Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 Horse of the Year: Not that difficult

It's interesting to me that the debate over Horse of the Year is actually considered that difficult this year. True the sport has never seen two female racehorses as talented as these in the same year and they both have some talking points of note, but the decision as to who should get the award is quite basic in my estimation.

Rachel Alexandra 8, Zenyatta 5

Rachel Alexandra 8, Zenyatta 5

G1 Wins:
Rachel Alexandra 5, Zenyatta 4

Races Against Males:
Rachel Alexandra 3, Zenyatta 1

Tracks Raced Over:
Rachel Alexandra 7, Zenyatta 3

Peak Speed Figure:
Rachel Alexandra 116, Zenyatta 112

Largest Margin of Victory (Males):
Rachel Alexandra 20 (6), Zenyatta 2 (1)

Rachel Alexandra is without a doubt the most deserving horse for the award.

Horse of the Year is not a lifetime achievement award, but those that continue to look at it this way fail to grasp that as a 3yo, Zenyatta had yet to make a single start until late November. Rachel to this point has already equaled Zenyatta's career lifetime starts and defeated males on three separate occasions. So even that crowd fails to grasp the significance of Rachel's entire body of work.

But, Horse of the Year is defined by their 2009 campaigns and Zenyatta, despite her effort in the Classic, was not as routinely challenged by her connections. Zenyatta's campaign was entirely underwhelming in its ambition and scope, until they decided to roll the dice in the Classic, which was made possible by it being on synthetics and in her backyard. Rachel Alexandra was rigorously challenged all year and campaigned as difficultly as any filly in the modern era of racing. The same cannot be said for Zenyatta, even taking the Classic into account.

That is the distinction and ultimately the only thing that should matter in this discussion. They both are brilliant in their own ways, but Zenyatta's schedule in no way compares to that thrust upon Rachel and for that reason Rachel clearly deserves the award.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeders Cup 2009 Recap

Not that the anti-synthetic crowd needs anymore ammunition, it worth noting that 0 pure dirt horses, managed to hit the board this Breeders Cup. Americans have bred for dirt for centuries and the decision to run the Cup over synthetics has thoroughly punished all dirt runners. For those ready for a conventional Cup, fear not, 2010 marks the return to normalcy.

With that said 2009 was an entertaining event. Lots of turf-like finishes in most races and some great efforts by many sentimental favorites.

Below is a brief recap of each race with the top three finishers and my grades for each of them going in.

Zenyatta - B
Gio Ponti - C
Twice Over - C

What more can be said about Zenyatta? She is without question one of the finest race mares of all-time. Denmon made a lot about her being last, which was curious considering she comes from dead last every race. Perhaps he was playing it up for the viewing audience that may not be aware of her closing tactics. I'll save the Horse of the Year debate for another post, but Zenyatta has earned the right at the very least to be in the discussion. What an effort.

Its no surprise that turf horses hit the board behind her. Pure dirt horses have been punished in the last two Breeders Cups. Props though to Gio Ponti and Twice Over for making a go of it.

Rip Van Winkle and Einstein ran horribly. Perhaps Winkle's foot issues were even greater than disclosed. It also appears Coolmore made the blunder of overthinking their strong hand. They split their pair of Mastercraftsman and Winkle trying to win two races and in the process won neither. The former should have been in the Classic.

Conduit - A
Presious Passion - B
Dar Re Mi - B

Props to Conduit for repeating, but the story as usual for me is Presious Passion and his wild front running antics. He is by far my favorite horse of the year and he ran a monster race yesterday. Its nothing short of amazing that a horse can go 45 for the half and still have the ability to dig in and re-kick down the stretch against a defending champion. He is all heart and my vote for Coolest Horse of the Year.

Dirt Mile
Furthest Land - D
Ready's Echo - C
Midshipman - B

Saving ground is great as long as you A) get a hole late and B) have a horse willing to go through it. Mastercraftsman was the best horse in the field but he paniced while trying to fit through on the rail and as a result got beat as the overwhelming favorite. Rail trips are great for questionable stock or horses that need small advantages, but there is absolutely nothing worse than getting the best horse beaten because he can get a clear run the entire race.

Goldikova - A
Courageous Cat - D
Justenuffhumor - C

What a run by Goldikova. She was stalker in this last year and a dead closer in 09. Delegator laid an egg despite getting a pace to run into with co-entrant Gladiatorus doing his best rabbit impersonation on the front.

Vale Of York - B
Lookin At Lucky - A
Noble's Promise - B

A completely logical result all the way around. Vale of York validated his Euro form, Lucky will feel hard pressed having to go so wide all the way around and Noble's Promise ran a winners race just succumbing to the top two late.

Dancing In Silks - C
Crown Of Thorns - C
Cost Of Freedom - C

Anyone that saw this coming deserves some real credit. A great bit of racing riding by the leaders pinning even money favorite Zensational down on the rail. He was going to be up against it under ideal conditions, but they had him beat a furlong from the gate. Quite surprised Fatal Bullet ran so poorly. He got the ideal trip and just flopped. Gayego made a good run but fell victim to the chalk from the rail syndrome that plagued a few too many horses this year.

Turf Sprint
California Flag - B
Gotta Have Her - A
Cannonball - C

Great effort by the top one. My favorite pick of the day Gotta Have Her ran huge and I think wins this race if she doesn't run into so much traffic. She was poised to pounce, but had to check mid stretch.

Juvenile Turf
Pounced - A
Bridgetown - C
Interactif - A

Not much to say here. The best horse wins on class.

Ladies Classic
Life Is Sweet - B
Mushka - C
Music Note - A

This race should have been a signal for things to come. Life Is Sweet has spent a year finishing behind Zenyatta and it was quite pleasing to see her finally get a chance to shine. What a finish. I'm not sure what happened to Careless Jewell. She ran rank and I'd love to know what she was thinking when after a sensible opening quarter she bolted and essentially ended her day early with an absurd second quarter of 22.

Music Note never made much impact and its pretty clear that she is blunted by synthetics.

Filly & Mare Sprint
Informed Decision - A
Ventura - A
Free Flying Soul - D

Informed Decision is a synthetic freak. She's now beaten Ventura twice and its clear her tactical speed is what makes her superior at 7f over the defending champion. Not a bad effort at all by Ventura, who just leaves a bit too much work when facing the top one.

Filly & Mare Turf
Midday - A
Pure Clan - C
Forever Together - A

Midday proved her class and won this with tactical speed. Forever Together, who has last a small step this year, simply left too much to do late. Big run by Pure Clan.

Juvenile Fillies
She Be Wild - B
Beautician - B
Blind Luck - A

Quite a bad beat for Biofuel who likely wins that race if not for severe interference on the far outside in the stretch. I liked both top two finishers, hinting in my grades they would be overlooked based on their last races. Beautician to be fair still looks like a second best type, but if she can get that killer instinct she could be something serious. She Be Wild is the deserving champion of the 2yo fillies after a nice rebound from her near miss.

Juvenile Fillies Turf
Tapitsfly - C
Rose Catherine - B
House Of Grace - A

Huge runs by the top two. I try not to put too much emphasis on morning reports but Tapitsfly was the talking horse in the field all week. Rose Catherine proved her huge Beyer was legit. Quite surprising that Junia and Lilly ran so poorly. I suspected they would be battling at the wire but perhaps it was too much too soon for Junia and the end of a long campaign for Lillie.

Man Of Iron - B
Cloudy's Knight - B
Mastery - A

Too bad the old warrior Cloudy's Knight got beat on a head bob. The old man made a valiant effort and ran the winners race. Mastery, who many beleived was the lock of the day had no excuses. Man Of Iron proved his class and has made Europeans 2 for 2 in the new Marathon.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Breeders Cup Live Blog

Good afternoon everyone. Time for the biggest card of the year.

I will post before and after each race here today so be sure to refresh or check back from time to time.

Juvenile Turf: Though the Juvenile Fillies might have scared some away from the Euros I still like Pounced here over Viscount Nelson/Interactif.

BTW, no pure dirt horse (all lifetime starts on dirt) hit the board yesterday. Couple that with the dismal performance of dirt horses last year and there is more than enough reason to put the big red X over any horse that fits that profile.

Good luck everybody. Be back soon...

Update 2:15

Not a bad start. Pounced cashes a ticket and proves much the best. Interactif ran his race and its a shame he couldn't get up for second.

On to the Turf Sprint. I like Gotta Have Her for the win and will box her, Diamondrella and California Flag for the exacta.

Update 2:32

Hit Gotta Have Her on the back end for place and show and the exacta. Quite a shame Gotta Have Her ran into so much traffic trouble, she was sitting on a monster race and could have taken this down with a bit more luck.

Nice start to the day, I hope I can maintain the momentum.

Update 2:48

Alright on to the Sprint. Big fan of Fatal Bullet and playing him straight. Will box Bullet, Candyman and Gayego in the exacta.

Update 3:17

Wow, what a race and nice payout if you could possibly have handicapped that race to that conclusion.

Zensational got beat as I guessed he would. I figured he'd be run into the ground from the lead, but instead he got out kicked to lead and pinned. Fatal Bullet and Capt Candyman were complete no-shows.

Thank goodness that insanity is over... next race please!

Update 3:33

Agh, the switch to ESPN. Racing has it backwards. As the races get more important the coverage should be growing, not shrinking from network television to cable. (Though not having ESPN is really unacceptable to any self respecting sports fan)

On to the Juvenile. I'm having a really tough time with this race between Noble's Promise, Pulsion and Lookin At Lucky. As a result I'm spreading around. Noble's Promise across, Pulsion to P/S, and Promise/Pulsion over Promise/Pulsion/Lucky in the exacta. This could be brutal.

Update 3:59

Logical finish despite the Vale of York price, who I graded favorably. Cant say I'm too upset with the outcome. Its never nice to lose money, but you can live with it when your handicapping is solid in retrospect. Noble's Promise ran a winner race, Lucky was legit. Pulsion was in contention then faded.

2 for 4 on the day, time to refocus and put to bed this 2 race slide.

Update 4:19

Mile. I love Goldikova, but cant play her at 6-5. Her chief competition is Delegator and he is 7-1. I'll take him across the board. I'll box Delegator/Goldikova/CowboyCal in an exacta.

Update 4:47

Brilliant run by Goldikova. Delegator was as close to a no show as a 4th place finisher can be.

I'm cooling off after a brilliant start. Still up close to 40% on the day, thanks in large part to the turf sprint, but I'm getting the feeling that I'll need to play smart to stay out out of the red.

So, no getting cute in Dirt Mile. I'm playing Mastercraftsman straight and him over Midshipman/Bullsbay in the exacta.

Update 5:24

Mastercraftsman clearly got scared when forced to make his move on the rail. He looked ready to uncoil the winning move, then balked at running in cramped quarters. Great effort by Furthest Land, surprising.

Update 5:52

Turf. Truth be told Presious Passion is my favorite horse in training and I could not live with myself betting against him. I'm playing him across.

Give them hell boy!!!

Update 6:21

Very proud of Passion. He's such a cool horse. The fact that he can go a half in 45 and still dig in for a fight late at 12f is amazing. Congrats to Conduit.

On to the Classic.

Rip Van Winkle is 6-1 right now and to say thats attractive is an understatement. I'm playing him across the board. I'm also playing him over the top of Einstein and Richards Kid in an exacta.

Update 7:16

What an effort by Zenyatta. I've never been a huge fan of hers but I found myself screaming for her down the stretch when she split foes. She's special and that was a very touching moment for many fans.

I'm signing off for the evening. Much more tomorrow.

As for my day, it was hit or miss. I ended up pulling a 13% profit. I could play coulda, woulda, shoulda, but when you end the day up anything at all, its worth being content. It was a great day of racing and making a little never hurts.

Hope everyone enjoyed the Cup.

Friday, November 6, 2009

(Early) Breeders Cup Saturday Picks

Because of time, or lack thereof, my Saturday picks will be rapid fire here. (Sorry, there is Breeders Cup races going as I write this!) These are extremely early as I plan to firmly cement my selection tomorrow morning, but as of this minute here’s where I am leaning.

The top horse is my selection, the other two are secondary horses to watch.

I’ll be running a live blog tomorrow with the start of the first race so I’ll elaborate on my selections then. Good luck!

Rip Van Winkle
Einstein/Richards Kid

Presious Passion
Spanish Moon/Conduit

Fatal Bullet
Capt Candyman Can/Gayego

Delegator/Cowboy Cal

Noble’s Promise/Lookin At Lucky


Gotta Have Her
Diamondrella/California Flag

Viscount Nelson/Interactif

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Breeders Cup Picks (Friday)

For a complete look at the fields including grades for each participant make sure to check out my BC Grades Spreadhseet below…

BC Grades w/ Odds Analysis

Ladies Classic

It’s little surprise for those following my countdown that I’m going with Careless Jewell. I think she is the most brilliant horse in the field and provides the least amount of questions. There are a lot of intriguing horses in the field, but I’m not getting cute here and simply going with the horse I think is the best of the lot. Music Note is fantastic horse and not to be underestimated, but I’m not convinced synthetics don’t blunt her brilliance to some degree, despite her third place finish here last year. A horse that really interests me is Lethal Heat. She hasn’t won a race in 09, but she has hit the board in all of those races and in two meetings with Zenyatta has only lost by a combined 2 lengths. She is as consistent as they come and at 20-1 she provides some fantastic value in an otherwise chalky affair. I’ll be using her on every ticket underneath.

Filly & Mare Turf

If I can get the morning line of 4-1 on Midday I’ll be quite pleased. Not only has she competed at a higher level than any other horse in the field this year, but she also doesnt need to drastically improve, but rather run back to several other efforts. Her Nassau victory was nothing short of superb and wins this comfortably if she replicates it. Forever Together is no afterthought and some people have overlooked the fact that her only losses since her dominant score here last year were in mile races. She needs more ground and her record shows that, bearing no losses beyond 8f in 2009. She loves the distance and I’m sure she will fire a big race. I cannot put her above Midday though because she clearly looks to have lost a step this year. She was running faster leading to this in '09 and though the distance is ideal, she will have to pull one out of the hat to top Midday if the European fires. A lot of people are throwing out Magical Fantasy and I think its absurd. Sure she hasn’t faced world class fields and is not putting up high Beyers, but there is something to be said for dominating the host track. She is clearly not to be considered an equal to the above, but its foolish to think this filly cannot round out the trifecta over the likes of Maram or Visit.

Juvenile Fillies

The race boils down to the Oak Leaf duo and Beautician for me. In races that appear on paper to be wide open, I tend to go back to horses that have acted over the track and distance and as a result I cannot overlook Blind Luck and Always a Princess. I waiver on who to prefer of the two. Blind Luck dominated the Oak Leaf and Always A Princess stepped up and ran huge in her second start. Princess looks like the type that could improve significantly with that experience behind her. I was somewhat disappointed with the morning line for Beautician. Not because it isn’t logical, it is, but because I was hoping for 10-1. I’m optimistic she will get to that price and if so, I will swing for the fences with her. Her last race was a troubled toss-out. Before that she ran a very good race against the fantastic Hot Dixie Chick. She looked poised to break out before never getting a chance at Keeneland. I think she could be sitting on a huge breakout effort and if the price is right, I’ll be backing her to do just that.

Filly and Mare Sprint

Chalk City. There is not a lot to discuss here as Ventura and Informed Decision are the dominant fillies and their main competition should be against each other. (No disrespect to the field) Informed Decision has a victory over Ventura, but I’m siding with Ventura here. For one, Ventura is without a doubt in the best form of her career. Her historic score in the Woodbine Mile was special and hints that she is still as dominant as ever. Couple that with her tour de force in this event last year and I’ll take her to turn the tide with Informed Decision. I’m a big Sara Louise fan, but I’m thoroughly perplexed as to how shell act over synthetics. As a result it’s a tossup between her and Seventh Street as to who I’ll favor to round out the Chalk Eating Weasel Trifecta.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

I look for the Europeans to dominate here and I am over the moon that Junia Tepzia is 8-1. She has manhandled the fields in her first two starts and got a monster rating in the last. She was freshened after her maiden score and comes into this race primed and ready. I’m extremely optimistic that she has more upside here than anyone else and at 8-1 she might be the best value on the card. Lillie Langtry is the most proven horse in the field, has the biggest win of the field and on paper looks like a near shoe-in. I suspect she will make her presence felt, but the only concern I have with her is she seems to be tailing off ever so slightly. House of Grace is America’s best chance and I think she will run very well here. She’s proven a route of ground and I think she is going to be much more effective on turf than the synth, which she won over last out on pure class and desire.


Mastery is being called the lock of the day by many. Hard to argue with that when you have a freshened G1 winning European coming over to face American horses that are largely considered afterthoughts at this distance. His entire 09 campaign has been superb and he even has a good effort over an all-weather track. His chief competition will once again be Father Time. Father Time has chased Mastery around twice in his career and while never being embarrassed, he’s never really threatened him. With that said, if he can run back to his King Edwards effort, he could logically make a go of it. Personally I’ll be rooting for Cloudy’s Night. The old warrior(9yo) has come back from a one year absence and promptly reeled off two impressive score in graded stakes company. He’s a stayer through and through and though he might not be as dynamic as his Euro counterparts, he can make up for it in heart and desire if it turns into a dog fight. I hope the old man brings it one last time!

Railtout Breeders Cup Schedule

Friday: Picks for Saturday
Saturday: Live Blog
Sunday: Recap

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breeders Cup 2009 Odds

With posts drawn and morning lines assigned its time to start finding where the value resides in the card.

I've made a spreadhseet building upon the Grades in past posts and added the morning line and horses that I think are overlays and underlays. You can view this here

BC Grades w/ Odds Analysis

Its fairly self explanatory but I'll provde a brief breakdown. I've assigned colors next to the odds to represent good value (green), poor value (red) and nuetral (yellow). The first two are self explanatory. The neutral designation is for lines that I think are either accurate (neither terribly attractive nor poor) or lines that wont affect my overall opinion on the play. Entrants left blank I dont really have a definitive opinion one way or the other.

Keep in mind these were my first thoughts on the odds and will change as I have more time to look at them and consider them.

Feel free to check back at this link from time to time to see updates I make.

Railtout Breeders Cup Schedule

Thursday: Picks for Friday
Friday: Picks for Saturday
Saturday: Live blog
Sunday: Recap

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Breeders Cup Friday: Pros & Cons

Below is an expansion on the Breeers Cup Grades posted yesterday. You can find the base spreadsheet here...

Breeders Cup Grades

I have made some minor grade adjustments here or there and have the complete fields now reflected since posts have been drawn. Anyone interested feel free to check back on the sheet throughout the week as I am updating and refining it daily until Thursday night, my self imposed deadline for 'capping the cup' in this space.

Below are all the horses I have graded A or B at some point in the last two days for Fridays Breeders Cup races.

Ladies Classic

Carless Jewel
Freakish ability
Multiple wins on synthetics
Controlling speed
Class test
Synthetic wins in maiden an allowance class
Track does not typically favor speed

Cocoa Beach
o Back class
o Appears to love Santa Anita
o Has lost a step in 09
o Finished behind horses she should be beating

Lethal Heat
o Consistent
o Loves synthetics, particularly Santa Anita
o Bad case of second-itis (7-0-3-3 in 09)
o Doesn’t appear to have that “monster” effort in her

Life Is Sweet
o No Zenyatta or males this time
o Consistency
o Great record at Santa Anita
o Appears to be regressing slightly
o Figures on the low side of late

Music Note
o More than enough ability to win this
o Dynamic
o Tactical speed
o Ran well in this last year
o Two monster efforts back to back could take an edge off her
o Synthetics might blunt her ability slightly

Rainbow View
o As talented a filly as any in the field
o Back class that rivals any here
o The dreaded second start off the plane
§ Three week turnaround

Filly & Mare Turf

Forever Together
o Defending Champ
o Perfect distance
§ Only losses in 09 at a mile
o Appears to have lost a step
§ Speed figures have trended downwards in 09

Magical Fantasy
o 4 race win streak
o West Coast ringer
o Beaten nothing of this quality
o Faced nothing of this quality
o Average speed figures for a multiple G1 winner

o Class of the field
o Repeat of Nassua effort wins for fun
§ B effort could be enough
o Freshened and prepped for this
o None of real consequence beyond the ship

Juvenile Fillies

Always A Princess
o Proven over track and distance
o Should move forward from Oak leaf
o Handily beaten by likely favorite in oak Leaf

o Both game an consistent
o Fast enough to win
o Is likely to be completely overlooked based on last effort
o A mild case of second-it is

Blind Luck
o Consistent
o Has adapted to multiple surfaces
o Dominated the signature prep for this race
o One lost is to the best filly she faced to date

Devil May Care
o Undefeated
o Tactical speed
o No synthetic form

o G1 win around two turns
§ Defeating a rival here
o Will need ideal trip + pace

She Be Wild
o Consistent
o Two turn and distance experience
o Will get at a price because of slim loss last out
o Might lack the late kick needed here to win

Filly & Mare Sprint

Game Face
o Capable of a monster effort
o Fairly consistent
o Synthetic prep for this was very poor
o Two loses to one of the top rivals here

Informed Decision
o Undefeated on synthetics
o Beat main rival in only meeting
o Recent speed figures have been lacking

Sara Louise
o Consistent
o Last filly to beat the great Rachel Alexandra
o 09 races have been stellar
o No synthetics starts

o Defending champ
o In career best form
o Consitently higher Beyer’s than field
o Can be beaten by an equal talent
§ Two losses in 09 to Informed Decision and Gio Ponti

Juvenile Fillies Turf

House of Grace
o Undefeated
o Beaten several she’ll face here
o May be beating inferior U.S stock

In The Slips
o Getting hot at the right time
o Beating up on second tier euro’s

Junia Tepzia
o Undefeated and unchallenged
o Highest racing post rating of the field
o Looks to be capable of much more
o Not a real glaring weakness

La Nez
o Consistently improving
o Run in good company
o First start on turf

Lillie Langtry
o Run in the highest class of the field
o Has never run a bad race in esteemed company
o Long campaign
o Figures have trended down of late

Rose Catherine
o Freaked in first race over turf
o Highest Beyer in the field
o Bounce candidate
o First stretch out

Smart Seattle
o Consistent
o Has run on equal terms or better than many in here
o Has the look of a horse capable of improving
o Second-it is to horses that might not be the main rivals here


Black Astor
o Loves distance an is grade quality in the division
o Controlling speed
· Cons
o Things can go south quick if he is pressure on the lead

Cloudys Night
o Old warrior is in great form
o Legit G1 horse on his best day
o Will run into a couple here that are better than what he has faced in 09

Father Time
o Class edge over many here
o Repeat of King Edwards effort can only be topped by main rival
o Synthetic win to his credit
o Rested and primed for this
o Has never been able to beat Mastery regardless of distance

Man Of Iron
o Switch to all weather rejuvenated season
o Has run in good company
o Never been of the top two’s quality
o Long campaign

o The class of the field
o Repeat of last will be more than enough here
o Been campaigned with this in mind
o Good effort over all weather track
o Not much to dislike

Railtout Breeders Cup Scheule

Wenesday: Pro's & Con's (Saturday)

Thursday: Picks for Friday

Friday: Picks for Saturday

Saturday: Live Blog

Sunday: Recap