Saturday, May 16, 2015

Preakness Thoughts


We head into Preakness Day like we always do - with only one horse with the ability to bring home a Triple Crown.  Some of the usual suspects come with the Derby King to take another crack at him and they join up with a few that have been waiting in the wings for Black-Eyed Susans rather than roses.

Sometimes the Derby King succeeds and goes on to New York with America in tow, waiting to see if the drought is broken and the country's thirst for a Triple Crown winner is quenched.  It hasn't been for 37 years.

Maybe this year will be different; maybe it won’t, but for any chance of it happening at all American Pharaoh has to win in Baltimore.  I’m not sure how he can fail.

Admittedly I got too cute in the Derby.  Around our house most conversations Heather and I had handicapping the Derby ended up with “maybe American Pharaoh is just the best horse?” He was and I was wrong.  I had him in the mix but in the big field, anything can happen, two-minute world of the Derby it was worth going for the price.  In Baltimore it’s all about the win.

I know it’s trendy to look at Firing Line improving or Diving Rod coming in for the Jacksons in their return to the Preakness, but with his owner and the likes of D. Wayne Lukas saying that the horse won in Louisville despite not being at his best and a field half the size he had to contend with in the Derby, I’m going with American Pharaoh, odds be damned.
(Follow this and other picks from a myriad of horse racing folks on the Preakness Day stakes at Hello Race Fans.)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mr Lexis Goes Postward in Our First Run at Arlington


Mr. Lexis, the horse we manage for CAC Racing LLC,  heads postward this afternoon versus eight foes and while he was installed as the tepid 3-1 morning line favorite, this race did not come up easy.  Here’s a look at the field:

1 MR LEXIS (BRINSON/EMIGH)

2 Five Green Stars (Block/Esquivel) – State bred allowance winner had a real tough time against open company at the Fairgrounds.  While he’s back home and dropping into claiming company, he may need to face lower.

3 Top Gato (Mason/Felix) – He ran a very professional race last out over the Oaklawn Park dirt track in his first race off the claim for the new connections. This is a pretty good step up but he has 2 wins in only 5 lifetime starts.

4 Love you Mon (Williamson/Geroux) – Emigh came off of this one to ride us but Geroux is no slouch.  He’s won a few times here at Arlington, albeit at lower levels.  He did show speed before fading 1st off the layoff and could be in line to step up a bit here.

5 Kitten’s Song (Haran/Murrilo) – Well bred colt won at this level before on this track, though over a yielding strip.  Firing first off the layoff is tough.

6 Armature (Rousell/Gudiel) – I actually like this one’s chances.  He hasn’t run too badly recently and the score at the Fairgrounds two back was nice.  Our saving grace may be that he doesn’t seem to like the Arlington track, though those races were all in maidens before he had a chance to figure things out.

7 Poker Player (Catalano/Hill) – Won the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland and ran in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf that same year.  Now he is a couple of seasons removed from that but as recently as December 27 he was still thought highly enough to run in a stake.  He didn’t fare well in a Turfway optional claimer so now he heads into straight claimers to try and get a win out of him. Either he is the class of the field or completely washed up.

8 Brim (Rodriguez/Homeister Jr.) – You can probably draw a line through that last dirt debacle – this one clearly belongs on the turf.  Last competitive race was a win at the Fairgrounds in a $15,000 conditioned claimer.

9 Badger Bay (Williamson/Perez) – This one is entered for the main track only and with the weather the next two days predicted to be sunny and dry, don’t expect to see him.

So we’re looking at a probable field of 8 and I have two concerns: a complete lack of any pace in the race and I don’t know what to make of Poker Player.

On pace, maybe Top Gato or Kitten’s Song could cut the fractions but if you look back at our boy’s races 3 and 4 back, he was mighty close to the lead.  A good break and the inside post and we could find ourselves on the lead and hope that Emigh can ration his speed.  With a field full of closers if he can crawl the fractions without frustrating the horse we could be looking good.

As for Poker Player, my guess is that he’s done. As a colt, I would think if he doesn’t win here and turn things around he may be retired.  He is a graded stakes winner from Harlan’s Holiday out of a mare by Preakness and Gotham winner Red Bullet.  He may try stud duty before they totally collapse the value on him by running in low level claiming races.  Then again this kind of company may be just what he needs but his BrisNet speed figures say that while he may belong in here, he doesn’t tower over.

Good luck everyone!!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kentucky Derby Day Preview; Oaks Day Recap


My Oaks day started off frustrating, peaked and then was downhill from there.  The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't get shut out.  In the Edgewater (QUALITY ROCKS) and the La Troienne (SHEER DRAMA) I finished 2nd.  In a thrilling Alysheba, if it wasn't for a Herculean effort by PROTONICO to fight back after being headed in deep stretch to win, I would have had my 3rd place finish in a row. 
I took stabs with longer shots in the Turf Sprint (CHANNEL MARKER) and the Eight Belles (EKATI'S PHAETON) and finished off the board in both. 
In the Oaks, I'M A CHATTERBOX left herself too much to do and, though she closed adroitly, it was too little, too late and she finished 3rd, behind the impressive LOVELY MARIA and long shot SHOOK UP.
The final stat line: 6 races - 1 win, 2 places, 1 third for my top choices.
 
DERBY DAY
This may be the hardest Derby I’ve ever analyzed.  Judging from my highly publicized track record (1 for ever) you’d think they were ALL unbearably hard, but this one was brutal.  I’ll admit, right now as I type this up at lunch at an Italian restaurant in Mauston, WI I STILL have no idea who my final Derby selection will be.  Before that, though, I CAN go ahead and give the thumbnails for my Hello Race Fans selections on the undercard.  By the time you read the Derby pick, I would have returned home and taken my stab!
PAT DAY MILE

COMPETITIVE EDGE is the big favorite in this one and while I really like him in here, it’s hard to like him at 6/5.  Especially since he doesn’t seem to tower over this field of 8.  The Pletcher trainee is undefeated and really hasn’t done anything wrong, but is liable to get hooked early by the likes of HILBILLY ROYALTY and GIMME DA LUTE.  The race seems to set up very nicely for LORD NELSON and I look for him to take it late.
AMERICAN TURF

A large field with no clear favorite so I’m going with one that hasn’t disappointed anyone yet: GRANNY’S KITTEN.  This Ramsey homebred had a very professional debut at two and now makes his 3-year old debut here.  His work pattern is solid and Maker is a fair 17% off a layoff.  Admittedly he’ll be a price but I felt this was a race to take a stab.

The scratch of GRANNY'S KITTEN made me re-evaluate the race and I landed upon NUN THE LESS.  Sure, it's a step up but this isn't exactly the Derby group going here and he's a Minnesota owned horse.  He should track well and if the race sets up right he could be right there at the end.

HUMANA DISTAFF

The shortest priced favorite of the day should be JUDY THE BEAUTY in here and I’m not going to try and get cute and beat her.  She stands over this field and should win it with ease.

DISTAFF TURF MILE

A nice, big, betable field in here.  There are several to make a case for, but I went with SANDIVA.  She never seemed to get untracked in the US after her arrival until she won at 9/2 in a Gulfstream overnight stake.  She then stepped up in the Grade 3 Suwanee River and won again.  She just got nipped at the end of the Grade 2 Honey Fox last out by Lady Lara.  While she may prefer a little longer, a second straight shot at a flat mile should be more to her liking and I’m hoping she turns the tables on her rival.

THE CHURCHILL DOWNS

BAYERN or PRIVATE ZONE.  PRIVATE ZONE or BAYERN.  Which way to go??  How about PANTS ON FIRE?  The two top choices as well as C. ZEE and BREWING should all want a piece of what’s going on up front in the 7 furlong sprint.  PANTS ON FIRE should be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the pace scenario, sitting right behind the leaders and building off of his 2015 debut win in the Sir Shakleton.  With the two favorites behind him, we should get a nice price as well.

TURF CLASSIC

We have a girl against the boys in the Turf Classic with STEPHANIE’S KITTEN tangling with FINNEGAN’S WAKE among others in here.  The problem for both of them is lack of pace.  No one is really going to want to go in this group…except for CHOCOLATE RIDE.  Joe Talamo has already proven that he can rate CHOCOLATE RIDE and he has 2 gate to wire wins in his last two races – both graded stakes going a mile and an eighth.  This is a tall order but if no one goes out to challenge, Talamo will control the pace again and we’ll win with double digit odds.

KENTUCKY DERBY
This was one hell of an exercise.  I started by eliminating those, in my view, that really didn’t stand a chance to win the race.  I was able to clear half the field but then again, that left half the field.  I read articles, watched replays and listened to the radio and what I learned is that with this Derby group I can be easily swayed.  Every ‘expert’ with an opinion could sway me.

Here is why AMERICAN PHAROAH can’t lose.  Okay, I buy that.
Here is why his stablemate DORTMUND will win.  Okay, I’m in.

No horse that hasn’t run as a 2-year old has won the Derby since Columbus crossed the ocean.  BUT…here is why MATERIALITY can break that streak.  Sounds good!

And on…and on…and on.

It seems as if we have a subset in the race of closely matched, very good horses with differing running styles and that, for the most part, prepped in different locations coming together for the first time to try something that none of them have yet: a mile and a quarter race with 150,000 people screaming at them every inch of the way.
The reality probably is that by the time Saratoga and Del Mar are finished up we’ll have a much better indication of what this crop is like.  Will there be a super horse? Is this the best group of 3-year olds since [insert favorite crop year here]? Have a few separated themselves from the rest?  Do we have a rivalry like AFFIRMED and ALYDAR?  All these questions will be answered then. Now we need to pick the Derby and start answering the questions.

My choice is FROSTED.

He was a solid and promising 2-year old, finishing 2nd in the Grade 2 Remsen before heading to the bench but then couldn’t get untracked as a 3.  His Holy Bull effort was decent by he was soundly defeated by UPSTART.  In the Fountain of Youth he looked very strong until he faded back to 4th in the lane.  He was sent off to undergo a throat procedure which was designed to help his breathing from an occasional displacement of the soft palate. If I get any deeper, I’m lost…net/net: he was breathing better under the stress of exercise.

His first race with the new and improved breathing system was a strong closing win in the Wood Memorial to win by two while posting his best lifetime Beyer Speed Figure (103).  Reunited with Joel Rosario for the Derby, Frosted should be able to get decent position while breaking from the 15 spot and shouldn’t have too much work to do when the real running starts.  He should be able to get the mile and a quarter, giving trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his first Derby win in his 5th start.