have hit a plateau for the moment so The Clement entry and Harlan's Band are the picks in the final.

The Pick 4 Ticket $36
R11-1 entry, 3


Amateurcapper said...

Did ya' happen to play KENSAI to win? Great call on a price winner.

gib. said...

I am bringing this friendly contest out of mothballs. Our old group has broken up.

Anyone interested is welcome. THE SARATOGA CHALLENGE

My email address is in the rules section.