Thursday, January 30, 2014

Withers & Sam F. Davis Stakes Preview

Another week of the Kentucky Derby trail is behind us and, again, we had a good week with our bankroll play, which was $5 to win and $10 to place on Conquest Titan in the Holy Bull. He paid $8.60 for $2 to place, which was more than Cairo Prince paid to win, so we'll take that and run. A more detailed explanation of my thoughts on the Holy Bull is in the video, but obviously Cairo Prince ran well, although I do still have some concerns about him, and both Conquest Titan and Almost Famous stayed on my radar after solid performances. 






2/1/2014: Aqueduct Race 9-- G3 Withers
The name of the game in the one and one sixteenth miles Withers is speed. The undefeated Samraat has been the pace setter in all three of his races thus far and although he won on each occasion, this is a definite step up in class and he won't be alone up front this time around. Both Uncle Sigh and Street Gent were in front nearly the entire way in their most recent runs and were victorious in doing so. I'm going to play against the early speed in this race, however, and instead side with Classic Giacnroll. As you may have guessed, he's a son of 2005 Kentucky Derby Giacomo. He most recently ran in the G2 Jerome and while Noble Moon stole the headlines, Classic Giacnroll was arguably more impressive, as he was forced five-six wide in the first turn and ultimately traveled the furthest distance of anyone in the field by a longshot (63 ft further than Noble Moon according to TRAKUS) en route to a second place finish. I'm expecting him to sit mid-pack and take advantage of what I expect to be a healthy pace up front.

Bankroll Play: 
$20 to place on #4 Classic Giacnroll

2/1/2014: Tampa Bay Downs Race 9-- G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Unlike last year, this year's edition of the Sam F. Davis is not for any Kentucky Derby points, but it still has an interesting group of under-the-radar contenders. The highweights are two shippers from Canada Asserting Bear and Matador. Both have raced solely at Woodbine and will, therefore, be making their first starts on dirt. The latter is a son of Malibu Moon and does have dirt influences in his pedigree, but his only win in four starts was by a nose, so I'll look elsewhere. Todd Pletcher's horses are always dangerous in Florida and he has two entered here: Vinceremos, who is also cross-entered in the Hutcheson, and Harpoon. It's not often that I'll side with a son of Tapit, but Harpoon appeared to figure things out in his last start. After three starts, including a runner-up finish to Cairo Prince during which he ran very greenly and was fighting his jockey from the start, he sat and waited in his maiden breaker (which is unusual for most Tapits) before inheriting the lead and drawing away to win by over five lengths. My only concern is that he drew the rail and he does seem to prefer to be on the outside. Noble Cornerstone, who broke his maiden in his first attempt before finishing second in the Remington Springboard Mile, also is not without a chance.

Picks: 
Win: #1 Harpoon, Place: #2 Noble Cornerstone


Tracker Horses to Play:

1/31/2014: Aqueduct Race 3-- Allowance Optional Claiming: #1 Deceived (Broken Vow-Naughty Natasha, by Known Fact) Never finished outside of the top three in five starts. Finished second three back after brushing gate at the start, before breaking maiden impressively at Aqueduct. Most recently ran third in the Damon Runyon (which was won by Samraat) despite jumping at the break, spotting the field several lengths as a result, and having absolutely no pace to close into. He won't face that tough of a group here. 

2/1/2014: Aqueduct Race 7-- Busher Stakes: #4 Fleet of Gold (Medaglia d'Oro-Fleet Indian, by
Indian Charlie) Impressively broke maiden at Laurel before finishing third (4 lengths back) in the Busanda after a very wide trip. Looking to flip the tables on the Busanda winner Fierce Boots here. 

Dubai Carnival Picks for Thursday, January 30, 2014

DUBAL Excellence Trophy (Race 1):
The Charlie Appleby-trained Ahtoug stands out to me after his win in the Carnival opener, in what was his first start off a five month layoff. Not only did he close well in that race, but he did it when the pace quickened whilst others, a few of whom reappear here, faded badly. Barzalona retains the mount on a horse whose five career wins have all come at this distance. Another to consider is Abstraction, who has not ran since August, but did finish just one length behind the then red hot Dutch Masterpiece in the Flying Five. Prior to that, he finished third behind Russian Soul, which isn't bad form considering Russian Soul lost by just a neck to United Color here two weeks back. At double digit odds, he'd definitely be worth an each way shout.
Pick: Ahtoug to win, Abstraction e/w 

DUBAL Billet Trophy (Race 2):
The worthy favorite here is String Theory, who enters here off of two straight wins on the All-Weather in the UK, the most recent of which was a rather easy win at today's distance. He carries less weight here and Frankie Dettori will get the mount. One to keep an eye on is Clon Brulee. Although he only has one win in his last five starts, his last run was much better than it looks on paper. He was wide throughout and attempted to close into a slow pace and had to settle for sixth. It's also worth noting that both the second and fifth place finishers from that race went on to lose by only a head next time out. It was a good first run on the Meydan Tapeta and I expect him to move forward off that effort. Others I'll be keeping an eye on are Intrigo, who finished a good third in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise and will be stretching out here, and Rebel Song, who was nipped at the end of his two most recent efforts.
Pick: Clon Brulee to win

Cape Verdi Sponsored By DUBAL (Race 3):
Godolphin is well represented with two runners here. The highly regarded daughter of Elusive Quality, Certify is undefeated in four starts, one of which was over Sky Lantern at Newmarket. She, however, was one of the horses who was suspended as a result of the steroids scandal and consequently hasn't run since September 2012.  The American-bred Shuruq, enters this off a nice win against the boys in round one of the Al Maktoum Challenge, but that race was on the Tapeta. My choice is Flotilla, who has simply ran against much tougher than these. In 2012, she won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and her three runs since have all been in Grade 1 races in France.
Pick: Flotilla to win

DUBAL Casthouse Trophy (Race 4):
The Mike de Kock trained Zahee is my choice in what I don't think is a very deep race. Having not ran since March, Zahee's most recent finish was sixth behind the horse formerly named Lines of Battle in the UAE Derby. He has plenty of experience at Meydan and although he hasn't won, two respectable finishes behind Soft Falling Rain is plenty impressive to me. After a season at Meydan under his belt, he figures to improve in his spot, which he'll need to do in order to beat Tamarkuz, a son of Speightstown out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare who is undefeated in three runs on the All-Weather.
Pick: Zahee to win

Al Rashidiya Sponsored by DUBAL (Race 5):
I fear he may need the run coming off of a four month layoff, but I'm still going with Trade Storm. He twice won at Meydan last year, including a one and a half length victory in the G2 Zabeel Mile. He most recently ran third in the Woodbine Mine, arguably Wise Dan's most impressive run of the year, and it's worth noting the top two finishers in that race again ran one-two in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Pick: Trade Storm e/w

DUBAL Potlines Trophy (Race 6):
I went with Haafaguinea last time out and after his second place finish behind the ultra-impressive Cat O'Mountain, there's no reason not to stay with him, especially considering he'll be carrying less weight here. Although he took to the Tapeta just fine, he'll switch back to his preferred surface and the cutback in distance should suit him. His odds won't be great though, so another worth considering is Busker. This son of Street Cry enters this race having won three of his last five, the most recent of which was over the Tapeta earlier this month. Ottoman Empire and Clon Brulee, who run earlier on in the card, both exit that race, so their finishes will likely give us more of an insight into the strength of that race. The surface switch is questionable for Busker, but he's worth an each way play.
Pick: Haafaguinea to win, Busker e/w






















Thursday, January 23, 2014

Holy Bull Stakes Preview

After a good week in which we tipped the winner of the LeComte: Vicar's in Trouble, we move on to what is surely the deepest field in a Kentucky Derby prep so far this year. The GII Holy Bull, which was last won by Itsmyluckyday, has been won by such stars as Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument and the dearly departed Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Run over one and a sixteenth miles at Gulfstream, the winner of the Holy Bull will be awarded ten Road to the Kentucky Derby points.




(1/25/2014) Gulfstream Park Race 10: G2 Holy Bull Stakes--
To say this field is absolutely stacked would be an understatement. Highlighted by G2 Nashua winner Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile-Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull), eleven talented three-year-olds line up for this one. The aforementioned Cairo Prince broke his maiden in his first attempt, before impressively winning the Nashua over the likes of Financial Mogul and Noble Moon, who has since gone on to win the G2 Jerome. More recently, he finished a game second when losing by the slimmest of margins to Honor Code in spite of a wider trip and while carrying six more pounds. Also among the favorites will be Coup de Grace, a son of Tapit who is undefeated in two starts, the first of which was over the well regarded Unknown Road. He'll break from the rail and I expect him to figure into the pace of the race up front along with Almost Famous. It's worth noting that he'll have Velazquez aboard after Castellano chose to take the mount on Wicked Strong. A son of Hard Spun out of a Charismatic mare, Wicked Strong defeated Cool Samurai, who won next time out at Santa Anita, but it was his performance in the Remsen that caught people's attention. He was quickly closing on the lead duo in that race despite a very slow early pace. He did, however, run a bit greenly at times and did react very badly when the stick was used. Mr. Speaker is intriguing, as he has won two straight, but has only raced on turf to this point. There are plenty of dirt influences in this son of Pulpit's pedigree, so I don't expect the surface switch to be an issue, but he did get a dream trip last time out and I'm more inclined to think he's just not quite good enough in this spot. Our Caravan has only ran once, in which was sent off at big odds, but he won by three over course and distance. My choice is Conquest Titan. This son of Birdstone out of a Mineshaft mare is bred to route. He's twice ran at the distance and although he didn't factor into the finishes in either of those races, he had legitimate excuses. The Breeders' Futurity was run at a very slow pace in very difficult conditions from a weather standpoint and he flashed speed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile before he was for all intents and purposes pulled up when a speed duel ensued up front. He came right back, however, to win over a mile at Churchill Downs with a new tactic, as he was held up in the back and made one run to the front. The runner-up in that race has since come back to win the Gulfstream Park Derby. By all accounts, he worked well in company with Coastline, who finished third in the Smarty Jones Stakes, in preparation for this race and if the early fractions are speedy, expect him to be a major threat at a price.

Picks:
Win: #9 Conquest Titan (ML 12/1), Place: #7 Cairo Prince (ML 3/1), Show: #8 Wicked Strong (ML 8/1)



Saturday, January 18, 2014

Quick Picks for Saturday, January 18, 2013

A fantastic day of racing lies ahead, which is highlighted by the return of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man. Thank you to those of you who nominated the races that I should cover for this weekend (even those of you who nominated a race from Turfway Park...cough cough). As always, if there's ever a race you'd like me to look over, feel free to ask me on Twitter (@chare889). Best of luck to those of you who will be playing and enjoy the races!

Aqueduct Race 8: Evening Attire Stakes
#8 Cougar Ridge: Former runner in Europe who is on the improve. Won easily over a mile at Churchill Downs in November. Backed that up with a good win in a $62,500 Allowance Optional Claimer over a mile and a eighth locally. The slightest of progressions could see him scoring at a price.

#7 Cease: Most recently bounced back from a disappointing BC Marathon run with a win in a $62,500 Allowance Optional claimer locally on the Inner Track. Consistent horse

#1 Long River: Has won two straight, the most recent of which was the local Time for a Change Stakes, in which he beat the likes of Micromanage and Battier


Gulfstream Park Race 4: Maiden Special Weight
#10 Palace Gate: By Giant's Causeway o/o a multiple stakes winning Thunder Gulch mare. Has had trouble in the gate in both of his starts, but has shown ability in that he's finished 4th and 3rd in both of his starts, regardless. Pletcher-Stevens combo

#1 Tonalist: Finished fourth in debut in the Matterhorn-Harpoon maiden race at Aqueduct, which was over a mile. Stretching out 1 1/8 mi. By Tapit. Clement-Bravo, First time Lasix. Blinkers ON 

#3 Rompin Reid: Finished sixth in debut after being bumped at the start. By Medaglia d'Oro out of Runway Model (multiple graded stakes winning daughter of Petionville)

Gulfstream Park Race 6: Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Stakes
#3 Wishing Gate: Won the G2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar before taking the G3 Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita in October. Most recently finished sixth in the G1 Matriarch, but was only beaten a bit over 1 1/2 lengths. These aren't of that level.

#5 Silsita: Rallied to grab second vs Parranda locally over 1 1/16 miles last time out. Should relish the added distance

#1 Parranda: Daughter of English Channel is as consistent as they come (only one finish outside of top four in 2013). Defeated Silsita here over 1 1/16 miles two back

Gulfstream Park Race 9: Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint Stakes
#5 Fort Loudon: Lots of early speed signed up (Star Harbour, Ribo Bobo, and to a lesser extent Happy My Way). Big shot if they go too quick early. Got up for second in G3 Mr Prospector over course and distance last time out

#3 Ribo Bobo: Only non win last year was a second place finish. Loves Gulfstream and this distance. Two time course/distance winner last year


#1 Happy My Way: Big effort to win over course and distance in a $62,500 NW2 Allowance Optional Claimer in December. Starts from the rail, which should help

Fair Grounds Race 6: Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap
Pick 3 (Races 6,7,8): 7,9,10 / 1,2 / 6,8,10,11 & Pick 3 (Races 7,8,9): 1,2 / 6,8,10,11 / 3,4,7 

#10 Speaking of Which: Two wins in seven starts since arriving in the USA last year. Most recently got up late to win the G3 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder. Cuts back to 1 1/16 mi here. Steadily improving speed figs as of late

#7 Potomac River: Most recently overcame a troubled start to win the G3 Stakes River City Handicap (same race in which Daddy Nose Best finished fifth) and a wide post. Fits in here speed figs wise.

#9 Daddy Nose Best: Won four of his last five. Only non win in that time span was a fifth place finish in a G3 after being bumped at the start. Most recently won a stakes over same course and distance

Turfway Park Race 8: Forego Stakes
#11 I'm Boundtoscore: Solid turf form against age group in 2012. Hasn't run since being checked hard in the BC Juvenile Turf. Good local work. Despite long layoff, may just be a classier horse than the others.

#7 Point Finish: Winner of two straight (both on the dirt). Very good local record (4 2-2-0)

#8 Ghost Is Clear: Most recently finished second, as the favorite, in a 7f Starter Stakes on the dirt at Gulfstream, past winner on the course

Santa Anita Race 5: Megahertz Stakes
#6 Fanticola: If I were to give you my best bet of the day, It would be Fanticola. Saying she's one of my favorite horses in the country is not an exaggeration by any means. This lightly-race four-year-old has never finished worse than third in her career and is currently riding a three race win streak. Undefeated on turf, Fanticola has won all three of those races at different distances. She prefers to have the lead, but has the ability to rate when necessary.

Santa Anita Race 6: Maiden Special Weight
#7 Little Curlin: Finished fourth in debut at Keeneland last October. Switching from synthetic footing to dirt and cutting back to five and a half furlongs. First time Lasix. Hollendorfer/Bejarano 

#8 Pimpernel: Finished third in both races in career, thus far. Son of Elusive Quality o/o Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Xtra Heat should appreciate the slight cutback in distance after fading to third as the favorite when running locally in December. 


Santa Anita Race 8: G2 Strub Stakes
#4 Zeewat: Most recently finished third in the G1 Malibu and took the local Damascus Stakes just before that. Stretching out to 1 1/16 mi here. Has twice won routes in the past, however

#6 Hear the Ghost: Second start off of a very long layoff. Finished runner-up to a very sharp Blueskiesnrainbows last time out. Won the G2 San Felipe over this course and distance last year.

#5 Govenor Charlie: Hasn't started since last year's Preakness Stakes, but if he returns to his prior form, he could be too much for these







Thursday, January 16, 2014

LeComte Stakes Preview and Weekend Quick Picks

After Midnight Hawk stamped his place on the Derby Trail last week, we move on to our next stop: the LeComte, which is over one mile and seventy yards at the Fair Grounds. Won by eventual Preakness winner Oxbow last year, the LeComte has a few notable names among its past winners, including multiple G1 winner Ron the Greek and the mighty Hard Spun. As usual with the Kentucky Derby preps, @Derbyologist and I prepared a video in which we discuss this race and the Smarty Jones Stakes. Oh and don't mind @Derbyologist who totally explained our Roundtable video for two weeks from now. Next week, of course, is the Holy Bull and we'll be covering that. 




(1/18/2013) Fair Grounds Race 9: G3 LeComte Stakes--
The big name in this one is surely the Asmussen trainee Gold Hawk. A son of Empire Maker out of Champion Two-Year-Old filly Caressing, Gold Hawk, who was a $450,000 yearling purchase, has all makings of a future champion. He hasn't made life easy on himself, as he unseated his rider just prior to his debut and somehow found himself taking a wide trip last time out despite starting from the one post. Regardless, he's gotten the job done in both runs, but he'll be up against much tougher here. Even though his pedigree doesn't resemble that of Empire Maker's most successful runners, he is likely the one to watch for the future out of this bunch. On this day, however, I'm going to side with Vicar's in Trouble. Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, this Mike Maker trained son of Into Mischief ran lights out over six furlongs locally last time out, earning himself a whopping 98 Beyer speed figure. He won that race by thirteen lengths despite being eased going to the wire. While I doubt he'll want ten furlongs, come Derby time, this should be right in his wheelhouse. Rose Napravnik retains the mount. Riding a bit more under the radar than the others is Got Shades, a son of Pollard's Vision, who to this point has ran solely on the turf. He showed talent in the two stakes races he won at Louisiana Downs, but it was his run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf that won me over. Surely, he was helped by the quick pace set by Bobby's Kitten, but Got Shades checked up abruptly behind Outstrip and was still able to gather himself enough to weave through the field and finish fifth. Seeing a juvenile have that kind of maturity and the talent to back it up against top class horses, definitely makes a impression on me.

Picks:
Win: #7 Vicar's in Trouble, Place: #3 Got Shades, Show: #4 Gold Hawk





Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dubai Carnival Picks for Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (Race 1):
The favorite in this race, and rightfully so, will be the American-bred Cat O'Mountain. This son of Street Cry out of a graded stakes winning Storm Cat mare, should be tailor made for this race. He's undefeated on the All-Weather (4 for 4) as well as at the distance (2 for 2). I'm going to side with a horse who I believe is improving and has a lot of upside, however, and that is Haafaguinea. Primarily a turf horse, Haafaguinea's only start on synthetic came in his maiden victory in the UK, which he won narrowly. He's won twice since then, the most recent of which came in a handicap at Newbury, where he appeared to run a bit greenly at times, but still was able to get the job done in a field that included Saxo Jack. He looked strong at the end of that race and galloped out nicely afterwards, which gives me confidence that he will not have a problem handling this slightly longer trip. It's also worth noting he's a recent Godolphin purchase and coming off the fourth month freshening, he should be ready to fire.
Pick: #5 Haafaguinea

UAE 1000 Guineas Trial (Race 2):
On paper, the Oasis Dream filly Wedding Ring looks to be the hottest horse of the bunch, having won her two most recent races. It's worth noting, however, that both of those races were in restricted company and she did not win either race by much. I, instead, will side with the Ghostzapper filly Letterfromamerica, who should have a big each-way chance. She broke her maiden last time out, in her third start, over today's distance at Roscommon. She will wear blinkers for the second time and although she has only run over the turf, Ghostzapper has produced stakes winners on the All-Weather, including Judy the Beauty. It's also worth noting that LetterfromAmerica is a half sister to last year's Breeders' Cup Marathon winner London Bridge.
Pick: #5 LetterfromAmerica (e/w)

UAE 2000 Guineas Trial (Race 3):
It's definitely concerning that Godolphin runner Emirates Flyer has been a bridesmaid so many times in his young career, but you can't fault who he has finished just behind. He finished a close fifth at Ascot behind No Nay Never and despite a bit of a tentative start, he weaved through the field and looked the strongest of everyone save the winner coming to the wire. He's also ran runner up to the undefeated Kingman, was a close second to Washaar who backed up that form with a win in his next outing, and most recently he missed finishing on top by just a neck. This will be his first run since May and his first start over the All-Weather, but he has definitely faced the classiest fields of all of the runners to this point.
Pick: #7 Emirates Flyer

Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup (Race 4):
This one is ridiculously wide open, as you could make a case for nearly every one of the horses in the field, but I'm going to side with the Godolphin runner Energizer. This son of the late Monsun showed plenty of talent as a two and three-year-old, particularly in his win in the Tercentenary over today's distance. He beat the likes of Mukhadram and Grandeur in that one and was purchased by Godolphin afterwards. He was, unfortunately, one of the horses caught up in the doping scandal and has not run in over a year, as a result. Another horse in a similar situation, Steeler ran mighty well in the first day of the Carnival, however, so I'm not terribly put off by that. If he runs as he did in the Tercentenary, he should best this bunch.
Pick: #7 Energizer

Dubawi Stakes (Race 5):
The feature race of the day, the Dubawi Stakes is in essence a rematch of last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen, as five of the first six finishers from there are running here, highlighted by the return of last year's Golden Shaheen winner Reynaldothewizard. Reynaldothewizard has won his last three races, all of which were over today's course and distance, but he has not raced since March and I'm thinking he's here to get a run under his belt and that he may not be up to top standard just yet. I'm instead going to side with the likely pace setter in this race and that's Russian Soul. He has run four times at this distance, in which he finished in the top two on three of those occasions, and has never finished outside the top two in five runs over the All-Weather. He finished relatively close to the well-regarded Shea Shea and Sole Power here last March and more recently ran a good second to British Champions Sprint Stakes winner Slade Power, as well as, a close third to Dutch Masterpiece in the Flying Five Stakes. Russian Soul won over today's distance in a G3 at the Curragh last time out.
Pick: #6 Russian Soul

Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise (Race 6):
Start Right will break from a very wide post, but that hasn't deterred him from running well in the past. The son of Footstepsinthesand, Start Right finished third in both of his starts at Meydan last year, the most recent of which was in spite of starting from the thirteenth stall. He may very well want to go further, but with blinkers on for the first time and a what should be a healthy pace up front, he could be the one to pick up the pieces late.
Pick: #15 Start Right (e/w)



Friday, January 10, 2014

Quick Picks for Saturday, January 11, 2013

Thanks to everyone on Twitter who asked for the races I'll be covering today. As always, if you would ever like me to take a look at a race, let me know on here or Twitter (@chare889). Today, we have a jam-packed race card at Gulfstream Park highlighting the action. If you're playing tomorrow, good luck!

Gulfstream Park R4: Maiden Special Weight--
I won't go into too much detail about this race because I discussed it in my previous post, but I like Alpha Roadster to improve off of his second place finish last time out. Don't leave off the Pletcher firster Constitution, however. His debut is highly anticipated and it wouldn't surprise me if he became a major player in the upcoming Kentucky Derby preps. For more in depth analysis of this race, you can see my analysis and hear Derbyologist and me discuss the race in our Sham Stakes video preview here: http://cappingwithcandice.blogspot.com/2014/01/sham-stakes-preview.html

Picks:
Win: #7 Alpha Roadster (ML 10/1), Place: #6 Constitution (ML 4/1), Show: #2 Juba (ML 5/1)

Gulfstream Park R7: Allowance Optional Claiming $25,000--
This is a tough race being that the top contenders are all coming off of lengthy layoffs, for the most part. The post position is a bit worrisome, but I'm going to side with Secretive. This son of Indian Charlie saw immediate improvement when he switched to the dirt, as he broke his maiden over a mile at Aqueduct in November. He'll be stretching back out to one and one sixteenth miles, but he's placed in longer races on the turf, so that shouldn't be an issue. It's also worth noting that Bellamy Chief, who Secretive defeated in his most recent run, won next time out. Other interesting contenders include Elnaawi, who hasn't ran since finishing fifth in the Wood Memorial and Playing a Joke, who has been off since July, but has a sparkling record over the main track at Gulfstream.

Picks:
Win: #11 Secretive (ML 5/1), Place: #6 Playing a Joke (ML 20/1), Show: #2 Elnaawi (ML 3/1)

Aqueduct R8: Allowance--
As is the case at so many tracks at this time of year, it looks like weather will be a factor at Aqueduct. The forecast suggests rain, so I'll be handicapping this race anticipating a wet track. In that case, I quite like Billy The Bull. Yes, he's been off for nearly a year, but this son of Holy Bull out of an A.P. Jet (son of an In Reality mare) should take to a wet track and he's typically forwardly placed, which should benefit him here. Irad Ortiz gets the mount. 

Picks:
Win: #8 Billy the Bull (ML 6/1), Place: #5 Marriedtothemusic (ML 4/5), Show: #7 Ed's Magic (ML 4/1)

Oaklawn Park R6: Starter Allowance $30,000--
The weather has been a bit up in the air at Oaklawn, but the forecast looks clear, so I'll handicap this race on the premise that the track has dried and is rated at least good. The son of Street Cry, Barrio Baby, should appreciate the cutback to a mile after narrowly being edged out for second over a mile and an eighth in a NW1 allowance won by Pick of the Litter back in November. Others to consider include Bill of Rights who has consistently ran well while rising through the claiming ranks, as of late and Seven Slews, who impressively won a SNW1 allowance at Remington last time out. If the track is still sloppy, however, be sure to include Doctor Peter, who has ran well over those conditions at Oaklawn in the past.

Picks:
Win: #2 Barrio Baby (ML 4/1), Place: #5 Bill of Rights (ML 5/2), Show: #3 Seven Slews (ML 12/1)

Santa Anita R7: Claiming $25,000-$22,500--
Kudos to @Dmrsurfside for making my life easy by asking me to handicap a race that includes two horses I've been following for quite some time. I've been a big fan of Danderek since last summer. In his last five races, he's only finished outside of the top three once and has notched two wins. In my opinion, he's the best horse in this race. Rafael Bejarano gets the mount on this eight-year-old son of Fantastic Light, but I fear starting from stall ten will severely hamper his chances. The other horse in this race from my virtual stable is Anythingscookin and he'll be my top choice here. He'll be on the lead in what will be his second start off the layoff. He has a nice record over the Santa Anita turf course and his last race was better than it looks. He set the pace and faded to fifth in a race that saw closers finishing in the top positions. If he can slow things down out front, he could take them from gate to wire. 

Picks:
Win: #5 Anythingscookin (ML 6/1), Place: #10 Danderek (ML 3/1), Show: #6 Botch (ML 8/1)



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sham Stakes Preview

Last week, our focus was on the East coast and this week we move west to sunny Santa Anita for the next official Kentucky Derby prep: the Sham Stakes. Ran over one mile on the dirt, the Sham was last won by Goldencents, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at the end of the year. 





(1/11/2013) Santa Anita Race 5: G3 Sham Stakes--
Only six horses are entered here and while Midnight Hawk was impressive in his debut, I'm going to side with the Sadler-trained Kristo, who breaks from the rail. Kristo (Distorted Humor-Capote's Crown, by Capote) broke his maiden in his third attempt, after settling for runner-up honors in his first two tries. He went wire-to-wire over one and one sixteenth miles on the main track at Santa Anita and demolished the field, winning by over six and three quarter lengths. It's clear he's going for the lead here, particularly being that he's been drawn in the one-spot and it's worth noting that Midnight Hawk had trouble from the gate in his debut. If Kristo gets an uncontested lead, which I believe is a distinct possibility, he could dominate particularly over this track, which tends to favor speed. The cutback to a mile should suit him and he's reportedly looked good while working on site. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount.

Sham Stakes Picks:
Win: #1 Kristo, Place: #6 Midnight Hawk, Show: #3 Life Is a Joy

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Quick Picks: 

(1/10/2013) Oaklawn Park Race 5: Maiden Special Weight--
The McPeek-trained Penobscot (Mr. Greeley-Life in Seattle, by Unbridled) caught my eye in his debut over one and one eighth miles on the turf at Churchill Downs. He hopped out of the gate and was wide all the way and yet he still closed strongly into a moderate pace and galloped out well past the field. It's all a matter of whether he takes to the turf, but it's worth nothing his dam Life in Seattle's two wins both came on dirt. One should also take into consideration that he was a $410,000 yearling purchase and he will be OFF Lasix here. As far as a longshot is concerned, I think Wizardly is worth a win/place bet if his odds stay in the double digit range. He most recently raced over a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt at Churchill Downs and although a fifth place finish doesn't look to be anything special, he was last place turning for home and was able to close nicely down the stretch. Bro Rodrigeaux, who I've tipped up on this blog in the past, is also worth considering. He finished a strong second to Sheikinator, who went on to run in the CashCall Futurity, two back.

Picks:
Win: #6 Penobscot (ML 9/2), Place: #4 Wizardly (ML 12/1), Show: #5 Bro Rodrigeaux (ML 6/1)


(1/11/2013) Gulfstream Park Race 4: Maiden Special Weight--
This field is loaded with Tapits, including the highly regarded Pletcher firster Constitution, who has by all accounts looked fantastic in his works at Palm Meadows leading up to this race. He's reportedly acted mature while working, which is important to note when looking at Tapit progeny and he's not the big-bodied type, but instead has more of the sleek, athletic build, which is a common factor among Tapit's most successful progeny. My choice in here, however, is Alpha Roadster (Bellamy Road-Alpha Light, by Alphabet Soup), who finished second in his only start, which was over six furlongs at Churchill Downs. He had the lead coming for home in that race, but relinquished it to eventual winner Be Well, who isn't a bad horse in his own right. The opening fraction, which Alpha Roadster was close to, was fairly quick, so a slightly slower pace may be all he needs to get the job done this time. Another to consider here is Juba, who finished third over today's distance, behind Surfing U S A and Scotland, and although he ran well in his first effort, he had every chance to win. He ran greenly coming down the stretch, however, effectively costing himself the race. This will be his first run with Lasix.

Picks:
Win: #7 Alpha Roadster, Place: #6 Constitution, Show: #2 Juba




Monday, January 6, 2014

How Social Media Can Save Horse Racing

Horse racing’s biggest problem is that it is not a nationally marketable sport.

There, I said it.

We can go on all day about takeout, handle, and size of fields, but the fact of the matter is that racing needs fans. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s desperate for fresh faces who will visit the track or watch races on television.

Plain and simple, racing needs more young adults and women among its fan base, and yet instead of focusing on “the small things,” the industry is looking for a “home run” solution in the form of concerts and celebrity ambassadors. In the end, however, as is the case in so many facets of life, it’s the thought that counts and we’re kidding ourselves if we believe that attracting young adults and females is truly thought about by industry executives day in and day out.

Both of these groups have one thing in common, they are social beings and interaction is, in my opinion, the key to gaining fans from those demographics for life.

The horse racing community has a presence on Twitter that would make many other sports green with envy, and yet it is not used to its potential. The simplest of changes could make the biggest impacts in that sense, as well.

Take a look at the PGATour, which has recently created a Social Hub that displays tweets from players, fans, and media; allows fans to vote on topics or answer trivia questions; and shows the latest and greatest shots and moments via YouTube. They have even gone as far as having players answer questions from fans live from tournament events or host Twitter Q&A sessions.

Sure, that strategy is not as simple as hiring a band to come play at the track or having a supermodel prance around in a fancy hat and pose next to the winning horses. It takes a commitment. It’s these types of commitments, however, that make new or potential fans feel involved and wanted, which are two of the key ingredients in producing a lifelong lover of the sport.

Just promoting something as simple as “teams” for fans of horses before key races produces a sense of belonging and gives people more reason to root for their favorites. I saw it among some of us who were on #TeamOrb, #TeamPalaceMalice, or #TeamVerrazano before the Travers and the conversations and debates that preceded that race were phenomenal.

I would still consider myself a new fan, being that I have only extensively followed the sport for a little over a year. And yet, it was the conversations on Twitter, the debates about which horse was truly a classic distance runner, “group therapy” after a bad beat, and putting my neck on the line for the horses I played that hooked me. I felt accepted by people who I considered to be very knowledgeable fans and, in turn, wanted to know more, learn more, and (hopefully) win more.

Combine tweets from fans with videos of big name horses working out; replays of the latest races; photos of fan favorite horses away from the track; updates from the retired greats; and tweets from owners, trainers, and media all in one central location and you have a one stop shop for gaining new fans. For a sport that's often criticized as being difficult to understand, that would be a quick, visual, and simple way to show someone what racing is all about.

So, you may ask why this is all important because, clearly, very little of this directly affects the amount of money being bet on the horses. But, just as much as NCAA basketball needs brackets during March Madness, racing needs ways to include their fans without always pulling at their pocketbooks.

Bringing in a more diverse group of fans, increases the viewership, which makes racing more marketable among advertisers and sponsors allowing it to have the potential to be broadcast on more mainstream media, which, again, allows the sport to grow in popularity. Even if not every fan bets every race they watch, the exposure to a mainstream audience itself, would surely result in increased handles overall.

The “degenerate gamblers” may keep the sport afloat, but it’s going to take much more than them to bring it back to life.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jerome Stakes Preview

Another fantastic weekend of racing lies before us, highlighted by the first Road to the Kentucky Derby prep of 2014: the G2 Jerome Stakes. Before I get into my analysis of the race, I'd like to announce that @Derbyologist and I have started a weekly video preview series of the Kentucky Derby prep races called Down to the Wire. This is the first week of the series and I hope you'll check it out. Next week, we'll be reviewing the Jerome and previewing the Sham, so if you have any questions regarding either that you'd like us to answer, please let me know before Thursday.



Aqueduct Race 8: G2 Jerome Stakes

The Jerome is highlighted by the return of Noble Moon (Malibu Moon-Mambo Bell, by Kingmambo), who had to scratch from his planned prep in the Remsen after breaking out in hives. On paper, Noble Moon is head and shoulders above the rest of these from a class standpoint. In two starts, he has a win and a third place finish, which came in the G2 Nashua won by Cairo Prince. In the Nashua, he was bumped at the start and was forced to go quite wide in order to make his way near the leaders. The fact that he was able to break his maiden going gate-to-wire and then back that up with an impressive run from the back of the pack, shows he is a versatile young colt, which is valuable come Kentucky Derby time. I'm a big fan of him so much that he is my only Kentucky Derby futures wager. 

That being said, I expect him to rate just off the pace set by Master Lightning and save ground along the rail. Barring any trip troubles, he should simply be too much for these. 

If Noble Moon doesn't get a clean trip, however, look for Scotland (Horse Greeley-Varus, by Vicar) to be in with a chance. He's finished second in his only two races, both Maiden Special Weights, the first of which he lost by a head at Laurel Park. His most recent runner-up finish was over seven furlongs at Aqueduct, in which he was beaten by the Pletched-trained Surfing U S A, who is a really nice colt in his own right. He also finished ahead of Juba, who I also believe will mature into a quality runner. I'd expect Scotland to sit in the latter half of the field before making his move, so he'll need a healthy pace to close into, but based off what he showed in the Remsen, I'm not so sure one can count on Master Lightning to set quick early fractions. 

The only other hose I can fathom winning here is Lawmaker (Malibu Moon-Saratoga Cat, by Sir Cat). He won his only race, a Maiden Special Weight at Laurel Park when he closed nicely into relatively average fractions. Although that victory was impressive, I think he may be a bit outclassed here, but he's a horse to keep an eye on going forward. 

Jerome Stakes Picks: 
Win: #1 Noble Moon (ML 6-5), Place: #2 Scotland (ML 7-2), Show: #3 Lawmaker (ML 8-1)

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If you watched the video preview, then you will have saw that my "Bankroll Play" of the week is a Pick 3 (R6,7,8), which ends on the Jerome. The first leg of that Pick 3 is a Kentucky Oaks prep race, which includes two fillies who I've previously profiled on here as "Horses to Watch": Alpaca Fina and Fleet of Gold

As a reminder, here is my suggested Pick 3: AQU (R6,7,8)-- 1,6,7 / 2,6,8 / 1,2 


As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter (@chare889) and best of luck with your plays.