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

Monday, November 2, 2009

Breeders Cup 2009: The Grades

Breeders Cup week is here and its time to start forming tickets and hopefully picking winners.

Below is a link to a spreadsheet I've made for the event with grades on each horse.

Breeders Cup Grades

I've tweaked these grades over the weekend and will no doubt make further changes as we have new defections that can affect the running or enhance the chances of others. Feel free to check back to see any further tweaks I make.

Railtout Breeders Cup Schedule

Tuesday - Analysis of Friday's card
Wednesday - Analysis of Saturday's card
Thursday - Picks for Friday's card
Friday - Picks for Saturday's card
Saturday - Live blog of Saturdays card
Sunday - Recap

Friday, October 23, 2009

Miscellaneous Musings

*** I've received some emails as to the infrequency of the blog in the last month. Frankly a lot is going on with work and my free time is at a minimum. I try to hold each post to some standard and I generally wait until I have the proper time to do something worthwhile.

With that said I've been picking at the Breeders Cup selections and analysis and the blog will go into overdrive the week of the event. I'm also planning on doing a live blog throughout the day.

Also, the second part of the Saratoga piece has not been shelved. Many thanks to the Paulick Report for highlighting the piece. I've gotten some great feedback and it is certainly appreciated. I had the follow up about 90% done before I went in a broader, more extensive direction. It now rivals War & Peace in length. I'm actually going to chop that into more parts, but I'm not planning on posting it until after the Breeders Cup so I can give it its proper due.

*** Rail Trip's defection from the Classic is a big blow for the Americans in our signature race. We are essentially left with Summer Bird and Einstein in my opinion. Summer Bird is boom or bust without any form over synthetics. Einstein is the type of horse that runs a game 2nd or 3rd here and only wins if the race falls apart. If you get the feeling that I don't seem optimistic about the Americans in this race, you're correct.

*** Gitano Hernando, the G1 Goodwood upsetter and The Rail Touts $38 hero is bypassing the Classic. Sad to hear, but you cant fault connections for doing what they think is right by the horse. I think he stood a great chance to get a piece of the Classic, despite the fact that the Classic would be the dreaded second start "off the plane".

*** Betting with your head is overrated. The Tout bypassed a recent wager on a good friends horse while at the track, only to watch it pay over $100. I try to bet with my head most of the time, but typically while at the track I'll throw a little money around on personal interests. Being Mr. Bigshot after making Keeneland my personal punching bag during my last day at the Spring meet, I went against the routine and decided to "bet with my head" all day. (Because I've got this game figured out now!) I promptly missed a $2,500 payday. Go figure how the rest of my day went... right into the lumberyard, Danny.

*** You have to give Claiborne some credit for being the first major Kentucky farm to release their 2010 stud fees. Most farms are in wait and see mode, scared to put themselves out there only to have to make later revisions. (Like Lanes End in '09) Nobody really knows where the market is and I suspect most don't want to accept just how bad it could be. Mares bred were down 10% last year, and I suspect we will see another 10-15% decline in 2010. (Which might not be a bad thing, but I'll save that for another day)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weekend Review

G1 Goodwood

Congratulations to Team Valor for the big upset. They have a great track record of scoring first off the plane and where this might have looked a bit ambitious, the truth was Gitano Hernando’s form was solid, he was on the improve and figured to be flattered by a track that is counterproductive to American horses.

Gitano is a dangerous horse in the Classic. The 9f of the Goodwood is well shorter than his preferred distance and he beat a fair bit of America’s best Classic contenders. Minus Zenyatta, his only real concern is other foreign invaders. (Rip Van Winkle & Mastercraftsman)

The main take home point here is the American’s stand little chance against the Euro’s for the Breeder’s Cup. What we’ve got with synthetic racing these days, is horses bred for dirt, running over a synthetic track that is best suited for turf runners. So, the best out West are generally just the horses that regress the least over the surface they are not ideally suited for.

This is highlighted when west coasters ship abroad and get throttled or the Euro’s come over and teach a thing or two about turf racing.

One can only hope that the Breeders Cup will not be run on a synthetic track again and that Santa Anita will eventually convert the track back to dirt. The alternative would be for American breeders to completely refocus on breeding for turf racing, which is a long shot considering it’s something they’ve typically had a major aversion to. Without a major shift in focus to turf racing we will continue to produce false standouts and G1 winners over a surface than 1% of the participants are suited for.

G1 Clement Hirsch

Pressious Passion is by far my favorite horse in the sport. His wild, front running tactics are a sight to behold and one can’t help but enjoy watching a horse run as absolutely fast as he can for as long as he can.

He got back to his winning ways here in the Hirsch, after a disappointing effort in the Arlington Million. It’s not hard to see why this horse prefers the firm going. His speed is blunted over a soft course as was the case at Arlington.

Once the early splits lit up in the Hirsch, the race was over. Passion going a half in .47 is like having a Porsche idling.

If he sets a .47 half in the Breeders Cup, good night…

G1 Lady’s Secret

Slow race, low Beyer, visually impressive.

Not much more to say. The great mare continues her perfect run and soundly toyed with the field. She’s not beating anything of note but she looks to be rounding back into form at the right time.

She is America’s real hope to win the Classic and I hope her connections decide to give her that shot. It’s win-win proposition. If she triumphs she will go down as one of the best race mares of all time. If she is to retire losing a race, it serves her better to have that loss against males in the toughest race of the year as opposed to against her own gender in a race that will largely be considered an afterthought by many. (Plus, who can consider any American a “lock” after the way the track has played for foreign imports?)

She’s been handled with the kid gloves this year; it’s time to let the mare show us what she’s got.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saratoga Expansion

It’s just been announced by the NYRA that the 2010 Saratoga meet will be expanded by 4 days, creating an additional weekend of racing. The Coaching Club American Oaks will be moved from Belmont Park to opening weekend at Saratoga.

I’ll spare the PR speak given about the decision but the bottom line is there is more money to be made at Saratoga rather than Belmont.

Of course I thoroughly disagree with the decision. As I’ve harped since the inception of this blog, racing needs less days not more. You increase quality by decreasing quantity. The quality of the Saratoga meet has gradually declined as the meet has shifted from its original 24 day meet, to the now ever bloated 40 day meet.

Yesterday I posted a breakdown of the Saratoga money flow (With the second part of that post coming tomorrow) and if you click here, you can see a day by day breakdown of the purses on offer in 2009.

As you can see the average race card at Saratoga has drastically declined. While Saratoga still boasts one of the best stakes schedules in the sport, the quality of most cards is really lacking. Now to be fair, a weak card at Saratoga is a strong card elsewhere, but some people like me hold Saratoga to a higher standard.

Also, a troubling theme is developing with the way the NYRA is structuring stakes races. The Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama are now essentially the same race. Much like there is no difference between the Whitney and Woodward. While it is obvious more people watch the Woodward at Saratoga and more will wager on the CCAO at Saratoga, the race will be degraded as they will be run over identical configurations by largely the same fields.

Why we can’t follow the European model, which focuses on short(er) meets of extremely high quality is beyond me. You won’t see a card filled with claimers in Europe, but get ready for them at the Spa; they’ve got a foothold and aren’t going away any time soon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Purse Structures & Money Flow Pt.1

As many who follow the blog know, I’ve been somewhat interested in finding new ways to structure purses, largely in an attempt to create greater incentive for horses to have longer careers.

An idea I’ve thrown around was to tier purses so that 4yo+ runs for more money than 3yo’s, who run for more money than 2yo’s and so on.

For once, rather than state an idea and assume it has merit I decided to dig in to the existing purse structure to see how it is distributed and see what if any changes could be made.

I chose Saratoga to review, which seemed as logical as any as it was underway at the time and is a quite lucrative meet.

So, what follows below is a break down of all purse money for the 2009 Saratoga meet. I elected to break the money down in several ways, by division and gender and then by race type.

I will make one note though about the numbers and state in advance that broad assumptions derived from them would be foolish as each meet is somewhat unique, not only in what it focuses on but where it falls in the year. Saratoga is known for its baby races and its top shelf stakes schedule. So it serves a slightly different purpose in late summer than say the Keeneland fall meet, where aside from the odd quarter-horse esque dash for the ultra-precocious types, most 2yo’s are still in training, therefore they don’t card many 2yo races. Also, for a meet like that, you have to card many more age restricted races then you would in late summer where most horses have to be introduced to the older horse ranks.

With that said here are the numbers…

Saratoga 2009

Percentage of Total Purse Money Offered By Age & Gender

2yo Fillies: 8.9%
2yo Colt: 9.6%
3yo Fillies: 6.9%
3yo Colts: 11.5%
3yo + F/M: 25.1%
3yo + C: 35%

Here is a further breakdown of the above stats with the stakes earnings for each division separated from the purses they run for in maiden, claiming or allowance races.

2yo Fillies 6.2%
2yo Fillies Stakes: 2.6%
2yo Colt: 6.9
2yo Colt Stakes: 2.7
3yo Fillies: 0%
3yo Fillies Stakes: 6.9%
3yo Colts: 0.9%
3yo Colts Stakes: 10.5%
3yo + F/M: 13.8%
3yo + F/M Stakes: 11.2%
3yo + C: 22.5%
3yo + C Stakes: 14.5%

Percentage of Total Purse Money Offered By Race Type

Maiden: 23.3%
Claiming: 8.7%
Allowance: 17.7%
Listed Stakes: 12.7%
Graded Stakes: 37.5%

*** The maiden percentage includes maiden claiming races. Allowance is a catch all for straight allowances, allowance-optional claimers and starter handicaps.

Percentage of Total Stakes versus Total Non-Stakes Races

Stakes: 50.2%
Non-Stakes: 49.8%

Points of note

• It’s hard to make the case that more money should be added to the stakes purses as half of the money is going to the top 1-2% of the breed to begin with.

• 25% of all money offered goes to maidens, the majority of which is going to 3yo and up maidens.

• The average race card is dominated by unproven or questionable stock. More cards have a higher percentage of maiden and claiming races than allowance or listed stakes.

• 75% of purse money is given to maidens and stakes horses. A wild curve considering the majority of horses fall somewhere in between those two points.

• At Saratoga, having a 3yo filly is the worst possible age/gender to have

*** Friday I’ll post the second part, giving ideas that will address putting the existing money into better use, as well as a structure that could incentivize keeping horses active longer or at the very least rewarding those that choose to stick around.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekend Review

(G1) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

The story was Sea The Stars going in and he delivered a stirring effort to win the Arc, a race that apparently has cemented his status amongst the great horses of all time in Europe. I say "appears" because I don't know nearly enough about foreign racing and its history to have a really good opinion one way or the other. (Though I enjoy reading about the great Brigadier Gerrard from time to time)

What I do know is that him becoming the first horse to ever win the Guineas-Derby-Arc treble coupled with the manner in which he won the race Sunday is very impressive.

After breaking sharp, Sea The Stars was rank throughout the first mile of the race being tucked in behind horses on the rail. Turning into the straight you couldn't help but question whether the horse was going to find the necessary room to make a run for it.

A slight hole finally appeared and despite some contact to claim the position, the colt turned on the afterburners and quickly found himself a couple lengths the better of the field.

It cannot be overlooked that his trip in the race would have humbled many a good horse. Great horses though, find a way...

(G1) Jockey Club Gold Cup

The year of the off track continued Saturday, as well as the ascension of Summer Bird up the ranks. He may not better better than Rachel Alexandra, but he is better than every other dirt horse in the world.

In fact I'd go as far as to say he is the second best horse in training in North America. (Surpassing even Zenyatta in terms of current ability) This little horse has really lived up to his potential and has impressed me by developing a little fight on the front end. He is by no means a speed horse, but he has shown some real pep early in each of his last three races. Adding that to his stamina based pedigree has created a really fine racehorse.

I'm not optimistic about any non Euro, much less an east coast-dirt horse, winning the Classic this year but he could be a big factor if he fires over the synthetic surface. If the BC was on dirt this year, he'd be the logical favorite.

I certainly need to tip the hat to Quality Road. He was in much better condition for this race and it showed as he fought a very good horse to the wire, despite the stamina edge his rival held.

I really hope Quality Road comes back next year. I do believe with a winter to further develop and some much needed experience under him, he could turn into a real monster next year. I could easily see this horse dominating the east coast, knocking down 3-4 G1 races. (If not more)

Hopefully the depressed market will keep him around.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cryptoclearance, You Will Be Missed


September 25, 2009

Cryptoclearance (Fappiano - Naval Orange by Hoist The Flag) died at Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic Thursday, August 24 from a heart attack stemming from complications following colic surgery.

He was 25 and had been actively breeding through 2009.

“On behalf of myself, and all of the staff , we want to send our condolences to Phil Teinowitz and to all of the fans who have appreciated and supported Cryptoclearance during his lifetime.”

“He was a ‘breed-shaping’ horse, and his influence will be passed down over the years through not only his sons, but very significantly, through his daughters. His contribution to the breed is that of soundness, stamina and above all else heart - traits that he and his offspring have displayed in the races that define class in our breed."

“Scotty Schulhofer and Mr Teinowitz found Cryptoclearance in the 1985 Saratoga yearling sale and he remained wholly owned by Mr Teinowitz throughout his racing and breeding career. Named after the Naval Security department during WW 2, Phil had a very special relationship with “Crypto” during the 24 years he owned him, and he followed the success of all of “Crypto’s” offspring as if they were his. “

Cryptoclearance ran in all legs of the American Triple Crown, closing through traffic to finish 4th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Preakness, and 2nd in the Belmont. The popular son of Fappiano was a four-time Grade-1 winner, including scores in the Florida Derby and Donn Handicap. Known for his tremendous closing kick, Cryptoclearance amassed $3,376,327 in earnings during his racing career, which saw him win 7 stakes races and hit the board in 29 of 44 starts.

As a sire Cryptoclearance was wildly successful, siring no less that 3 Champions, 41 Stakes Winners and 88 Stakes horses. Progeny of Cryptoclearance have gone on to earn over $50,000,000 on the racetrack.

Notable offspring by the stallion include Champion Older Male and 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, Breeders Cup Classic winner Volponi, G1 Bluegrass Winner Millenium Wind, G1 Spinaway winner Strategic Maneuver and G1 Futurity winner Traitor

“All of his handlers over the years recall how smart and easy he was to work with, but when his mare came into the breeding shed, they also knew they had to be on their game because it was an Olympic event when it was time for him to breed. That’s how he lived his life.”

“He ended his racing and breeding career with the respect and admiration of all horsemen.”

He will be buried at Margaux.


Blog note: I had been writing a fairly big piece for the blog this week that I was quite eager to post today. Its been a pretty rough couple days with Crypto's passing and I was unable to finish it. My apologies. The blog should be back in action early next week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview With Steve Haskin!

The Rail Tout is proud to post a Q&A done with renowned Turf writer Steve Haskin this week. It is undoubtedly the high water mark for the blog and it speaks volumes to Steve Haskin’s generosity and commitment to the sport and its fans to take time out of his schedule to contribute here.

For those unfamiliar with his work, below is a brief bio…

Steve Haskin is an award-winning Turf writer renowned for his Kentucky Derby commentary. During his nearly three decades at Daily Racing Form, Haskin made a name with his "Derby Watch" columns. He joined The Blood-Horse magazine in 1998 as senior correspondent. Haskin, who has won six Red Smith Awards for his Kentucky Derby coverage, is the author of Tales From The Triple Crown, Horse Racing's Holy Grail - The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby and biographies of Dr. Fager, John Henry, and Kelso.

I highly recommend everyone follow his blog, Hangin' With Haskin, on the Bloodhorse website and his book on the great Dr. Fager in the Thoroughbred Legends series is a must read.

I hope everyone enjoys the following interview and I hope to be able to provide more content of its type in the future.

Thanks again Steve!


Rail Tout: The Breeders Cup has grown considerably over the years. They’ve added an extra day, divided the day by sexes, and have created a handful of “specialist” type races. Do you think the creation of these new races dilute the overall quality of event and what is your feeling about the “Ladies Day”?

Steve Haskin: At first I did think it diluted the talent and was dead set against it, but when I was actually at the BC last year, I was glad to see some of the stayers, turf sprinters and juvenile turf horses given a chance to shine. But all in all, I believe it does dilute the BC as a whole. And I do not like Ladies Day, because the Distaff (Ladies classic) is one of the few BC races that at times produces a Horse of the Year, and its not appropriate to have fillies like Zenyatta perform in front of 20,000-25,000 fewer fans and virtually no TV audience. And it's not fair to the Saturday customers who pay all that money and have to work or go to school on Friday to deprive them of seeing a mare like Zenyatta and a possible Horse of the Year decided.

RT: The Breeders Cup will be run over a synthetic track for the second time this year at Santa Anita, what is your opinion of synthetic racing and the Breeders Cup decision to have their event run over it in consecutive years?

SH: I hate synthetic racing, because the form is awful, it's phony, and horses are still breaking down. The decision to run the BC at Santa Anita two years in a row was the worst decision they've ever made, and they've paid the price not getting Rachel Alexandra and a host of the top horses who will not run. I hate to say it but they got what they deserved.

RT: Most fans universally despise the medication rules and penalties for those that get caught breaking those rules, why is it that the sport has been so slow to address the issue and are you in favor of a “no race day medication” policy?

SH: The medication rules are a mess. There is nothing rational about them. The sport has been slow to address it because it's slow to address everything. There is no one running the sport. At least the sport is trying now, but it took Eight Belles and PETA protests and congressional hearings to get them off their butts. Yes, I am in favor of no race day medication, but it would take a long time to implement it because so many of our horses are so dependent on Lasix.

RT: It’s generally accepted that the modern thoroughbred is not as sound as decades past. Statistics show that the average amount of starts per horse has declined steadily with each passing decade. With this said, there also appears to be a major shift in training, where horses train more and race less. (Especially with a wealth of lucrative options available and commercial breeding stock values being so high) Is it accurate to say that modern training tactics and advances in veterinarian care and diagnostics could actually be more to blame than any inherent genetic deficiencies in the modern thoroughbred?

SH: That is a part of it, but I believe the main reason is the amount of speed we have infused into the blood of the Thoroughbred, combined with the use of Bute and Lasix and other drugs. I'm not sure if training tactics contribute to unsoundness and much as unsoundness contributes to today's training tactics. Trainers are forced to be conservative, and sometimes they overdo it. Horses are now being trained defensively rather that the offensive approach taken by trainers years ago. Horse also race fewer times, because owners nowadays do not want to lose and dont accept defeats with the same class owners did in the past. That's because every loss means a decrease in stud value in owners' minds. It's not so much advances in veterinary care that has changed the game as much as the number of veterinarians in the sport now who have lot more power in decision making, and they too have become more conservative.

RT: I maintain that on the basis of versatility, speed and level of opposition, that Dr. Fager is the greatest thoroughbred of all time. As the resident leader of the Dr. Fager fan club, is this crazy talk, or does he have a legit claim to the throne?

SH: In my opinion Dr. Fager in 1968 was the greatest horse of all time. Of the horses I've seen, over a three-year period -- ages 2,3, and 4 -- Spectacular Bid was the greatest. He was the closest thing to the perfect horse.

RT: I’ve outlined here prior that I believe the sport should have a tiered purse structure based on age, with the aim to create less emphasis on bottoming out young 2yo’s and making the handicap division twice as lucrative. Simply put, a 3yo runs for more money than a 2yo, and a 4yo+ runs for more money than a 3yo. The thought process being, until we emphasize running older horses, and more importantly put the real money in that division, there will be little incentive to keep horses on the track if they have commercial value. What do you think of such an idea and what do you think can be done slow the retirement rate of top horses so that fans can follow horses for more than a season?

SH: It's a good concept, but it will never happen, because 3-year-olds will always be the glamour division, and purses will always remain high. We need another ACRS Series, where one major bulk of money -- like $5 million or $10 million -- is paid to the winner of the series, who accumulates the most points. One crazy concept would be, if a horse is retired at 3 for stud duty, and not due to an injury, he must wait twice as long to become eligible to the Hall of Fame. Of course, that would mean Secretariat would have had to wait, but that's just the way it would be. It's difficult to turn down an offer from Sheikh Mohammed.

RT: Rachel Alexandra vs Ruffian, who you got?

SH: I can't compare the two and never take part in matching horses of different generations. Ruffian was the most brilliant filly I've ever seen and Rachel is the more accomplished.

RT: If her career was over today, where would you rank Zenyatta in the all-time filly/mare division and do you think the connections have in some ways hindered her long-term status by not challenging her more in 2009?

SH: As of now, I'd rank her in top 20 all time and in the Top 10 of modern fillies/mares. And yes, her conservative campaign at 5 will probably hinder her when people assess the greatest fillies, as will having 11 of her 12 starts on a synthetic surface. But on the other hand, most fillies in her similar situation would have been retired after last year's Distaff. Let's see if she runs in the Classic and how she does before ranking her. I just wish she would have run a few more times on the dirt, so we could get a true gauge on how great she is.

RT: You’ve successfully made the leap from traditional print media to the online world, with a wildly popular blog on the Bloodhorse site. What do you think of the decline in traditional media and the switch to the digital realm? What do you see as the positives and negatives of this shift in coverage?

SH: The demise of tradition is always sad, and the loss of so many beat writers leaves a major void. The internet allows the average fan to have his or her comments printed in public, and that's good. But you still have to be able to separate the casual fan with a blog from the professional writer who has been writing publicly all of his or her life. One is a hobby and pastime and one is a job and a livelihood, so there is a difference. But there is a place for both.

RT: What do you think of the Rail Tout Blog and do you have any advice for us amateur bloggers?

SH: Definitely one of the better blogs, because it's knowledgeable and well thought out, and the analysis of the leading horses is extremely well crafted. My advice is to stick with what you know best and what aspect of the sport you like the best -- whether its handicapping or rankings and comments or race analysis -- and concentrate on that and keep trying to improve on it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rachel Alexandra: The Best Ever

Saturday confirmed what many thought going in, Rachel Alexandra is the greatest filly to ever step on a racetrack. The race drew unusually deep (In a relative sense, considering the handicap division) and I couldn’t help but think the trainers had decided to take a stand against the talented filly.

She certainly was not done any favors during the running. Da’Tara and Past The Point pressured the filly on both sides into extremely fast fractions of 22.85 and 46.4. For a comparison, she was forced to go as fast early as the G1 Forego sprint just an hour or so earlier. To underline the nature of how the race was run, look at how the field finished. The 4 horses closest to Rachel at the half-mile pole, were in the final four spots at the wire.

That was a brutal pace and the fact that a 3yo filly could withstand that and still out finish the field is nothing short of amazing.

There can be no doubt that she is the greatest filly ever. None whatsoever.

Now, I hate to give up space here to address internet message board talking points, but I feel compelled to touch on some of the things that have made the rounds on internet forums by the small minority of lunatics that are either anti-Jess Jackson, anti-Asmussen, pro-Zenyatta or pro-Ruffian or all of the above. Remarkably some Internet loons don’t understand that you can be a fan multiple horses and that fandom in horseracing is not an exclusive venture.

1. Zenyatta has had the softest of schedules in 2009. She has not been routinely challenged at any point in her career to the extent Rachel has.

2. Speculating that Zenyatta could defeat Rachel Alexandra at 10-furlongs is just that, pure speculation. Of course under Saturday’s conditions you wouldn’t have liked Rachel’s chances, but each race dictates different tactics. Rachel had to be gunned to the lead from that post-position otherwise she would have been boxed and battered the entire race. Rachel had no problems going 9.5 furlongs in the Preakness under a brutal pace and there is no doubt that she would have beaten that field at 10-furlongs. To assume Rachel, who has shown the complete ability to rate, could not be effective at 10-furlongs is a baseless opinion. Her ability to set the pace or stalk gives her the advantage over Zenyatta in any hypothetical match up. (Beyond the fact that Rachel has routinely beaten stiffer opposition anyways)

3. Ruffian never left the confines of the northeast and as a 3yo never left New York. She didn’t run in the Kentucky Oaks and never competed in a Triple Crown event. Rachel has won over 8 different tracks to Ruffian's 4. Rachel has won over a variety of different off tracks, whereas Ruffian only ran over fast tracks. Rachel won the premier event for 3yo fillies Kentucky Oaks, Ruffian didn't make the gate. Rachel won a Triple Crown race, Ruffian never entered one. Rachel beat 3yo males twice, Ruffian never beat a male racehorse. Rachel defeated older males, Ruffian never raced against one. Additionally Rachel ran more often than Ruffian, even if you omitted Rachel’s last two races, which would have occurred after Ruffian’s breakdown in their respective seasons.

Now Ruffian backers can point to two things. Ruffian won a race at a mile and a half and she set 5 stakes records and equaled 2 track records.

First, outside of her one start at 12 furlongs, Ruffian never ran past 9 furlongs. In fact Ruffian only had 2 races beyond a mile. To act as if she was some great stamina horse is purely revisionist history. Of her 10 wins, 7 were 7-furlongs or under. Also, she was loose on the lead under modest fractions in her 12-furlong win, where speed is even more dangerous against horses that have stamina but no tactical speed.

As far as her records, it’s certainly much easier to break stakes records the earlier you ran in the time line. A stakes record in 1975 is easier to break than a stakes record in 2009. Each year, as thousands more horses have a chance to whittle down the times, they in turn become more difficult to break. Also consider, three of Rachel’s races have been against males, which will have records infinitely more difficult to break than age and gender restricted races that Ruffian ran in.

I say all of this not as a means to degrade the greatness of Ruffian. She was unquestionably a brilliant racehorse and one of the finest runners the sport has ever produced. Ruffian was light years better than Rachel as a 2yo and I would without question pick Ruffian over Rachel under a mile. With that said, Rachel is the vastly more tested and proven entity. She has routinely faced and beaten the best the sport has to offer, not just the best of her sex. Rachel is the better horse because she has thrived in races most fillies, even great ones like Ruffian, dont even bother to load in the gate for.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

3yo Top Ten

1. Rachel Alexandra (1)
2. Summer Bird (5)
3. Quality Road (3)
4. Munnings (6)
5. Capt. Candyman Can (5)
6. Mine That Bird (2)
7. Kensei (New)
8. Big Drama (4)
9. Charitable Man (9)
10. Papa Clem (8)

No change at the top and no reason to believe it will for the remainder of the year.

Summer Bird takes a sizeable leap from the last poll off his score in the Travers. He is simply the most accomplished two-turn male in the sport and he looks better and better every race.

I didn’t feel compelled to move Quality Road. I still believe he is the most gifted 3yo colt in the division and his Travers performance could be blamed on a number of things from the sloppy going, erratic scheduling, first 10-furlong race or a bounce off of his track record sprint. It’s worth noting he could very well be the best 3yo sprinter as well, though he has nothing of note to prove in that division and will likely not sprint for the remainder of the year.

Munnings moves up a couple spots. Now this might be curious off of two losses but hear me out. One, the top ten hadn’t been updated for a while and he was very much deserving of this spot going into the weekend. He gets a mulligan from me on Saturday because he was dropping back in distance and the track conditions were less than ideal. (As was his post position) I simply don’t think the Captain is as good a sprinter as him on a fair track. He now has to prove he can overcome a couple losses, but the ability is there.

Capt. Candyman Can moves up a few spots with the Kings Bishop score. It’s only fair as he is the most consistent sprinter in the division. To be fair he has only stayed in this division while other freaky sprinters have tried more ambitious races, but there is something to be said about sticking with what your best at. I actually think there are 3-4 sprinters that could be better than him, but he is the most accomplished in the division and deserves to be ranked as such.

Mine That Bird makes a big fall. I hate to say he is increasingly looking like a one hit wonder, but perhaps a better way to put it is he is looking like a horse that got hot at the right time. Now, he has not run a bad race since his Derby score, but he has a bad case of second-itis. The company line is he has had a handful of bad rides of late. I somewhat agree to an extent, but the fact that the horse has to have a certain ride and a certain setup to be effective speaks of his deficiencies as a runner. He’s a threat in any race he runs in, but until he shows some consistency others are more deserving of higher rankings.

Kensei is the new boy on the list because of the infrequency of the list of late, but his scores in the Dwyer and Jim Dandy make him deserving. His Travers effort was poor but again that could be based on a lot of different things. He is an emerging horse and could be force late in a variety of different races/divisions.

Big Drama falls big-time based on his clunker in the Kings Bishop and underwhelming effort in the West Virginia Derby. Talent isn’t enough at this point to rank him higher and my concern moving forward is his handling and how he’ll be used in the future.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend Review (Travers Edition)

I’m finally back in the fray after some time on the shelf. Despite popular belief I have not been on vacation, to the contrary it’s been a very busy few weeks on the work front. I finally got a respite this weekend and it was nice to be able to kick back and watch some sports. There was some good racing on Saturday, as well as the showdown between Manchester United and Arsenal and the Couture vs. Nogueira fight in the UFC. Not a bad sporting trifecta at all.

Year Of The Mudder

I can’t remember a year in recent memory so dominated by off track going. The Derby, Haskell and Travers were run over sloppy tracks and the Preakness was drying out from significant rain.

I typically don’t mind the odd race over less than ideal footing. Versatility is important to me when evaluating the quality of a horse and I like to see horses able to overcome any hurdle. This year has really taken it to an extreme though. Since the Triple Crown started only one 3yo G1 race has been run over a dry, fast track. 2009 will be known as the year of the off track.

G1 Travers

Pretty convincing win by Summer Bird, who has really blossomed into a fine horse. My dark horse Derby selection has finally put it all together. The interesting thing is the horse has really picked it up pace wise in his last two starts. He used to be a dead closer, now they are using some new found tactical speed and it’s helping him stay in contention. I’d say he has a big future beating up on the handicap division, but with two G1 wins in classic events he is surely on the fast track for the breeding shed in 2010.

This win officially ends his status as the “Other Bird”. From now on if that term is used here it’s in regards to Mine That Bird.

Quality Road didn’t fire his best shot but he was a solid play against in this race. There was no way to be sure he wanted the distance without a two-turn prep, never mind off a track record effort sprinting three weeks earlier. With the fear of a bounce in the air, he had the question mark exacta nailed cold. I still believe he may be the best male horse in the division, but Pletcher had to play catch-up to get him in the race. Not to be overly dramatic about a horse that may or may not have liked the wet going, but sometimes I wish horses were prepped and raced on their terms, not based on the stakes calendar. The horse could have used a race at a shorter route distance before diving into the 10-furlong deep end. He could have prepped for the prestigious G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, but perhaps he’ll be a candidate for that anyways. I hope he stays sound and willing.

Charitable Man confirmed my belief that he is an overrated G3 type.

Kensei laid the big egg, but I’m inclined to give him a mulligan here for a variety of reasons.


The Birdie Ran a monster race, but there is no reason to believe Rachel wouldn’t have won the Travers. She was 6 lengths better than him 3 weeks prior and she would have likely been about 3-4 better then him on Saturday.

Some wanted her in the Travers, but I think her entry in the Woodward, against older males, is way more intriguing than anything against her own division. Also, I think people are overlooking just how difficult it is for any 3yo to beat their elders, much less 3yo filly doing so against older males.

No filly has ever won the event and that race will be must see TV.

Haskin wrote a great article about the race here.

G1 Kings Bishop

Congrats to Capt. Candyman Can. He is a tough, consistent horse. I’ve never really been a big fan of him and ultimately the race doesn’t really change much of my opinion of his ability, but whenever you win the division’s signature sprint race, you deserve a tip of the hat. At the end of the day I don’t believe he is better than either Munnings or Big Drama around one turn and you have to figure Vineyard Haven, who reappeared after a vanishing act in Dubai, is the more dynamic individual as well. With that said, he is tough and consistent and you tend to find your way in to the winner’s circle more often than not when you can repeatedly show up regardless of the track or conditions.

Its taken the Sheik a year but it seems like he might, just maybe, have Vineyard Haven in the same form he was before they bought him and trotted him halfway across the globe last year. It’s nice to see the big grey back on his native soil showing a pulse.

Munnings never fired, but he had a somewhat similar issue as Quality Road, but in reverse. In some ways I can understand trying to stretch the horse out, but I never understood why they chose to do so in a race like the Haskell, which had the best horse in training (Rachel) and the best active 3yo male (Summer Bird) How that was a legit option with the idea of falling back to the Kings Bishop is beyond me. Horses are creatures of habit and they shook this colt up too soon. I’m not saying he lost the Bishop because of the Haskell, but it is certainly a valid talking point. I always cringe when a trainer or owner talks about “taking a shot”. That is generally code for “willing to sacrifice my horses form on a foolish gamble”. I like to see a horse take a shot in the Breeders Cup or a signature event like the Triple Crown or Dubai World Cup, but the Haskell against the best horses in the country, when your horses will be the favorite in the only G1 sprint of the year? Come on.

I said after the Preakness I was afraid that the connections of Big Drama would not make up their minds as to what type of horse they wanted Big Drama to be. My fears have come true. He’s similar to Munnings, except he’s been jerked around all year, not just a single race. It was incredibly obvious the horse was a miler type when it came to routing and why they’ve elected to run him in second-class route races at second-tier tracks en route to a G1 sprint is beyond me. Horses like him only highlight the fact that humans are just as eligible to get in a good horses way as aide them.

The Kings Bishop is not a fall back race and should not be treated as such. When you have a horse that loves to sprint, keep them sprinting until the penultimate sprint, then get cute or experimental.

Tomorrow I will update the 3yo Top Ten

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sound Of Silence

I'd like to apologize for my absence in this space the last week or so. I've had a hectic week on the work front that drastically reduced my free time to post.

Things should get back to normal this week and I will go back and recap everything that's happened since the last post.


The Rail Tout

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Saratoga (Weekend) Wrap Up

Sorry for the delays. Quite busy times at work and not nearly enough hours in the day to obsess over racing in this space.

Saratoga 2009

Had a disastrous Saturday with both of my picks (Heart Ashley and Smooth Air) finishing off the board. They were my first picks to not finish in the money and they destroyed the minor profits I was pulling for the meet. I'm down $3.80 for the meet now. Again, for those wishing to see my picks for the meet and their performance in spreadsheet format, click here.

G1 Clement Hirsch

With each race I am more and more convinced Zenyatta needs to stay away from the BC Classic and any race involving Rachel Alexandra. She'd be well beaten in either spot.

Next graded stakes at the Spa is Friday so I'll be back tomorrow with the pick.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saratoga Saturday (Day 10)

G1 Test

Its hard for me to lean either way between First Passage and Heart Ashley. First Passage has won her last three and is coming in off her career best effort and Heart Ashley had won three straight before a less than stellar performance in the Prioress.

Tough race and a tough one to pick with so many good options but perhaps foolishly I'll take Heart Ashley because she'll be overlooked at the windows after the last start.

G1 Whitney

This is a rather bland edition of what is typically one of the best older horse races of the year. With that said its got a great story as the old man Commentator (8yo) comes back again looking for his thrid win in this prestigious race.

Sadly I think its safe to say he has lost a step, the question is has he lost enough to go against comfortably over a track he has made his personal punching bag for years.

He'll be over bet relative to his current form and as a result I'll look in another direction. Smooth Air has had a bad case of seconditis this year but he has a ton of back class and his speed figures stand up to anyone in the field. He'll go off at a playable 4-5/1 and I think thats fair here and he's my pick.

Dry Martini is the horse that scares me. He is hot and has the figures to win off the last race, but I'm banking his true class will show here as he has not been on the level with this until his upset in in the Suburban.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Catching Up

We have a few dead days on the “pick” front, with the next graded stake at the Spa on Saturday. That gives me the time catch up on a few stories and some items I've overlooked during the hectic opening weekend.

Del Mar Breakdowns

Del Mar had a rash of breakdowns to start the meet and has prompted many trainers to question the condition of the track, which does not seem to play with any consistency.

This again brings up the debate of the value of synthetic tracks. They were sold as the cure to many of racings ills yet a basic look at the facts says they haven't lived up to the hype. Kentucky Horse Racing Medical Director Mary Scollay said while the switch to synthetic tracks did indeed reduce breakdowns initially, though most figures have now risen back to previous numbers.

The question is, if the synthetic track is not definitively safer than dirt, what is the point?

New Time For The Amsterdam

The time for Quality Road's track record performance in the Amsterdam on Monday was changed today. It is still a track record but the time was changed from 1:13.45 to 1:13.74

Either way Quality Road is a brilliant horse. Hopefully he can stay together physically for the remainder of the year. He is special.

Graded Stakes Committee Gets Its Right.... For Once

The American Graded Stakes Committee, which has failed to reign in the expansion of meaningless graded stakes races in America finally made a good move today, downgrading the previously ranked G2 Lake George at Saratoga to a G3 since it was taken of the dirt. The field was littered with scratches after the rain Saratoga received all week(end) and the race became substantially less relevant.

You have to feel for the connections who thought they were getting G2 placings, but this was the right call.

Too bad the stakes committee can't substantially reduce the amount of races that get graded status each year, which would increase competition and curb the ducking and dodging that plagues the sport.

Moss Gets A Pass

Its quite interesting that Jess Jackson has been the target of a lot of attacks since he has refused to send his filly Rachel Alexandra out west for the Breeders Cup, nixing the possibility for the monumental showdown with the unbeaten Zenyatta.

The forgotten aspect of the situation is Jerry Moss and his 2009 campaign with Zenyatta. While Jackson has been attacked for refusing to run his filly over a synthetic track, Zenyatta has been in one of the most underwhelming campaigns by an undefeated champion ever. Zenyatta took half the season off only to come back and beat up on the same weak California contingent she did last year. If any horse has been handled with the kid gloves its Zenyatta and you can argue that this weak campaign has actually hindered her longterm standing. Rachel has been campaigned so aggressively that she has actually stamped herself in the eyes of many as the greatest filly to ever grace a N.A. racetrack. Zenyatta on the other hand, as an older horse, has been in a campaign that has done nothing to improve her standing.

So the question is who should bend and make this race happen? I think its Jerry Moss that should be under pressure to make the race. The BC Distaff means absolutely nothing in comparison to a match up with Rachel. If he really wanted to prove something with his mare he wouldn't need to use the BC as a crutch. He has a mare that is two years older than Rachel. A fully developed running machine that has had the benefit of a soft schedule. What more advantage does he want?

If this race never happens, many will wrongly blame Jackson, but as the old saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” Rachel's standing in the sport will largely be unaffected if this matchup never happens. The question is, what will history say of Zenyatta after a soft schedule that didn't involve a meaningful race against the boys or the rising star within her own gender?