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: