Friday, May 4, 2012

It All Starts With Alpha

Welcome to the annual rite of futility.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not 0 for 138 in the Kentucky Derby (I had Regret in 1915), it only feels that way.  Yet here I am, giving it the old college try.  I don’t know if I should be proud of myself for persevering or ashamed for publicly humiliating myself year after year.  This year the audience grows as I take on 12 of the best handicappers in the country over at Hello Race Fans as we choose all the graded stakes over the weekend including the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.  To single any of them out would be unfair to the rest, so go ahead and take a look.  If you’re new to racing it’s the perfect site to get you started, if you’re a veteran, I believe you’ll find some things that will enlighten and entertain you – including seeing how yours truly stacks up!
(I think that Adam and Dana lost a bet and had to include me, but I digress)

It’s exciting to see a field come together that seems to be deep and talented.  We’ve been starved for 3-year old males over the over the past several years and this year’s crop looks like a nice one.  It’s making for a wide open Derby and the opportunity for me to get off this snide.

1.      Daddy Long Legs (O’Brien/O’Donoghue) 30-1: I’m not sure about this horse.  He ran a crappy Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, took the winter off and then scored with ease in the UAE Derby to kick off his 3-year old campaign.  He’s posted no works over the Churchill strip and all his best efforts have been on turf or synthetic.

2.      Optimizer (Lukas/Court) 50-1: The last time I said “no way” on a horse it was Mine that Bird.  That said, I can’t see anything to recommend on a horse that lost by 20 ½ lengths last time out.  It looks like that 2nd place finish in the Rebel was more fluke than flash.

3.      Take Charge Indy (Byrne/Borel) 15-1: Sure to be overbet with Calvin Borel on his back, I don’t think this guy will make the distance.  He likes to be on the engine and there will be other horses wanting that front end.  It’ll be tough for anyone to take this field wire-to-wire.

4.      Union Rags (Matz/Leparoux) 9-2: Tepid second choice in the morning line, I LOVED this colt after the Juvenile last year, getting a God-awful trip and still just missing Hansen by a head.  When he busted out in the Fountain of Youth, I would have bet him then and there, but was disappointed in his Florida Derby.  I’m not ruling him out altogether, he just seems to find trouble and he’ll get plenty of it in this field.

5.      Dullahan (Romans/Desormeaux) 8-1: I’ll tell you that Dullahan is not my choice but if he wins, as the owner of a couple of Even the Score ladies, I would be pretty happy.  I think this colt may be better over turf than dirt and will end up on the outside looking in.

6.      Bodemeister (Baffert/Smith) 4-1: Can’t argue with the connections or the decision to make him the ML favorite.  His win in the Arkansas Derby was one of the more dominating performances of the Derby season and he comes in third off the layoff with good works.  What’s not to like?  Possibly the early pace up front where he likes to be.  Even for a colt of his considerable talent it’ll be very hard to wire this field.  So while he seems to be a good favorite, I’m taking a stand against him.

7.      Rousing Sermon (Hollendorfer/Lezcano) 50-1: He appeared to really step up while finishing second in the Louisiana Derby.  That field was nowhere near the caliber of some of the other Derby preps and though he should close nicely, he won’t get a sniff here.

8.      Creative Cause (Harrington/Rosario) 12-1: Beat the favorite in the San Felipe and missed by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby to I’ll Have Another.  He should have a really nice stalking trip and has the closing kick to possibly pick up the pieces of the crumbling front runners. (NOTE: Prior to publishing rumors are running rampant regarding Creative Cause scratching from the Derby)

9.      Trinniberg (Parboo/Martinez) 50-1:  Why?  Why would you compromise the future of a possibly brilliant sprinter so you can say you had a Derby runner.  A good reason why the field should be cut back from 20.  The only things that can happen from him in the race are bad: fry the favorite early and ruin his own future.

10.   Daddy Nose Best (Asmussen/Gomez) 15-1: I wish nothing but the best for my doppleganger, but I’m not sure that his road to Kentucky toughened him up enough for this field.  His figs are excellent, his style is suited and he proved that he could win on dirt last out.  He may get a piece of the super, but I don’t see him on top.

11.   Alpha (McLaughlin/Maragh) 15-1: Had a nice start to 2012 before taking couple of months and then just could not get past Gemologist in the Wood.  The distance is not an issue and if he needed one under his belt after the hiatus, he could be ready to roll here.

12.   Prospective (Casse/Contreras) 30-1: It’s hard to blame the demolition that occurred in the Blue Grass to the surface since Prospective broke his maiden and won the Grey over the synthetic at Woodbine.  The Blue Grass was a step up and Prospective wilted.

13.   Went the Day Well (Motion/Velazquez) 20-1: This may be a spot that is a little too ambitious.  Style fits nicely, but is ability may not.

14.   Hansen (Maker/Dominguez) 10-1: Guaranteed winner according to his owner but he’s going to need to get past 13 horses on his inside to get to where he wants to be early and Bodemeister is going to be in the way, among others.  He won’t be able to cash his owner’s check.

15.   Gemologist (Pletcher/Castellano) 6-1: How do you NOT like undefeated?  He was gritty and held off Alpha in the Wood but would he have been able to do so for another 1/8 of a mile?

16.   El Padrino (Pletcher/Bjerano) 20-1: He’s got the right running style for this field, but figures declining over the last three races as the competition stiffened and the distance grew. He won’t be able to overcome these.

17.   Done Talking (Smith/Russell) 50-1: Seemed to improve second off the layoff in the Illinois Derby, but also had a much softer field.  He’s back in the bigs for this one.

18.   Sabercat (Asmussen/Nakatani) 30-1: Does not seem to have improved since two and maybe should have opted for the Secret Circle route – staying home.

19.   I’ll Have Another (O’Neill/Guitierrez) 12-1: Nice preps out west and seems to have really made strides as a three year old.  The distance shouldn’t be an issue but was nearly caught by Creative Cause when he moved past a mile and a 16th.  His running style fits nicely but can Gutierrez stare done these others and pilot him home first?

20.   Liaison (Baffert/Garcia) 50-1: Didn’t finish the Lewis, beaten in the San Felipe and soundly walloped in the Santa Anita.  Does not belong in the field.

21.   ALSO ELIGIBLE My Adonis (Breen/Trujillo) 50-1: Doesn’t look like he’ll get in and probably for the best.

A big field with several who shouldn’t be around but will cause problems in during the race.  Topping that list is Trinniberg.  All this horse does is cause problems for Bodemeister.  There is a very real possibility that Bodemeister is the best horse in this field but he won’t be around at the end to show it because of the front end pressure he’ll receive.  Hopefully the colt will be able to rate, but he hasn’t shown any inkling to do so up until this point.  I wonder if Bob Baffert goes to bed at night cursing Bisnath Parboo? And Gemologist is not immune to front-runner-it is either – three of his five wins were wire to wire, though he has shown a much better ability to rate than the others.  Finally, guaranteed winner Hansen will certainly want to be on or about the lead.  That’s a lot of speed mixed with a lot of talent on the front end.

As the front runners roll, the stalkers will be in a nice position to try and pick up the pieces when things start to fall apart through the final turn.  Union Rags, I’ll Have Another, Creative Cause and Alpha will be fighting for a good spot to launch their bids.  All, of course, will not be successful.  Union Rags won’t get the mile and a quarter and I think that I’ll Have Another is a step below this group.  I think that this race comes down to Creative Cause and Alpha with some of the closers like Dullahan and Daddy Nose Best just not quite up to the same level as these two.  Of the possible horses up front, Gemologist is the one with the grit to stick around. 

(NOTE: Prior to publishing, rumors abound about Creative Cause scratching out of the race.  Here is where you need to determine, is he okay or if he races will he be less than 100%.  This would be cause for concern if the rumors persist past the next few hours.  Pay attention to the information out there and make your decision accordingly.  Should the rumors persist and I'm uncomfortable with what I'm hearing, I would move Gemologist up to 2 and Union Rags 3)

1.      Alpha
2.      Creative Cause
3.   Gemologist

Alpha will be the one that breaks the curse and leads me out of the Derby darkness.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Best of luck Ted. At least I had the winner in the Oaks and made enough to show a profit for the day and give me a chance at the Oaks-Derby double where I have a favorite and a long shot chance.

I'll still wager more than normal looking for the angle that pays off in the derby.