Sunday, November 4, 2007

Skywalker's Grandkids

Skywalker had a big day at Santa Anita on Saturday. Three of his grandkids won Cal Cup races.

Take a look at him here in the '85 Santa Anita Derby (from my You Tube account). Man, did Pincay teach Gary Stevens a lesson that day.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breeder's Cup Heartbreak

For lots of reason's I've only made it out to the track once since August 19 (Pacific Classic Day) and that was on Oak Tree's Opening Saturday (Commemorative Stein Day).

Saturday I was home, watching the Breeder's Cup Championships with my 3-year-son, trying to get his little 3-year-old consciousness to care about the races when all he wanted to do was go outside and ride his tricycle.

I enjoyed the races, especially The Turf Mile as one of my favorites, Kip Deville, put it all together "just in time" after an inconsistent '07 year.

I was aware of George Washington, but as an American racing fan, I wasn't really aware of some of his great accomplishments, reputation or personality.

How is it possible that a heroic horse like George Washington, who gave so many racing fans thrills and memories with his brilliant stretch running style could die in the stretch on a muddy, dreary day on the other side of the ocean, a year after his "retirement"?

Just saying accidents or injuries "happen" doesn't seem to make any real sense. What we should say is that, since we're going to continue to race these heroic animals for our entertainment and industry, accidents will continue to happen, even on artificial tracks.

I've defended the industry against critics, even after Barbaro's death, but what is there to say this time? George Washington wouldn't even have been racing any longer if he had proven to be more lucrative at stud.

If there is any consolation at all maybe it's that the death of George Washington didn't happen in front of his home fans, it happened in New Jersey.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Truth About Del Mar's New Surface

After watching and digesting the 2007 running of the Pacific "Classic" I've come to one conclusion: The secret ingredient in Del Mar's new "Polytrack" is quicksand. I'm not trying to say that something must be "up" because Lava Man didn't finish in the money. That was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, they're horses not robots.

But when the winning time is 2:07 and change for a 1 1/4 mile race, something is seriously amiss. This is a completely different sport than the one we're used to.

And three horses that barely figured finish 1-2-3, the so-called "Classic" that resembled a walk-out 9th race of 16K claimers. A million-dollar "Classic" race isn't supposed to be a "great race for a bunch of 10-cent superfectas". You should be able to be at least somewhat certain you can pick at least one horse that will finish in the top 3 or 4.

And now Student Council earns a automatic berth into the 2007 Breeder's Cup Classic. That's not a changing of the guard, that's a joke!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pacific Classic Sunday

A great field has been put together for Sunday's Grade I, $1 Million Pacific Classic at Del Mar (1 1/14 Miles on the Poly Track).

Defending champion Lava Man is the 5/2 morning line favorite to repeat. The Mike Mitchell trained Big Booster is 9/2 on the morning line. I'm not sure if he merits 9/2. He ran 3rd in the Hollywood Gold Cup behind Lava Man and A.P. Xcellent who is 8-1.

But Mitchell has been working miracles with former claimers like On the Acorn who won the San Juan Capistrano and Sun Boat who won the San Diego Handicap. Sun Boat is 6-1 and my gut tells me that a lot of "educated" money is going to be placed on him.

Top West Coast 3-year-old, Tiago, is 6-1. He won the Santa Anita Derby and Swaps Stakes and ran 3rd in the Belmont Stakes in June. Other 3-year-olds in the race are Albertus Maximus (2nd in the Swaps) and Time Squared.

Strub Stakes winner Arson Squad is 12-1.

Rounding out the field are Student Council, Awesome Gem, Porfido, Salty Humor and Hello Sunday.

It's a great field and a nice betting race. My heart tells me Tiago, my gut tells me Sun Boat and my head tells me Lava Man. We'll see.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Best Pal Stakes on Sunday

Two-year-olds will line up on Sunday, 8/12, at Del Mar for the Grade II Best Pal Stakes (6 1/2f on the dirt). The field includes Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner Salute the Sarge, runner up Leonides and four others. It's a prep for the big one of the meet, the Del Mar Futurity, to be run on Del Mar's closing day, September 5.

Last year the race produced three Triple Crown "contenders": Great Hunter, Stormello and Cobalt Blue. So don't say you haven't been warned.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Santa Rosa Fair

I broke out of my slump and ended up with 4 winners at The Santa Rosa Fair today. My "horse of the day" was a 15-1 shot named Sylvie in the 11th - Maiden Claimers at 1 1/16 miles on the Santa Rosa turf.

Sylvie had 3 lifetime starts dating back to late May. In her first race she pulled up and was vanned off. She ran last in her next race and something like 3rd in her most recent start with a Beyer Rating in the high 50s. Her rating was the 2nd highest of any horse in the race.

I like Maidens that show any kind of interest in their most recent race. At 10-1 on the morning line I put a few buck on her to win. She was the 3-horse and was 21-1 when I placed my bet. At race time the horse was 15-1.

Sylvie broke well and went to the lead and stayed at or near the lead along the backstretch and into the turn

At the top of the stretch another horse took the lead by a head but she fought back gamely, buoyed by a spontaneous chant of "3, 3, 3, 3. . ." taken up in mid-stretch by some die-hards at the table under the "Santa Rosa TV".

It was pure drama unfolding on the screen, as we saw it from our position in the Pavilion at Santa Anita Park, 500 miles away. Sylvie won it.

Thank you Sylvie for reminding us why we come back.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Panty Raid

Good horse, dumb name. It's a good thing the horse doesn't know how dumb her name sounds.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pick 6 Mania

I'm just glad that an everyday, $2 bettor was able to nab part of the $10 million Pick 6 Pool at Hollywood Park the other day.

One bettor at Los Alamitos hit Monday's record pick six at Hollywood Park twice with a $2 bet and a $4 wager for a combined payoff of $1,152,128.80.

It just goes to show how much luck is involved in hitting a Pick 6. The article also mentions that a $24 ticket in Victorville also hit the Pick 6 that day.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lava Man Is Smart

Lava Man is a smart horse. He just knows where the finish line is. His win in the Gold Cup on Saturday was one of the most dramatic I've seen in a long time. Just check out Vic Stauffer, what a great call he gave us. Thank you Vic!

Now, if Lava Man were an east coast horse, would it matter that he couldn't "ship"? Would the racing press still treat him like a glorified side show? He's a great horse, plain and simple.

He doesn't like to fly (or travel) and has been doing his best to communicate that to his connections but they just don't pay attention to him.

I watched the Gold Cup a few times on You Tube and it reminded me of a race, the '88 San Bernadino Handicap, with Alysheba, Ferdinand and Good Taste nearly hitting the wire together. Alysheba was another great horse that just knew where the wire was. And he threw in a clunker once in a while too.

2007 Hollywood Gold Cup

1988 San Bernadino Handicap

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Invasor Retires

He got dinged during a workout Saturday morning. I feel like we hardly got to know the guy. But I'm just glad his people did the right thing and retired him rather than risk serious injury.

Simulcast Blues

I had the day off from work on Friday so I decided to head over the the track and play some simulcast races, particularly races from the Stockton Fair. Hollywood Park had their races at night on Friday so there were no "local" tracks running during the day.

But after yesterdays experience I don't think I'll be going back to Santa Anita on Fridays when Hollywood runs at night. The problem I had is that all the patrons are funneled down into a cavernous, fully enclosed, air-conditioned, underground room, surrounded by banks of television sets and self-service betting machines. How hard would it have been to turn on a couple of betting machines upstairs? The pavilion and the runways under the grandstand were open but the only way to bet from up there was to walk around the corner and go down the stairs.

Things have changed so much at the track in the last 10-20 years. What's the difference between a quinella and an exacta box? For me, the whole simulcast experience is hard to get used to. I mean, I understand it but I don't like it much. There were 10 or more different tracks running yesterday including Mohawk. Mohawk? I was trying to concentrate on Stockton but the TV in front of my table that was featuring Stockton somehow ended up showing races from Mohawk and the Meadowlands. You know, races with horses pulling carts loaded up with an aerodynamic pilot called a driver. Yeah. It was disappointing to say the least.

Part of what makes Santa Anita such a great track is the atmosphere. Yesterday I might as well have been at a sportsbook at some sleezy casino out in the California desert. The pavilion at Santa Anita is a great place. So is the grandstand and the runways behind the grandstand.

The underground room isn't such a nice place.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bay Meadows Lives (in principal)

Long live Bay Meadows! Sounds like the California Racing Board has granted a one-year extension or a waiver, so the track will have extra time to install the required synthetic racing surface. Developers must have been salivating at the chance to build thousands of condos on the site of the 73 year old facility, right in the heart of the inflated Bay Area housing market. Ha ha.

I've never been there but I always refer to the place as "up north". I did drive by it once. I was up there with a girlfriend (in San Mateo) and we were leaving our hotel and we drove south on whatever street it is and I looked to my left and, there she was. Bay Meadows!

We didn't stop though. Everything in life is timing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tiago Back In Swaps?

Above is a picture I snapped of Tiago in the paddock before the Santa Anita Derby. Mike Smith looks supremely confident above the 29-1 shot Tiago. Tiago looks nice and relaxed. I was anxious to get to the window and get him into an exacta with King of the Roxy.

It looks like he might be making his next start in the Swaps Stakes, Grade II (1 1/8 miles) for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park, July 14. You know, he might go off as the favorite that day, and that's funny since he's really only put his nose on the line first in one race (Santa Anita Derby, Grade I). His maiden win was via disqualification.

But he ran a nice race in the Belmont Stakes as Mike Smith held him just off the leaders, instead of far back which seemed to be the tendency. He may grow into this style.

Cobalt Blue is back on Sunday in the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park(1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds). He finished second as the heavy favorite in the Alydar a few weeks ago and Merv (Griffin) is trying to get him back into the winner's circle for the first time since his win in the San Felipe Stakes on March 17.

Speaking of action at Hollywood Park, the Hollywood Gold Cup is June 30.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Story About Detachment

On Saturday afternoon, about 10 minutes before the Belmont I scribbled the numbers 7-3-2 in my program. A trifecta bet. Rags to Riches - Curlin - Tiago. I didn't bet it. I instead bet a Rags - Tiago exacta and Rags to win. I covered myself okay. But I was stubbornly still in awe of my own handicapping abilities dating back to April 7 and the Santa Anita Derby when I had the Tiago - King of the Roxy exacta which paid $191 for the $1 bet. How did I do that? I got lucky.

Bettors all around were scratching their heads while I cashed my ticket. Rule #1: Never stand in awe of your own handicapping abilities. As Charles Bukowski teaches us, to "beat the races" you must have, "the character, the knowledge, and the detachment."

So I missed the trifecta in the Belmont because I somehow figured Curlin out of the equation. How is that for detachment? Rule #2: Bet who you think will win, not who you want to win.

As we know Rags won. She'll probably go on to be Horse of the Year and in time will become a "legend of the sport" and the ghost of her as a racehorse will haunt us. The best ever! The best racehorse of all time! That I saw! Never a faster filly! Never a tougher one!

Even as the ghost of Magnificience haunts our dreams and causes us to wake up in a cold sweat in absolute terror as we stare at the ceiling.

So, now what? In some years, when detachment sets in, Rags to Riches will be the kind of horse that will force the most jaded of horse players to stand in awe. Consider the breeding angle. I don't know squat about the politics of breeding but one thing I do know is that attempts will be made to breed Rags with some good horses. Rags to Riches with Point Given for example. Curlin? Oh the horror!

There will be a maiden special weight race at Hollywood Park, in let's say, five or ten years. Two years olds going 5 furlongs. There will be a colt or filly named (insert name here), running in the race. A guy will flip open the Racing Form, turn to the race and take a look at the field. All first time starters. The guy next to him will say:

"What do you think of the 7 horse? Gomez aboard..."
"Forget Gomez, take a look at the mare."

Silence for a moment as both men, grizzled track vets, fight off the chills as they scribble a 7 in their programs.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

This One Was Great

Do you think she'll run against the boys again? Or was the point made? Forget that, do you think she'll be invited back after abusing her rivals today?

She deserves Horse of the Year honors already. I doubt another horse will win 4 straight Grade I races this year. And she might win 5 (or more)!

What an impressive run it was too. She broke slow and was wide around every turn. Curlin is still a bit of a freak but what does that make Rags? A monster!

Tiago and Hard Spun are still nice horses. I expected a little more from Imawildandcrazyguy but what can be expected when a deep closer spots world class horses 20 lengths.

It was exciting watching it on the big screen outside at Santa Anita. People were excited. And like we were saying today, 'the smart money was on her'. She's ours and now she belongs to everybody.

Not to mention the fact that I only cashed two tickets today, and she gave me one of them. Thanks Rags!

2007 Belmont Stakes

Friday, June 8, 2007

Let's Play Beat The Favorite: The So-Cal Exacta

Every handicappers favorite game: Beat the favorite.

Curlin has to be feared and respected. He's the best horse in the race (on paper) and has really done nothing wrong in his 5 career races. His performance in The Preakness shows why he will go off as the favorite tomorrow in the Belmont. He'll probably go off near his 6-5 morning line.


With that said, Rags to Riches is the class of the field. Three straight Grade I wins. All class. She's done nothing wrong either. She may go off at 3-1 or maybe even 2-1 if people start to get real excited about her. She's bred for the distance. Todd Pletcher has to pick up a Triple Crown win sooner or later, why not with his best 3-year-old? She wins.

Tiago seems to be improving and if Mike Smith keeps him close and keeps his head in the game, he'll be flying late in the stretch when half the horses start running backwards. He might go off around 8-1.

Let's put Rags (Santa Anita Oaks winner) and Tiago (Santa Anita Derby winner) in a $1 exacta box and see what happens.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Belmont Horror Stories

My first Belmont heartbreak was Alysheba. I still think he could have handled the mile-and-a-half if he hadn't decided to throw in a clunker that day in 1987.

In 1998, when Victory Gallop ran down Real Quiet with an inch to go in the race to deny him history and the Triple Crown I was at a baby shower. Yep. But I did watch the race. I found a TV at the house and watched the darn thing by myself, with the party going on in the background. Never again.

In 2004, I had myself all set up in my living room to watch Smarty Jones take his run at the Triple Crown. As the horses were being loaded into the gate, there was a knock on my screen door. It was two Mormon missionaries asking me if I believed in God. "Well, I believe in Smarty Jones, so ask me after the race."

They waited at my door while I watched the race. I watched as Smarty Jones succumbed to Birdstone and the Curse of Billy Penn.

This year, I've already made plans for the race, and will be watching it at my local off-track wagering site. No interruptions.

1987 Belmont Stakes

The First Bet Should Be The Win Bet

Lots of characters populate the betting section of a local race track. Some people bet longshots, others bet fifty 10-cent superfectas per race, while others place wagers based on the color of the jockey's silks.

Very little can be learned from the above group of "handicappers".

But there is this one guy I run into at the track and he is a consistent winner. He bets big and wins more than he loses, so he comes out on top. He mostly a "tote board" handicapper but reads the form inside out and understands it.

He follows the money being bet and understands it to the point of absurdity. Baffert's crew had a horse in a maiden race recently and this guy remarked that if the barn is going to "hit" their horse (bet on it), they do it about half way through the betting. Sure enough, with 12 minutes to post the horse took a "hit" and went from 8-1 to 5-1. A sign? Isn't everything? I didn't bet the horse who ended up running third.

This guy teaches that the first bet on a race should be the win bet. In other words, if you feel strongly about a horse in a race and think you have the race nailed you should bet the horse to win before you make any crazy exotic bets. Of course, I rarely do this since I am looking for "value" as he says. He also recently scolded me for failing to "open up the key" properly on a trifecta bet that made. In that race, I bet "around" the winners and spent five minutes showings others my losing ticket.

Anyway, I had a race nailed and told people I liked the 2. He was 5-1 so I placed him on top of some trifectas and exactas. I also told people that I liked the 2, who had by post time drifted up to 8-1. Sure enough, he won. After the race:

"You got it," he said.
"No I didn't bet him to win."
He just looked at me. "He went off at 8."

I just returned the look and shrugged my shoulders.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Class Is In Session

Sorry to ruin everybody's party but "Rags" is gonna win this thing.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Beat The Races

There's an old picture of my grandfather. I just dug it out of a box. He's standing outside the walking ring at Hialeah Park sometime during the week of February 21, 1941.

The year Dispose won the Flamingo Stakes, Big Pebble the Widener Handicap and Whirlaway the Triple Crown. Before the U.S was pulled into WWII. Back when men wore shirts and ties to the track.

He was standing with his back to the ring and the old-fashioned win-place-show tote board is over his left shoulder. There's a skinny, crooked palm tree over his right. Lots of men, mostly men, are behind him, wearing fedoras and jackets, and are between him and ring, so I can't see any horses in the photo.

I never knew him. He died in '48. I didn't come along for another 24 years. My grandmother snapped the photo, I'm sure. They were on their honeymoon and on a vacation away from the West Philadelphia winter. On the back of the photo she wrote "Week of 2-21-41".

I doubt that they decided to go to the races as an afterthought. There are so many pictures from that day with him standing at various locations at the park. His new wife, my grandmother, nice enough to play along.

He had binoculars hanging from his neck and a cigarette in his left hand. I'm not sure where his program and form were though. He probably left them on the table like my dad does.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tiago Can Run, Rags Should

-Tiago is prepping for the Belmont. I think this guy can run all day. The problem is probably getting him unwound in time to finish the race in front. On the Derby replay, the viewer could see him passing every other horse - including Street Sense - on the gallop out.

-Rags to Riches, the only 3-year-old winner of 3 Grade I races is also a possibility. Trainer Todd Pletcher is considering running his best 3-year-old in the race, but only if at least one of the top three Derby/Preakness horses don't run (Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun).

Pletcher is still trying to capture a Triple Crown race and ironically may have lost his best chance by playing it conservative by not running Rags' against the boys sooner. History may show that he had the best 3-year-old in the country in his barn but he instead tried to capture the Derby by playing the numbers game and running 5 horses in the race (Circular Quay, Cowtown Cat and some others I can't remember right now).

-I hope we get a Derby/Preakness rematch in the Belmont - Street Sense/Curlin/Hard Spun - and we get to see Rags in there with Tiago. I've also heard Nobiz Like Showbiz, Great Hunter, Imawildandcrazyguy and Slew's Tizzy might run.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another Day In Paradise

We got to the off-track site at Santa Anita today around 10:15. My dad and I picked a table in the Pavilion, adjacent to the bar area and across from the HRTV set. I've never seen HRTV so I didn't recognize any of the commentators, but about an hour before the first race at Hollywood I caught a bit of the programming inside the food court and the male anchor looked terribly sweaty as he gave his take on Curlin to the viewing audience with his female co-anchor next to him. I guess he sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but don't we all.

The betting crowd was slowly trickling in by 11. The pavilion is a funny place. Out of nowhere a buzz can erupt out of a small crowd betting a race at a track in some faraway place. Like today, the feed from the Santiago, Chile course was popular. The feed was fuzzy and dark and the horses ran backwards around the oval across what looked to be weeds. At one point I looked up at the tote board feed from the place and saw that a 50-1 shot had $8 bet to place on him. There really are plenty of tracks to choose from these days.

I was playing exactas at Churchill and Belmont and nearly won on a couple of my early bets. By the time the first race at Golden Gate rolled around I realized how stupid it was to try to successfully handicap races at three tracks simultaneously and I decided to concentrate on Hollywood Park and if I had time, Golden Gate.

"You don't have to bet every race, you know," my dad relayed.
"Yeah, I know, I'm only making small bets though," I winked back. I don't get to the track nearly as much as I'd like so when I do I feel like I need to hit the ground running, fast.

I hit an exacta in the morning that payed around $81 for the $2 bet. It was either at Churchill or Belmont. I'm not sure now. It was all such a blur. I'm thinking it was Belmont since I seem to recall the TV monitor showing the race was behind our table but I'm just not sure.

I hit an exacta for about $29 at Hollywood and nearly hit one for $40 and change at Golden Gate. The problem was that I bet a 2-3 box instead of a 2-1 box, which I had intended to bet. The guy in front of me in line was betting individual 10-cent superfectas and driving me nuts to the point of distraction. I began concentrating on him and forgot who I was going to bet. Then I switched lines and ended up behind a guy that was betting his Pick 6 ticket as he handicapped the races. By the time I got to the machine I bet 2-3.

I got back to my table and looked at my ticket and after a glance at the program realized I had placed the wrong bet. I looked up at the monitor and the horses were almost loaded into the gate and the graphic read "0 minutes to post". Darn. There was no time. I looked at my ticket and thought, 'oh well'. The 2-3 was a long shot exacta. I told my dad that I made the wrong bet but that if it hit I would be a rich man. I watched the race and to my horror the exacta I meant to play hit.

Two guys at the table next two us were back and forth with each other all day. One of the guys was always telling the other guy things like, "I should have boxed it." The other guy would just laugh at him. One such exchange took place after a race:

"I told you we could have boxed it. Throw the 8 into the super!"
"You didn't say that."
"Yeah I did, it would have cost us $1.20 each!"

In the 6th at Hollywood a guy at our table had the exacta and trifecta nailed in the stretch with some big bets - like various $50 and $100 bets - until the 4-horse, Legendary Mud flew from the clouds and won, closing like mad to take the 7 furlong dash. Man. Legendary Mud was the only horse I bet that finished in the money. The guy at our table lost a lot of money on that race but after much lamentation, said that he can't complain much because he gets lucky a lot.

After another race, a regular in the pavilion, the unofficial mayor of the place, came up to our table and relayed his wager from the last race:

"Students of the game," he addressed us. "I was telling these guys I liked the 4 and the 7. I knew the 1 would be there. Where were the 4 and the 7?" We all shrugged. "Did any of you guys like the 4,7? Nope, we all shook our heads. "I shoulda talked to guys before the race!" He laughed and walked off.

I got some of it back later on an exacta at either Golden Gate or Hollywood and nearly hit a trifecta at Golden Gate toward the end of the day. Rounding the turn for home two of my horses were well clear. Well clear. The top two were in the bag. It was just a matter of my third place horse finishing third in the 7 horse field. The favorite, on top of my trifecta, won by double digit lengths and it was almost as many back to the third place horse, who incidently wasn't the one I played.

The walk-out race was the 9th at Hollywood. Maiden claimers at 6 furlongs, 15 horses in the field. Anybody's race. I played an exacta box and some 10-cent nonsense. My dad hit the 10-cent super. The 10-cent bet payed 111.57.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Curlin Proves It: Preakness Reaction

-Curlin proved he's special. He came home on guts and class. Most horses would have packed it in after getting stormed by Street Sense at the top of the stretch. What a finish. We'll see if either of the top two finishers run in the Belmont in three weeks. It would be fun to see a rematch but understandable if those two need a vacation after that dramatic stretch duel.

-Hard Spun is a gutsy horse too. I think he might turn out to be a great miler. He hung on for third, not too bad. He just doesn't seem to have that necessary kick in the stretch to win at these distances against the best 3-year-olds. But he does beat most of them. I mean, he finished 2nd in the Derby. Maybe he does have some kick in the stretch.

-Once again Pletcher's guys were no factor. Is Circular Quay more hype than substance?

-I thought NBC's on the ground reporter, Tom Neumeier, took a bit of a cheap shot at Calvin Borel in his post race interview. Neumeier said, "people are saying that you moved too soon today," implying that Calvin made his move too soon on Street Sense and that that may have led to him getting caught by Curlin in deep, deep stretch. What people were saying that?

I mean c'mon, first of all Street Sense passed everybody at the top of the stretch, including Curlin and looked for a moment like he was going to run away with the race just like he did in the Derby. That's the part of the track where Street Sense moves. Only really special, tough horses (like Curlin) can come back after being passed in the stretch the way Street Sense passed Curlin. Borel made his move on time and it's just lame that he hadn't even caught his breath before he was being criticized by Tom Neumeier.

-How funny is it that the President of Magna Entertainment, or whoever that guy was that presented the trophy to Curlin's people, called Robbie Albarado, Robbie Alvarez?

-The "racing world" was a photo finish away from 3 weeks of positive media and hype leading up to the Belmont. Now what?

Here is the 2007 Preakness Replay:

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Preakness Trifecta

Here's the way I see it. Use this information to figure out how not to bet the race.

1. Curlin: Even though he hasn't emerged (yet) as the super horse everyone wanted him to be, his 3rd place finish in the Derby was real nice. So-called super horses are usually smart ones, and I think this is the race where we'll really find out the deal on Curlin. He may have learned a thing or two. The hype and the buzz has been suspiciously quiet. Remember, the only horse to get a better trip in the Derby than Street Sense was Hard Spun. This is Curlin's race. He wins.

2. Street Sense: Is it possible for Street Sense to get a clean trip on the rail again? I doubt it. Larry Jones will lose it if that happens. He's already waking up nightly in a cold sweat. I think he'll either drop back to last or get carried wide into the first turn. His big kick should be enough for 2nd.

3. Circular Quay: The Derby was the first race where this guy didn't go off as the post time chalk. And despite the "poor" performance, he did rally for a 6th place finish and earned a respectable 96 speed rating. I look for him to pick up the pieces and rally for 3rd.

King of the Roxy should hang on for 4th after taking control around the turn but fading. The speed Hard Spun and Xchanger will set nice fractions 1-2 down the backstretch but will set things up for the stalkers and closers here.

Flying First Class, C P West and Mint Slewlep will probably be nice horses but not here.

The Black Eyed Susan

For 3-year-old fillies, Grade II, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt today at Pimlico.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dreaming Preakness Trifectas

My 3-year-old son has selected the horses (his peers) that he likes for Saturday's Preakness. It's a nice looking trifecta.

Xchanger - Circular Quay - Curlin.

It makes a little more sense than his Derby trifecta of Sedgefield - Stormello - Zanjero.

Xchanger is coming off a nice win 4/21 over the Pimlico track in the Federico Tesio Stakes. He wired the field that day and posted a 95 beyer at 1 1/8 miles.

He looks to, at the least, factor in things early. He's also the only horse in the field that has a race over the Pimlico track. Maybe my son is onto something?

Circular Quay is a nice horse. But he may be a bit distracted since his trainer (Todd Pletcher) has been catching so much grief in the blogosphere lately.

I'll try to talk my son into boxing this trifecta since I figure Curlin should win.

Tin Man On Track

When I was a kid going to Santa Anita in the '80s my favorite horses were always the old guys that used to run their guts out in the 9th race for a $16K tag at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. Old guys - 7, 8 year olds - like Trento, Bedouin and others (I wish I could remember more names).

Now we have Tin Man. He's 9. He's on track for the Grade I Shoemaker Mile, May 28 at Hollywood Park. having worked a mile in 1:38.4 on Tuesday.

Also of note: Apparently, Stormello was eased in the Kentucky Derby (according to the official designation: see the very bottom of linked article above). I have no problem with that, he deserves a vacation anyway.

Tin Man wins the '06 Arlington Million:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Don't Sleep On Curlin!

I guess it's "one and done" for the Curlin bandwagon? It may be just me but I think Curlin's third place finish in the Run For The Roses was pretty impressive.

I mean, the only horse to get a better trip in the race than Street Sense was Hard Spun. Curlin meanwhile was "shuffled back" and in between and among all kinds of horses for much of the race and emerged from the pack as a strong third, in his first race against "top" 3-year-olds and in the first race in which he wasn't able to dictate the terms.

Now the buzz is about Circular Quay and how everybody likes his chances in the Preakness. Well, what about the big chestnut? In a race like the Preakness, with a smaller field, Curlin might be able to stalk the leader or leaders and make a run on his terms.

Does he have the speed, does he have the class to compete against Street Sense, Hard Spun, Circular Quay and the rest? Well, experts and fans alike seemed to think he did before the Derby. And with a big race like that under his belt doesn't it even make him a stronger contender?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Crazy Prices in Japan

-I just caught the Grade I Victoria Mile from Tokyo Racecourse, in Tokyo, Japan on TVG. It's a 1.4 million dollar race. The final time was a very quick 1:32 2/5 for the one-turn mile. But that didn't turn out to be the noteworthy thing.

The 4-horse Kiouta with Masami Matsuoka aboard won and paid $282.00 to win. The next two finishers (Asahi Rising, Daring Heart) were both 55-1 . The 2-dollar, 4-3, exacta returned $4,946. There were no tickets with the trifecta nailed but the $2 trifecta 4-3-all paid $10,655.

Unfortunately, nobody came close with the $1 superfecta as 4-all-all-all paid a mere $81.80.

-On The Acorn took the Jim Murray Handicap at Hollywood Park Saturday (1 1/2 miles on the turf) with a great big kick on the inside outrunning Prospect Park in deep stretch. The field was walking through 3/4 at 1:17 1/5 but really kicked loose and ran the final 3/4 in 1:11 and change. Notable Guest finished 3rd so Bobby Frankel is denied his 7th Jim Murray.

Victor Espinoza rode the winner who paid $7 to win. Mike Mitchell trains On The Acorn, a former claimer, claimed and owned by a conglomeration of L.A. sports personalities (Indizguys Stables) including Jack Disney, Buck Rogers (former Angels manager) and Ross Newhan (sportswriter).

Mitchell has resurrected On The Acorn who has back-to-back wins and has won 4 races so far this year.

Friday, May 11, 2007

No Pimlico Special Saturday

I guess didn't get the memo on this one. Pimlico Race Course officials have cancelled (at least for this year) the running of the Grade I Pimlico Special.

Since the race was brought back in 1988 it has been won by such greats as Invasor, Cigar and Bet Twice. Apparently, track officials have decided not to run the race this year due to purse shortages and because they want to keep the available money from going to out of state owners/horses.

I usually look forward to the race since it's a nice touch-stone race for the classic division and it's something to look forward to in between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Oh well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jim Murray on Saturday

Jim Murray, Hall of Fame sportswriter, was a big horse racing guy. So fittingly, he has a great race - The Jim Murray Handicap, Grade II, 1 1/2 miles on the turf at Hollywood Park - named in his honor. It's the feature race on Saturday.

A good field is expected to turn up this year, including On the Acorn (San Juan Capistrano winner), Fourty Niner's Son (San Luis Rey Winner) and others.

Trainer Bobby Frankel is trying to win his 7th with Notable Guest.

Here is a link to Jim's last column published on August 22, 1998. It's about Free House's win in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

R.I.P. Chico

Diego "Chico" Corrales, one of the great ring-warriors of this generation died yesterday in a motorcycle accident. He was 29. In an era where the top fighters protect their undefeated records and pad their resume, he never ducked any opponent and left it all in the ring.

At a time when people lament the so-called sad state of boxing, and worry about where the next "superstar" will come from, true old-school fighters like Diego Corrales were few and far between.

Boxing and Horse Racing used to be the premier sports in this country because of the natural drama ingrained in both sports and the heroic nature of the participants.

Here is Round 10 of what is considered one of, if not the, greatest fight of all time. Back in 2005 vs. Jose Luis Castillo:

Monday, May 7, 2007

Old-Fashioned Derby Replay

I found this on YouTube. It's the Derby with the old-fashioned split screen and without the stupid overhead angle that NBC chose to use for about 22 seconds (between the 1/2 mile pole and the 1/4 pole). It's the Churchill Down's replay with the Churchill race caller, the way it is meant to be. With the fractions posted in the corner and the odds real big at the bottom.

It is so much more exciting shown like this and I don't feel like I'm watching a video game. In the end it's just a horse race I don't know why NBC had to make it so complicated.

I love seeing Tiago fly through everybody on the gallop out about 10 seconds after the race was over. If only he could get himself unwound a little earlier next time. Imawildandcrazyguy was flying too and you couldn't really see that with NBC's coverage.

Derby Hangover, Looking Ahead

It doesn't look like too many Derby horses are going to reemerge 12 days from now at Pimlico. So far, Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin look likely. As do, Teuflesberg and Sedgefield. Imawildandcrazyguy is looking at the Belmont.

It appears that Trainer Todd Pletcher (Circular Quay, Any Given Saturday, Cowtown Cat, Sam P., Scat Daddy) is going to "take his ball and go home". He does plan to bring King of the Roxy back in the Preakness though.

The disappointment is understandable, but you only need one horse to win the derby, not 5. Street Sense and Hard Spun both looked excellent in workouts over the Churchill Downs surface and were both sharp for the race.

Based on his 3rd place finish, I can't help but think what Curlin might have been able to do with a little more seasoning. He may end up being overlooked in the Preakness. He was able to make up a lot of ground to finish 3rd after being shuffled back early. But that's what you usually have to do to win the Derby, unless you're Street Sense and Calvin Borel, and then you just come scrape-paint on the rail and slip through when the red sea parts.

Pletcher's horses were no factor in the race, as were Trainer Doug O'Neill's (Great Hunter, Liquidity) entries. O'Neill is apparently taking his guys back to California for some needed soul-searching. "I think a return to California would be good for all of us," he said.

Some other likely or possible Preakness starters are Chelokee, Xchanger, C.P. West, Flying First Class and Starbase.

As far as NBC's Derby coverage, I don't see why it was necessary to show the horses from the straight-above angle along the far turn and into the stretch. It made everything look like a video game. The angle would have been interesting to see as a replay, but for those of us that are accustomed to watching horse racing on TV, the traditional side angle would have been fine.

Hell, I would have settled for the old-fashioned split screen shot.

Overall, I think the Derby was a little bit of a letdown. It didn't have the excitement that I was looking forward to because the race was basically over at the head of the stretch. When Street Sense took the lead it was over. Hard Spun hung on gamely but didn't make it exciting. I think everyone was expecting big drama in the stretch.

The Triple Crown series might turn out to be a thrill anyway as Street Sense looks like a legitimate threat. Curlin is still a bit of an unknown. I'm not sure how Hard Spun will handle the distance at the Belmont but he has a good shot in the Preakness.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Street Sense Destroys The Field

Street Sense defied history (and experts) and won the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths over Hard Spun, as the favorite and the reigning Breeder's Cup Juvenile winner. He is a legit triple crown threat. You think? Calvin Borel gave him a great trip and when the red sea opened up Street Sense had plenty of run to take advantage.

Borel must have envisioned and been dreaming about that trip all winter and spring. Unreal. When I saw him making that move around the turn I knew it was his race to lose. I can see the jocks and trainers in the Preakness devising plans and schemes so that that will not happen again. Good luck!

We didn't get the drama that many expected with so many late running monsters closing in the stretch. Where was everybody?

Hard Spun was game and tough to hang on for 2nd and Curlin proved he belonged running 3rd.

Props to Imawildandcrazyguy and Sedgefield for running 4th and 5th as wild long shots. I'm guessing we'll see one or both of them back for the Preakness.

Tiago looked blocked and discouraged from what I could tell, like he did in the Lewis when he finished way back that day. Great Hunter, Dominican, Nobiz Like Shobiz and especially Scat Daddy were no factor at all. Lots of horses were no factor at all.

It's going to be an interesting Preakness and Belmont.

Just a note: Those who bet the Oaks-Derby double and wheeled Rags to Riches w/all lost $16.20 as the double paid $23.80 on the $2 bet/$40 ticket. Cheers.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Derby Hunches: My Picks

So, Derby Day is finally here. And it's probably gonna be run on a sloppy track. Nice. As they say at the track on days like this, 'you can throw it all out'.

That being said, Rags to Riches still looked like a monster in the Oaks slop. I caught that race while at Santa Anita today at the "off-track" get together. I couldn't pick scratch today at Hollywood or Golden Gate and spent most of my time betting around the winners and watching the real big gamblers sweat it out.

I almost hit an exacta with a 9-1 shot on top. But that is neither here nor there.

A guy at my table received a call from his girlfriend in between the 5th and 6th races. She wanted 20 bucks to win on Any Given Saturday. He was busy trying to figure out a "tri" for the next race "up north". He told her he could do it, once it was determined that advance betting was available.

The guys at my table were also kicking around the idea of betting a Pick 6 at Hollywood today. They handicapped the races, circled their horses and then decided against it, after much deliberation.

After the 7th, it was revealed that their ticket would still have been alive. I hesitated to ask but did anyway, "which horse did you have in the 8th?"

"We were gonna single the 5," one of them answered. Five minutes later he left, before the 8th ran. The 9 won. Whew.

I'm not a big better but I like handicapping races. I also tend to bet on hunches. I like to bet maiden first time starters based on how much they were purchased for as yearlings or 2-year-olds.

I like the expensive ones. And sometimes, like today, I throw it all out and bet on a $750 horse because his grand-sire was Nijinsky II. I always liked Ferdinand.

But, the horse ran last or at least appeared to.

So just before the last race at Hollywood I put it all together and made some selections for the Derby.

My bets were all over the place:

I boxed Tiago (my official win pick) and Dominican in an exacta.

I also placed win bets on Hard Spun and Liquidity. Oh yeah, and $2 to win on Sedgefield because my 3-year-old son picked him out of a hat.

How's that sound?

One more thing: Oscar over Floyd.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Random Derby Musings

  • Curlin looks real nice at the 2 slot. The big guy with "tactical speed" will have the opportunity to stay out of trouble and wire the field. If he loses the rail and the lead he might be in trouble (along with all the others). If he gets to set an uncontested pace, look out.
  • I don't think Hard Spun's quick work at Churchill Downs (57 flat for 5 furlongs) will be a problem and he might be overlooked in the betting. Looks nice at 15-1
  • Tiago should be flying late, I think he can handle the distance.
  • If Stormello doesn't contend for the early lead, Teuflesberg will probably challenge Curlin into the first turn.
  • Great Hunter looks okay in the 20 slot. Nakatani will be able to keep him out of immediate trouble with nobody on his outside. He'll be running late anyway.
  • I have a hunch about Liquidity. He's due for a big one and this would be the biggest of them all. Trainer Doug O'Neill might have something up his sleeve.
  • I wonder how the potential rain will effect things? Any chance of a sloppy track?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My Son's Derby Superfecta

Now that the field is set and the post positions have been selected I thought I'd consult one of horse racings biggest fans (my 3-year old son) to determine a nice little 10-cent superfecta box to play in the Kentucky Derby.

Here are his picks, in order:

1. Sedgefield
2. Stormello
3. Zanjero
4. Storm in May

So there it is: $2.40 to box it (do they offer a .10 superfecta at Churchill Downs?). I can't believe he didn't mix in Imawildandcrazyguy. If it hits, it'll probably pay about eight hundred grand or eighty grand on the .10-cent bet. Guess I have to bet it now!

The Giacomo Connection

Remember the 2005 Kentucky Derby? Giacomo (50-1) ahead of Closing Argument (71-1) by 1/2 a length. There was a large field that year (20), a slow derby time (2:02.75) and arguably the best horse that year, Afleet Alex (winner of the Preakness and Belmont) finished 3rd. The exacta that year paid $9,814.

The '05 champ Giacomo (Holy Bull) is a half brother to Bwana Bull (Holy Bull) on the sire's side and shares half his genes with Tiago, as they have the same mare, Set Them Free.

Bwana Bull finished 5th in the 2007 Santa Anita Derby. Giacomo finished 4th in the 2005 running. Tiago won the Santa Anita Derby in similar fashion to Giacomo winning the '05 Kentucky Derby (from way back and with a huge kick). Bwana Bull has a big kick too, as he won the El Camino Derby and California Derby by stalking the pace and moving big at the top of the stretch.

I wonder what a Bwana Bull to Tiago exacta would pay?

Here's Bwana Bull running away with the California Derby:

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Cobalt Blue Out, Teuflesberg In

It's official now. Cobalt Blue has been withdrawn from consideration for the 2007 Kentucky Derby. The decision was apparently made by owner Merv Griffin. According to trainer Doug O'Neill, "Merv said don't run that horse just for me. If we need to bring him back home and find a different spot let's do it."

Lackluster recent works and a 7th place finish in the Illinois Derby (as the chalk) sealed it. I think they made the right decision.

So the "gutsy" Teuflesberg is most likely in based on graded earnings. I think he'll probably be one of the horses vying for the lead past the crowd the first time.

Here he is in the 2007 Southwest Stakes when he beat Hard Spun among others at 23-1:

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cobalt Blue Out? is reporting that Cobalt Blue, Merv Griffin's "derby horse" may not run in Saturday's Kentucky Derby after all. Trainer Doug O'Neill cites Cobalt Blue's recent poor performance in the Illinois Derby and lackluster recent works as the reasons.

Cobalt Blue has enough graded earnings off of his win in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes to qualify for the derby but doesn't appear to be improving and according to reports seems nowhere near ready to run in the derby.

This makes room for the fan favorite Tueflesberg, who would now qualify based on graded earnings, to run in the derby and give it all he has to wire the field.

Look for Tueflesberg, if he actually makes it to the race, to try to go straight to the lead and run his guts out.

Here's a look at Cobalt Blue in his prime: The San Felipe Stakes in March.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"The Inglewood Zone"

Garrett Gomez returned to So-Cal and quickly got back into the winner's circle in the first two races at Hollywood Park on Sunday. Both were stakes races. The first was the Magali Farms Stakes for 3-year-old maidens and Gomez won aboard Rare Exchange who paid $3.60. The second was the Fran Valentine Stakes for 4-year-olds and up (fillies and mares) on the turf. He rode Nashoba's Key who also paid $3.60. Welcome back Garrett, for now.

Gomez, the country's leading rider, also made local news as his bid to build a 2-story home in his Duarte (adjacent to Arcadia) neighborhood was rejected by the city council. He apparently wanted to tear down his existing house and build a two-story 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom house on the propery but neighbors and the city objected because it violated city code.
The Pick 6 prize was finally snatched on Saturday. The three day record pool was enormous and 71 tickets had all 6 and each won $46,492. The regulars are a little annoyed at the way things have been playing out. The form is way off. Going from dirt handicapping at Santa Anita to the cushion track at Hollywood has made for some strange goings-on. From what I've heard some of the regular horse-players around here are considering sitting out a few days to see how this track is gonna play. Yeah right.
Also at Hollywood, Kentucky Derby contenders Tiago and Stormello had their final works in preparation for their trip to the Kentucky Derby. Tiago went 6 furlongs in 1:11.40 with his jockey Mike Smith aboard and Stormello went 5/8 in 1:00.80.
I haven't decided where I stand in terms of my "Derby trifecta" yet. I'll wait until the field is announced and I'm looking forward to reports on all the local horses from Churchill Downs this week. I can't wait for the Derby.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Liquidity Ready To Fire?

According to the Clocker over at Keeneland, Liquidity’s workout this morning was, "a spectacular appearance and gallop-out reminiscent of Curlin's earlier this week. Clearly a horse coming-up to the race firing on all cylinders." He also noted that Liquidity was wearing, “some mysterious padding around [his] lower legs protecting his coronet bands (the part between the ankle and hoof wall), typically used to protect horses that strike the ground particularly hard.”

Liquidity is no doubt considered a long shot in the Derby, finishing in the exotics in most of his grades stakes starts, but not quite seeming to figure it all out. Trainer Doug O’Neill has been trying some different things with Liquidity, most recently adding blinkers in the Santa Anita Derby. He ran 4th that day, and O’Neill say he’s removing the blinkers for the Kentucky Derby and adding a sure-win bridal, which keeps a bit firmly in the horse’s mouth.

The times this morning for Liquidity: 6 furlongs: 1:11.3 [:12.0; :24.0; :35.2; :48.2; :59.3; 1:11.3 - Galloped-out 7/8 in 1:24.0; 1M in 1:40.0]

So what do we make of this? I’m not sure. Maybe he’s a live price at 45-1 or maybe he’s finally putting it all together just in time.

O’Neill’s other runners currently at Keeneland also worked out today. Great Hunter worked 6 furlongs in 1:13 flat, and galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:26.2. The Keeneland Clocker remarked that the members of the California media on site seem to think that Great Hunter isn’t the “monster” that he was as a 2-year-old and then took the opportunity to take a crack at West Coast media in general and Brad Free in specific. You know what? That’s great. Ha ha. I’ll talk to you on May 6.

Cobalt Blue also worked today, going 6 in 1:11.3. The Clocker noted, “this was a full-out work, and when it was done, so was the horse.” Oh man.

Curb My Enthusiasm has video and notes from the O'Neill runners today.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Big Ol' Carryover

In deep stretch it looked like it was over. Neutrality had it.

But, Brahms Tudor and Saul Arias had other plans. Neutrality was clear by a couple near the 1/16 pole. The Pick Six was nailed. Hearts stopped. Babies screamed. Women clutched their purses.

Lots of bettors had Neutrality, one of the favorites, in the final leg of their Pick Six at Hollywood Park on Thursday. Lots. And with a 1/16 to go she had it won.

People were counting their money. Double checking their tickets and trying to contain their excitement. It was over.

But the finish line couldn’t come up quick enough for the 12 and Jon Court.

Brahms Tudor, 25-1, stalked the pace and found herself behind a wall of horses at the top of the stretch. Arias looked for room and eventually found some. After some maneuvering, she came up on Neutrality with 50 yards to go. She was on the inside, gaining steadily, but the finish line was near.

And…she nailed Neutrality at the wire on a head bob.

It was one heck of a dramatic Pick 6 carryover race. Tomorrow’s carryover is almost half a million.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

So-Cal’s Derby Hopes

Here’s a look at the 3-year-old Kentucky Derby contenders that have run at least two major races at Santa Anita, Del Mar or Hollywood Park. The So-Cal horses this year run the gamut from nice, solid picks (Great Hunter), Cinderella stories (Tiago) to horses that should probably make way for stronger contenders lest they get in the way (Cobalt Blue, thanks Merv Griffin!)

Here are my takes (ranked in order) along with notes on how each contender did in their major So-Cal races and where I place them on the morning line if the Derby were tomorrow:

Great Hunter 10-1
Won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in March, ran 2nd in the Best Pal, Del Mar Futurity and Hollywood Juvenile Championships.

The win in the Lewis didn’t really seem as exciting as Trevor Denman made it sound, but it was a win and he did beat Tiago and others (Tap It Light, Saint Paul) that day. He made a huge move at the ¼ pole.

He looked mature down the stretch in the Bluegrass (compared to everybody else) and seemed to be the only one not lugging in and out and in every other direction and checking out the Keeneland grandstand. He was about to unleash his kick at the 1/16 pole in that race when Tueflesberg slammed into him.

People seem to be writing him off too soon because he finished 5th and then those same people discount the race because of the fractions and the surface. Hmm… Check out his works leading up to the big one, he’s O’Neill’s best shot. Definitely in the trifecta. Danger, danger, danger…

Tiago 15-1
Won the Santa Anita Derby and ran 7th in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Broke his maiden by disqualification. He won the Santa Anita Derby with a huge final kick under some serious urging from Mike Smith.

In the Lewis he never really got unleashed, horses were in his way and he apparently wasn’t feeling it. It looked like he just gave up when he figured he had no chance of winning. But in the Santa Anita Derby he burst through a hole toward the inside. Migliore thought he had it won because nobody was looming on the outside, but… Believe it or not but I had the 9-8 exacta for $191 on a $1 bet.

His half brother is Giacomo on the mare’s side and apparently is line bred to Nasrullah and that helps his chances in the eyes of some.

He worked 1:25 for 7 furlongs on Sunday. He also worked 6 furlongs on April 16, so he’s been busy and Shirreff hopes to keep him sharp. He’s scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs either April 30 or May 2. He might shock again at 20-1 (or more! more?). He gets no love for winning the Santa Anita Derby.

It also seems like he needs to relax a bit before really unwinding and he may like the 1 ¼ distance. And he may have learned something in his last race. He looks like a smart one. Lookout!

Stormello 15-1
Broke his maiden in his 2nd race, a 53K Maiden Special Weight at Del Mar last summer. Won the Hollywood Futurity in December at Hollywood Park and the Norfolk Stakes last fall at Oak Tree. He ran 3rd in the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity.

He has been busy. He ran second to Scat Daddy in the Fountain of Youth. He has tons of heart, tons, as he showed coming back to win the Hollywood Futurity after being passed in the stretch by Liquidity. He’d bred more as a sprinter but has been successful around 2-turns as well. He definitely belongs and he just might try to wire the field unless his connections try to rate him behind the leaders. May surprise.

Sam P. 25-1
Finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby and 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis behind Great Hunter.

He chased Great Hunter home (and gave him a scare for about ½ a second) in the Lewis and was the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby. He’ll lose the blinkers, a recent equipment change, for the Derby and will probably be in the mix along with a dozen others trying to close and make up ground around the final turn and in the stretch. Stranger things have happened…. Would be fun.

Liquidity 40-1
Hasn’t won squat except his maiden race. Ran third in the Real Quiet Stakes and 2nd in the Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park, 2nd in the Sham behind Ravel and 4th in the Santa Anita Derby.

He’s just been kicking around and hasn’t really impressed too much lately. He seems to have been more hype than anything else. If I remember correctly he was the morning line favorite going into the Santa Anita Derby but only really made one decent move in the stretch, didn’t respond when passed and gave way to horses that wanted it more. I really don’t know what to make of him. He might turn out to be a top 4-year-old.

Cobalt Blue 60-1
He won the San Felipe at Santa Anita in March and was 7th in the Best Pal at Del Mar. Merv Griffin seems to be the only person that believes this guy is ready for the Kentucky Derby. A lackluster recent work and a horrendous showing in the Illinois Derby show otherwise. But Merv was really excited after the San Felipe!

Cobalt Blue is either really inconsistent or he really isn’t ready for the derby. Recent works are uninspiring to say the least. I just hope he doesn’t get in the way too much along the backstretch.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Espinoza Rides For His Life

The clouds showed up and threatened but the rains never came. Just a few drops right before the 9th. The people came too, but not nearly in the numbers they did yesterday when sports fans from everywhere, enticed by the offer of a free baseball cap, filed in in large numbers. Yesterday was fan appreciation day and everything cost $1, except bets over $1. I met my pop in the pavilion, just before the 2nd race.

Yesterday, I overheard a guy ask his girlfriend, "what happens if the long shot wins?" They have a parade down Baldwin Ave., of course.

In the 5th at Bay Meadows a 15-1 morning line horse opened up at 2-1. He held steady for most of the wagering, eventually going off near 9-2. I put some dough on him and after about a 1:12, I found why he was 15-1 on the morning line. I think he’s still running.

The big one today, of course, was the Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Slightly more than a mile and 3/4 on the hillside turf.
Victor Espinoza and On the Acorn – a former claimer - out-gutted the field and took command in the stretch and at the end of the marathon race – by American standards - passed the favorite and class of the field, Sweet Return.

The win in the 9th was Espinoza’s first of the day and it tied him with Garrett Gomez for the jockey wins title at the winter meet at Santa Anita. Gomez has been riding at Keeneland for the last few weeks and Espinoza has been steadily gaining on him. Closing. Closing. Closing.

So the real drama was in the 10th. The last race of the meet. Maiden Claimers at 7 furlongs. Espinoza was on the favorite, the 2-horse – Ruthie’s Girl.

Just before the race, Trevor Denman announced: “If Victor Espinoza wins the race aboard Ruthie’s Girl, he will win the riding title. He is currently tied with Garrett Gomez.”

“Who cares about that, run the race,” yelled the guy next to us.

My dad turned to me, “he thinks Gomez deserves it.”

“He does, in a way, but…”

My dad turned to the guy and asked, “you think Gomez deserves it?”

They guy looked over at us, “no, I don’t care,” the old guy yelled, “I place parlayed him with the field.” We all laughed as the guy walked away yelling something, waving his cigar in the air.

Ruthie’s Girl broke a little slow and fell off the leaders early. As the field entered the turn near the 3/8 pole, Victor was pushing his horse, trying to will her in. Trying to will in the chalk for the masses who had been losing money all day on 2nd and 3rd favorites. Trevor Denman said, “Victor Espinoza is riding for his life out there.” Ruthie’s Girl just didn’t understand the importance.

In the end the girl never fired and finished 9th at 2-1. Gomez and Espinoza are tied now, and forever.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Santa Barbara 'Cap And More At Santa Anita

Just before 3 today the parking attendant waved me in. I was more than willing to cough up the $1 general parking fee (fan appreciation day) but the guy was either busy with something or word had come down to just let the people in.

I arrived 5 minutes before the 6th race. I had no time to handicap the race so I just picked up a discarded sports page, flipped to the back and went to the window to box the horses that were the consensus 1-2 in the paper. I bet a 9-2 exacta. 9-1 came in. No great loss.

I was really interested in the 7th race. The Grade II Santa Barbara, 1 1/4 miles on the grass. Fillies and Mares, 4 and up.

So, I went back out front and got a hold of a program and form. Papers in hand, I went back up to the Pavillion, across from the food court, aka the semi-indoor smoking section, crowded with tables and horse-players and gamblers of every sort. My pop was in there with the other regulars and I stood next to him at his table. There were no available chairs.

The 9 - Naughty Rafaela - looked like the one to beat and was being bet accordingly. She had several good recent races and good speed ratings, so I settled on her and began looking for a price to box her with in an exacta, looking for a reason to write off the two favorites at the top, Live Life and Solva . Mabadi looked like a live one. So did another horse that I can't recall. Suffice to say, I boxed the three of them. 6-8-something.

And the 8-6 came in. It paid 36 something on $1. Hooray for me. Trainer Bobby Frankel won his fourth straight Santa Barbara. Hooray for him. David Flores rode the winner.

Races 8-11 were typical fare for me. I hit an exacta that paid $6.60 in the 8th. Lost on a bunch of other stuff and got nipped at the line in the 11th on the back-end of my exacta, by a flying 8-horse that came from the clouds with Douglas Portillo aboard. Way to go Doug! It was such a close finish for 2nd that I was hesitant to chuck my ticket. Even after the race was official. Just in case.

The 9th was 6 1/2 furlongs of insanity. It was the Grade III San Simeon Handicap, 4 year olds and up. Normally an "about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course" but not today. It rained buckets here for the first time in months yesterday and the authorities are no doubt protecting the hill for tomorrow's big one.

So, the race was moved off the hill and the grass and when all was said and done five horses scratched. All the remaining runners were experienced sprinters on dirt and it was a free for all in the betting and handicapping.

I decided to exacta-box the two longest shots on the board. A 9/2 shot and a horse at 5/2. The two favorites at the time of my bet were 7/5 and 8/5. By the time the race went off my 5/2 shot was bet down somewhere into the range of 9/5 or 8/5. He was no longer the third choice.

As far as I recall the horses finished in exact reverse order of their odds at post time. Aaron Gryder rode Bofante to victory and in a 4 horse race the 2-9 $1 winning exacta paid $39.20. The winner paid $14.20. No show wagering. My horses finished 1 and 4.

In the 10th, a horse named Unbeatable East went from 35-1 to 15-1 in one tick with about 8 minutes to post. I already had a few bucks on him because he was a big class dropper. He went off around 25-1 and ran like it.

But for the day, I broke even and that's all I can ask for.

The big one tomorrow is the Grade II San Juan Capistrano, 1 3/4 miles on the turf, starting on the hill. The longest grass race in the country. I'll be there tomorrow and will be pouring over the form tonight so I can hopefully break even again.

Sunday is closing day at Santa Anita, and the last day to watch a race there being contested on old-fashioned dirt. I'm planning to bring my camera with me to get a shot of the dirt.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oak Tree Gets Breeder's Cup '08

The powers-that-be have decided and announced that Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet will host the 2008 Breeder's Cup races.

The two day session will be held on October 24 and 25 and will be the first time that a Breeder's Cup race will be run on a synthetic surface as Santa Anita's dirt track is scheduled to be converted into an artificial racing surface this summer.

Apparently, the company to do the installation has not yet been determined and there is no truth to the rumor that they are awaiting a recommendation from Lava Man's connections.

For my money, the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita is the best place to hold the Breeder's Cup races as it is the most convenient for me. I may or may not attend though, because as my pop says, "win money during the week, lose it on the weekend".

Just for kicks, here's Lava Man in the '07 Big Cap. Props to partymanners on You Tube.

Curlin Leads Derby Watch Top 25

Derby Watch has released it's latest Top 25 heading into the Kentucky Derby and it's no surprise that Curlin (Arkansas Derby) leads the pack. They have him as a 5-1 favorite with Street Sense (2006 2-year old champ) right behind him at 6-1 and Circular Quay (Louisiana Derby) and Nobiz Like Shobiz (Wood Memorial), co-third favorites at 8-1.

Tiago and Dominican, the two winners of arguably the most prestigious Derby prep races (Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass Stakes) get no love at 20-1.

Great Hunter is stalking the field in 7th position, at 15-1.

Historically speaking, Curlin has a lot going against him at this point. He only has 3 lifetime starts, never ran as a 2-year old, he's never been tested and he's probably going to go off as the favorite. That's bad news. Not only does the favorite hardly ever win the big one, the winner rarely pays less than 10 bucks (4-1).

But just looking at him and his performance in the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes, he has an awful lot going for him as well. He looks mature out there, he runs straight for a 3-year old, he's big, strong and fast. And as of right now, he hasn't shown that he can lose a race.

But until we see him in the Triple Crown races, and specifically the Derby, the jury is still going to be out on the guy.

For me, I'm still kicking around my Top 10 list.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

San Juan 'Cap on Sunday

Sadly, Santa Anita will close it's gates to live racing on Sunday (reopens in October with the Oak Tree Meet). The Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap is the feature race on closing day. At 1 3/4 miles, and starting on the hillside turf course it is always an intriguing race. For years this has been one of my favorite races.

This year it's a small field. The probable starters are: A.P. Xcellent, Church Service, On the Acorn, One Off, Phar to Win, Runaway Dancer and Sweet Return (maybe).

According to the Daily Racing Form, the winner will receive an invitation to the Melbourne Cup (2 miles on turf, 3.8 million purse in 2006) in November.

Closing Day 2007 for the Santa Anita Meet will also feature the final race contested on natural dirt at the park. An new artificial surface is scheduled to be installed at The Great Race Place this summer.

Here is video of the '88 San Juan (back when it was a Grade I) from my You Tube page and my personal tape collection. Watch Shoe try to steal it on the lead with Fiction.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Curlin Bandwagon

Everybody loves a superhorse. So Curlin, after three impressive wins, including a 10 1/2 length victory in last Saturday's Grade I Arkansas Derby has emerged as the 7/2 betting favorite going into next month's Kentucky Derby. Bet down from a 12-1 morning line, he only has three lifetime starts and has never as they say "been tested".

Street Sense is 2nd in the wagering at 6-1 and a slight overlay off the 5-1 morning line.

The 3rd choice in the wagering is Circular Quay at 9-1 the winner of the Grade II Louisiana Derby.

For my money, Great Hunter looks great at 15-1. Looking at the Bluegrass, he ran on even terms with the top 4 but was checked in the stretch and forced out of the mix. There was no protest from jockey Corey Nakatani. Hmm, I wonder why?

Here is the article with the full odds list at the bottom.

Take a look at Curlin in the Arkansas Derby (props again to partymanners for the video on You Tube)

2007 Bluegrass Stakes

Dominican came up huge here. His speed rating was improving with each race before the Bluegrass and now this. He's going to be a dangerous longshot in the Kentucky Derby if he can handle the dirt track.

And despite finishing fifth, Great Hunter still looks ready for the first Saturday in May. He was checked badly in the stretch just as he was unwinding a huge kick at the 1/16 pole when Tueflesberg veered into him.

Street Sense
is still right there, although he looked a little green in the stretch, and after seeing him in his previous two races (Tampa Bay Derby, Bluegrass), I'd say he has lots of guts to go along with world-class talent.

Zanjero and Tueflesberg are also expected to emerge from the Bluegrass and reappear on the first Saturday in May.

These guys were practically walking through six furlongs in 1:16 and change on the poly track but man were they moving through the stretch.

It's too bad they can't get a straight on angle for the finish line at Keeneland.

Props to "partymanners" on You Tube for providing the race for us.