Friday, May 29, 2009


For some time I've opined that amongst the list of changes that racing should implement, decreasing the amount of racing across the country should be high on that list.

Quality over quantity.

Increasing demand by restricting supply.

Joe Drape of the New York Times, who has an excellent racing blog, posted an article by Joe Meagher that addresses this topic. It is a very good article and is well worth the read.

Click Here!

The Waiting Game

Well I had hoped for a juicy development in regards to the Belmont and held out on a new post for that reason.

As it stands all we know is the decision to run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont has not been made. As a result Calvin Borel is in limbo, though the connections of Mine That Bird have stated they will wait until the last minute to name a rider, in an attempt to retain him for the Bird if the filly doesn't enter.

In other news Zenyatta came back to the races in fine form in the G2 Milady at Hollywood Park. The undefeated mare notched the tenth win of her career and has silenced some of the enthusiasm for Rachel Alexandra as the best female runner in the sport. After the race Jess Jackson declared that he will not run Rachel over a synthetic track like he did with Curlin last year, which just about nixes any chance of the two ever meeting. Its quite a shame but completely understandable. Synthetic tracks are a specialty surface that generally favor stalkers and closers. Rachel is a confirmed dirt horse with early speed. There is no need trying to get your horse beat because California couldn't maintain a safe racing surface and had to install a synthetic strip.

Thorn Song reappeared last weekend in the G1 Shoemaker Mile after a dismal season opener at Keeneland. The old pro is as tough as they come and that was a gritty effort.

The Met Mile left a bit to be desired this year, especially after Two Step Salsa was not entered. Bribon was the eventual winner after having ideal fractions to close in to. Gutsy effort from Driven By Success to hold on for third after setting brutal early fractions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preakness Review

The Preakness lived up to the hype, providing a really thrilling race. The good horses fired their best shots, the track condition didn't compromise anyone and Tom Durkin provided a great, emotional call.

NBC also needs to be commended for their coverage, which I thought was exceptional. Its hard to keep even the converted interested in a 2 hour build up to a race, but the pieces they ran on the connections were very good and they covered all of the intriguing aspect from the owners, jocks, to the relevant horses. Top notch.

Rachel Alexandra

It really cant be underestimated how this filly performed Saturday considering two weeks prior she had run such a dominant race in the Oaks. She was set for a bounce and instead she paired her career best figure earning a 108 Beyer in the Preakness.

That’s even more impressive considering her trip in the Preakness. They covered the first half in 46 and change. That’s not brutal, but its close for a classic distance. Luckily both her and Drama were able to get a breather the next quarter, which I believe won the race for her.

Its time to start reviewing the great fillies in racing history again, because if Rachel wins the Belmont she is going near the top of that list. It might not go down as a Triple Crown, but like the Tiger Slam for Tiger Woods when he was the champion of all majors at one time while not in the same year, the “Alexandra Slam” of Oaks, Preakness and Belmont would be monumental.

Mine That Bird

Well, the Birdman is for real. He doesn’t run a lick early but it cannot be understated how fast he closes. Closers in general are not “speeding up” late, as is often confused by some viewers. Generally they are simply “outlasting” other tired horses. Birdey is the rare exception. After loafing around the track for the majority of the race he literally explodes into the turn. His final fractions in the Derby were second only to Secretariat and his fractions in the Preakness were pretty freaky as well.

If this horse is healthy, Alexandra will indeed have to be the next Ruffian to hold him off at a mile and a half.

Musket Man

The horse doesn’t know how to run bad. There is not a lot to say about Musket beyond the fact that he is picking up fans in droves because of his heart and determination. He doesn’t have the raw ability of some of the upper echelon but he is too stubborn to concede it on the track. They are going to point him next for the Haskell, which I think is a great idea. He needs to get a breather and the nine furlongs of the Haskell is perfect for him.

Flop of the week?

Pioneerof The Nile. He is just a slow horse embellished by synthetic racing. He couldn’t run a triple digit speed figure to save his life.

It’s ironic yet fitting that Baffert once said about synthetic tracks, “they make a good horse average and an average horse good.”

He was on to something…

Friday, May 15, 2009

Preakness Analysis

Well the second leg of the Triple Crown is here and I must say this race is shaping up to be a lot more interesting than the Derby, which was really ruined by the amount of scratches from key contenders.

Below is a breakdown of the field and my pick....

Big Drama

This talented colt is 7-5-1-1 in his career and the only loss on his record outside of his first start was a DQ when he set a track record at Gulfstream Park. This is an extremely talented horse that has a winner’s mindset. He is one of the elite sprinters who decided to give the Preakness a go after not being convinced by the Derby winner. He’d be a logical horse for the upset except for the fact that he has never run around two turns. That alone is enough to look elsewhere but the horse has a lot of speed and class and if he replicates his one turn form here he could be very dangerous. Will be looking to wire the field. Eligible for a share.

Mine That Bird

This is the little horse that could. After going 0 for 2 to start his 3yo campaign he shocked the world in the Derby, becoming the second biggest upset in the history of the run for the roses. Because of his prior form he didn’t scare off much here. A lot of Derby contenders have made the trek to Pimlico for the rubber match and it speaks to his standing within the industry that a filly has now decided to enter against him. He does have some things going for him though. For one, the Sunland Derby has become one of the most successful preps in recent memory. Steve Crist of the Daily Racing Form penned it the “Keyest Key Race Ever” because the has produced a Derby winner (Mine That Bird), G2 Lexington winner (Advice), G3 Lonestar Derby winner (Mythical Power) and Texas Stallion Stakes winner (Valid Stripes) There is also rain in the forecast for the next three days meaning he may get the sloppy conditions he thrived on at Churchill. Additionally there is a lot of speed in this race. Between Big Drama, Rachel Alexandra, Papa Clem and Pioneer of the Nile he should get an honest pace to close on. It’s hard to like a 50-1 winner in a race where he will go off between 4 and 6 to 1 though. He might have turned the corner in Derby and he will get a race that will unfold similarly, but I need to see twice before being entirely convinced. Contender.

Musket Man

This horse is one of the toughest in the division. He’s won over 4 different tracks and if you take out Mine That Bird in the Derby, he runs second by a nose two weeks ago. He doesn’t shy from a fight and is one of those horses that you can count on to show up. He has a winners mentality and will give you everything he’s got. He also fired a bullet in his work for this race being the fastest of 23 on the work tab that morning. He’s probably primed for another credible effort, but the problem is he needs to step up considerably to win here. He’s never been overly fast in any of his starts, and I can’t see his typical mid to high 90’s figure winning this race if any of the other contenders really step up their game. He’s eligible to give anyone a run for their money, but I’m not sure he will do anything more than run a respectable race underneath the winner. Eligible for a share.

Luv Gov

D Wayne Lukas has never been afraid to enter a long shot in a race and the Derby result probably gave him more confidence than ever. Nick Zito once said to a reporter about Lukas, “he’d saddle you for the Derby if they’d let him” and its hard disagree looking at the entry of this horse. Luv Guv has made 10 starts in his career and it took all ten to break his maiden. He finally got over the hump on the Derby under card and apparently Lukas thinks that win will make him turn the corner. For the eternally optimistic, the horse is bred to run all day and is trained by a guy who’s saddled his fair share of upset winners, but at the end of the day he’s never beaten a horse that’s actually won a race and these aren’t just any kind of winners he’s up against. Prefer others.

Friesan Fire

The betting favorite in the Derby comes back to Pimlico to make amends for what was a poor showing at Churchill. He did have a horrendous trip and did sustain a minor injury in the running (another horse stepped on him, i.e. grabbed a quarter) but I get the feeling that not having his preferred trip was the real culprit more than anything else. In most of his races he’s sat second early stalking the pace before making his move. When taking the bumps and bruises he received in Derby into account and the fact that he was in behind horse bottled up, it’s somewhat understandable he basically threw in the towel. This horse has a ton of upside here in this spot though. He is one of the fastest horses in the race (third highest speed figure of the group behind Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra) and is a proven entity over an off track. If he gets the ideal trip he is very eligible to run off here. He is a horse that you have to confidently draw a line through the last start and I’m not sure I can with any real confidence. I’m hesitant to wager on a horse that will need everything to go right. Eligible to upset at a short price.


I would love to see this horse in a gimmick wagers against the likes of Luv Guv and Flying Private. That’s the only way I think you could approach a horse like this from a betting perspective, beyond deep cover in the superfecta. Terrain was a minor stakes winner as a 2yo but hasn’t won since last August. His form leads one to think he was a precocious type that has since regressed. This year he’s run a distant 3rd to Fresian Fire in track conditions that will be similar to those on Saturday and he ran off the board in the G1 Bluegrass. It’s hard to see that being an effective form line here, but Mine That Bird didn’t seem too logical either. His career best effort would still be questionable to hit the board here and this might not be the spot to rely on significant improvement. Prefer others.

Papa Clem

This horse is underrated much like Musket Man. He always puts in a good effort and what he lacks in pure brilliance he makes up for in determination. He finished fourth in the Derby after getting jostled around during the stretch drive by Pionnerof The Nile. The shorter trip in the Preakness will suit him and his early speed will certainly get him in the race. The worry with a horse like Clem is his lack of dominance. He is a winner, but he’s never flashed the undeniable brilliance that it will no doubt take here “IF” Rachel or Fresian Fire run to their best. If those two falter or fail to run to their standards this guy is every bit eligible to overcome Pioneer or Musket Man, who narrowly edged him out in the Derby. Wild card. Eligible for a share.

General Quarters

The feel good story of the derby never caught a break in the actual running two weeks ago. He encountered trouble early and never really got into his rhythm before finishing a well-beaten 10th. This horse interestingly enough has shown a great ability to run a good race after a clunker. He encountered severe trouble in the Tampa Bay Derby and followed that up with a dominant win in the G1 Bluegrass. He ran a little short in an ungraded stake a Tampa before turning the table on Musket Man next out in the G3 Sam F Davis. You never quite know what you’ll get with him and a clean trip is the first concern. Ideally he likes to stalk the pace and make a sustained bid. That type of trip will suit him well here. The question is whether he is fast enough early to get that trip and is his best still enough to do more than hit the board. He’s a tough horse and I hope he runs well. Eligible for a minor share.

Pioneerof The Nile

The Derby runner up comes back as the main horse to beat. He is as consistent as they come and will not shy from a battle. He does have one clear chink in his armor; he is not very fast. His Beyer of 95 in the Derby was his career average, not a regression. He has never posted a triple digit figure, which leads one to believe he may be outgunned any time a brilliant performance is put up by another horse. His style is built around grinding his opponents down rather than quickening and making a big move, so every race is interesting late. With that said, he’s beaten all but three in the field before and one of those he hasn’t (Big Drama) is a sprinter making his first start around two turns. If you are inclined to consider Mine That Bird a fluke then you probably also see this race as a match race between him and Rachel Alexandra. If it becomes a dogfight you’d have to like your chances with Pinoeer. If its a matter of brilliance, not so much. Major Contender.

Flying Private

The last place finisher in the Derby returns here for another try. He didn’t make much sense at Churchill and after his run there it’s hard to make a case for him here. Again, the colt is trained by one of the best in D Wayne Lukas but I think even he would admit this horse is in over his head. He is still eligible for a N1X and that’s probably where he should be on Saturday, not in against the cream of the crop. He would need to run huge to hit the back end of a superfecta. Prefer others.

Take The Points

Pletcher pulls another of his talented colts off the bench to represent him here in the Preakness. There are reasons to be optimistic about this colt. In the Santa Anita Derby he ran only two lengths off Pinoeerof The Nile. The race before that he ran a decent albeit well beaten second to the buzz saw that was The Pamplemouse. The key thing in those races was he was doing it on synthetics, not his preferred surface. His return to dirt here should help and his career best Beyer is actually better than Pioneerof The Nile. That’s not to say he will beat Pinoeer here, but this horse could very well run a respectable race here. I don’t favor him for the win, but anywhere underneath he is dangerous. Eligible for a share.

Tone It Down

This colt enters off a third place finish in the local prep, the Fredrico Tesio. The best thing you can say is he is familiar with the track and the surroundings. Beyond that he has real class issues here. The Tesio was his best performance of his career but that was against lesser and wasn’t a particularly fast effort. He'll have a big race jock aboard him here in Kent Desormeaux and his pedigree is made for this distance, but even that isn’t enough for him to factor here. Prefer others.

Rachel Alexandra

This filly has thoroughly captured the imagination of the racing public and has the chance Saturday to capture the hearts of the casual fans tuning in. There are actually people starting to whisper that this may be this best filly since Ruffian. High praise indeed. First thing first; if she runs to the same level she has in her last three outings she wins this race by about 3-4 lengths. She is by far the most brilliant horse in this field. The only horse in the race that has a speed figure in the same area code as Rachel is Mine That Bird. The rest would need to improve some 10-15 points. Despite all this she is no lock. She’s never run against a field of this quality. She’s untested in dogfight (because she’s simply too good for the other 3yo fillies) and we don’t know how she’ll fare chasing fast fractions against boys who wont crumble or concede turning for home. On top of that, you have to consider she is coming of a monstrous effort two weeks ago. She is certainly a bounce candidate. For these reasons alone I find this race very unattractive from a bettors standpoint. You generally try to take a stand against horses with question marks and Rachel is littered with them. On the other hand she is by far the best horse in the field and could possibly win this by daylight. She might not be the next Ruffian, but she’ll need to be special to win this Saturday. The Pick.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weekend Notes

G2 Peter Pan

I still can’t figure out what Hello Broadway was doing Saturday in this race. They put blinkers on the colt for some reason, only to watch him run about as rank as possible, setting early fractions of 22, 44 and 1:08. His performance gets the early vote for the most ridiculous effort of the year. Charitable Man ended up winning, but considering how he simply needed to outlast the loose on the lead madman Hello Broadway; the result was never in question. In fact, the dreadfully slow closing fractions and subsequent 98 Beyer makes me highly skeptical of this race meaning anything.

G2 Mervyn Leroy

The question leading into this race was how many lengths would the undefeated Rail Trip defeat this field. There was some class entered here but nothing special. He tracked the pacesetter and eventual winner Ball Four throughout and failed to menace down the lane. I’ve never really been sold on Rail Tout and this race didn’t do anything to change that opinion. I’m not sure if he is the type that needs the lead to perform at his best (spare me the emails about him winning an allowance while stalking) or if he is just not as good as many anticipated. He hasn’t beaten much and lost the first time he got challenged. He may have needed a dogfight to figure out what his job is but I’m not all that convinced.

G3 Lone Star Derby

Mythical Power won this race convincingly, embellishing the Sunland Derby to almost "mythical" proportions. Steve Crist asked in his blog, “Is This The Keyest Key Race Ever?!” For those under a rock, the Sunland Derby has now produced the G1 Kentucky Derby winner (Mine That Bird), the G2 Lexington winner (Advice), the G3 Lone Star Derby (Mythical Power) and the Texas Stallions Stakes winner (Valid Stripes).

All eyes are now on Kelly Leak, the actual winner of the Sunland Derby over the above. He might be the greatest horse since the Bid.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Sold..... Out

In a move threatening to end whatever positive momentum the sport received since the dazzling performance of Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks, Jess Jackson has bought the the filly for a cool $10,000,000 and replaced her trainer with Steve “750-times the permissible limit” Asmussen.

Rachel Alexandra is arguably the best story running in the sport. Out of the first crop by Medaglia D’ Oro, the filly has dazzled fans this year with dominant performances in Louisiana and Arkansas, culminating in one of the greatest efforts in Oaks history at Churchill Downs last weekend. Beyond her freakish ability, a lot of her appeal was tied to the pair of people responsible for her success. Hal Wiggins has been a reputable trainer for decades and is one of the most honest and likable trainers in the sport. This filly in many ways seemed like karma in action, a lifetime achievement award for his service to the breed.

Rider Calvin Borel is arguably the most famous jock in the world these days. With his charismatic personality and brilliant rides resulting in two Derby wins, he is one of the few recognizable riders to a casual sports fan.

It was a match made in horse heaven.

The fact that she was for sale or had buyers interested is no shock. Anyone who’s spent a minute in this business understands the amount of money owners have to put in to purchase, raise and race these horses. It’s not the most profitable business in the world so it’s virtually impossible to pass up selling horses valued at this level. You can’t really blame Rachel’s connections. 10 million for a filly is astronomical; it’s otherworldly. It’s the type of money that you have the filly loaded in the van before the last word of the offer left their mouths. From their perspective, they’ve won the Oaks, established her as a potential great horse and realistically her value could not increase that much more than at present.

So what’s the problem with the deal? Jess Jackson is big on talking about the integrity of the sport. He talks a lot about doing what’s best for the industry and the fans of horse racing. This is a rather curious mantra when your primary trainer has been found guilty of medication infractions (i.e., doping horses) a hearty 22 times. Steve Asmussen has not only had over two dozen violations, he is currently appealing a case that has the potential to have him training from his cell phone for 6 months.

Where is the integrity of stripping the horse from a respected trainer to send her to a crook with a trainer’s license? If Steve Asmussen had as many violations of the law as he has violations in horse racing, he wouldn’t be in jail, he’d be under it. It’s hard to consider the switch of trainer as either motivated by integrity or for the desire of fans.

Lets not forget this pair had juiced their former standout Curlin, before there were any repercussions for administering steroids. (Beyond the moral issue of abusing an animal)

There is another puzzling aspect though. In the high stakes game of horse racing, there can be a great deal of satisfaction in successfully prospecting talent. Whether its identifying a good individual at a yearling sale, or judging the way a horse moves at a 2yo in training sale, there is an art to selecting a good race horse and owners and trainers pride themselves in their ability or intuition in these areas.

In this instance, none of that can be found. She’s an established star. There isn’t any respect to be gained. Credit will go to Wiggins and Co., while Jackson will be seen as nothing more than the man who was willing to pay any sum to purchase her. How much satisfaction can be taken from winning a G1 when you spent 10 million to get it?

Jackson will run around telling the media he is sportsman while patting himself on the back for campaigning the filly. The only thing Jackson can be credited with in this deal is splintering the fillies’ fan base.

Fans are often naive in regards to the business of thoroughbred racing, but it’s hard to argue with them when everywhere you turn the business of racing seems to get in the way of the end product. You can’t help but feel they’ve taken something pure and corrupted it. The filly now represents what many despise about the sport, greed and ego.

She’s now just another asset in an equine portfolio and a reward for a trainer that has made it to the top the wrong way.

It’s a great game.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The First Monday In May

Well the 135th running of the Derby is over and I can’t help but feel somewhat let down by the event. The weather was horrible, producing wildly erratic track conditions and virtually every horse with a pulse was either scratched leading up to the event or injured in the running.

That said, congratulations to Mine That Bird and his connections. When you win; where it rates in the history of race is really secondary. Their names are forever linked with the greatest race in the sport and nobody can take that away from them.

The real question many have wondered aloud is how did this happen? How did Mine That Bird actually pull this off? The two best horses, I Want Revenge and Quality Road, pulled out to injury. This left a void in genuine class and speed. Two second tier horses scratched in Square Eddie and Win Willy, allowing a far greater amount of lesser horses in. The bad weather and track conditions turned the race into a free for all, especially when the best horse that did make it into the gate (Friesan Fire) was also injured just a few strides into the race. This is the type of setup that produces a wild long shot winner.

You see, 50-1 shots don’t win highly contentious races without external factors being involved. Look at the last shock winner, Giacomo. The weather was perfect and the field made it into the gate intact, but that edition had the second most brutal pace in Derby history. The race fell apart and under those circumstances a long shot plodder could win.

This is not to completely disregard Mine That Bird. His final quarter mile was amongst the fastest in Derby history, only second behind the great Secretariat. Calvin Borel put in one of the finest rides in race’s history as well. That horse doesn’t win if he has any other jockey, because they would not risk possible injury by squeezing through the rail on a 50-1 shot.

With that said the final time was average and the winning Beyer figure (105) is tied for the second lowest figure ever earned by a Derby winner. (Giacomo's was the lowest at 100) Now before the anti-speed figure crowd starts complaining that the figure should be low because of the track, understand that the speed figures take into account how the track is playing. That’s the very point for speed figures to begin with, to compare horses running on different tracks and surface conditions.

The figures received by the 2nd-4th place finishers who were virtually inseparable at the wire were not all that interesting. Pioneerof The Nile was second by a head earned a 95 figure. Musket Man and Papa Clem followed with identical figs. Pinoeer of the Nile actually ran to the best of his ability Saturday. His 95 figure was better than his San Felipe score two back and identical to his wins in the Santa Anita Derby and Robert B Lewis. Musket Man also ran exactly up to his ability with his 95. Pap Clem regressed back to his average after a career higher in the Arkansas Derby. He was probably set to regress after the Ark so his effort is fairly logical.

A debate raging since the Derby has been whether Pioneer’s effort effectively eliminates the idea of discarding synthetic runners in the Derby. I actually think his effort underscores the rationale I as well as many others had. As mentioned the best two horses in the division didn't make the race and the best one that did, got injured right after breaking from the gate. Despite this Pioneer still lost to a 50-1 shot. The truth is, there were so many defections that when mixed with the track condition it was not some great revelation that he was able to hit the board. As I had mentioned Saturday with the announcement of I Want Revenge being scratched, the race became a hell of a lot slower, stating...

"I suspected a 110+ Beyer would be necessary to win this edition with him in. With his defection, you could see the race garnering something 5 points lower, which opens the race up to far more entrants. For sure, half the field just got a hell of a lot more confident about their chances."

We got the exact regression of 5 points I had figured and the race got so slow that Pioneer's 96 was enough to finish second.

Which then brings me to another point about Pioneer. He is actually a live horse for the Preakness in my estimation. He is a touch slow and needs to improve in the brilliance category, but now that he has dirt experience he should be able to move forward over the surface. Which is what people forget about the synthetic debate. No one is arguing a synthetic horse cannot be useful over dirt; far too many have, like Colonel John last year who failed to fire in the Derby but did win the Travers on dirt. The only argument is that a synthetic horses' first start on dirt, also happening to be in the Derby, is a bad combination, especially at a short price. That has not been proven wrong, even in such an atypical running like this year.

We'll nothing left to do but look ahead to the Preakness. I'll start breaking down the second jewel tomorrow and hopefully the Preakness will draw a talented field and provide the type of race we were hoping for on Saturday.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I Want Revenge Out

Kentucky Derby 135 has been thrown into chaos with the announcement this morning that I Want Revenge has been scratched due to filling in his ankle.

I suspected a 110+ Beyer would be necessary to win this edition with him in. With his defection, you could see the race garnering something 5 points lower, which opens the race up to far more entrants. For sure, half the field just got a hell of a lot more confident about their chances.

60% of my bankroll was going on IWR on straight wagers and I was singling him on every multi race wager. Not sure what I'll do now.

Will be back once I have a chance to regroup and create another plan of attack.

Nobody said this was going to be easy...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alexandra The Great

This is why many, myself included, wanted her in the Derby.

Perhaps the most dominant Oaks in the modern era.

If she does not run in the Preakness or Belmont, they are doing this beautiful filly a disservice.

Watch the big dog eat.....

Click here for video!