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2012 Belmont Stakes: On the Record

One presumes this is his opinion of O'Neill's hipster fedora habit on race days

Will he?

I don’t put much stock in post positions for the Belmont; with so much ground to cover (and with compartively few horses), it’s not usually a major factor. I’ll be at Belmont Park on Saturday to watch the race – as well as the always-exciting undercard, which is frequently my favorite day of racing outside of the Breeders’ Cup – in person. I think I’ll Have Another has an excellent, though certainly not watertight, chance to win. Regular readers may be somewhat surprised to know that I am not set against him winning for oddly-arrived-at moral reasons as I was for Big Brown’s Triple Crown attempt – after all, doesn’t I’ll Have Another have a less-than-noble owner and trainer, just like Big Brown did? It can be difficult to see a bright spot in that organization beyond the loving care and attention the wonderful Lava Man has received; if only all the horses who have come under their shared responsibility had been so fortunate. Of course, without a central set of rules and regulations, much of what happens in racing can be difficult to class as all-good or all-bad, and I’d like to think they’ve learned from past mistakes.

That said, I have a lot of respect for the horse himself, and not just because he’s rewarded me handsomely the last two times I bet him. His breeding strikes me as refreshingly thoughtful – not only was I a fan of his sire, Flower Alley, but I like the stamina influences on his dam’s side as well. He doesn’t seem to suffer from the terrible feet or fragile constitution so many other modern racehorses do, and I would be thrilled to see a ‘non-commercial’ sire (apparently a label slapped on Flower Alley without even seeing his offspring) get one back on big-time breeders in this fashion. And it would be churlish to root against jockey Mario Gutierrez, whose rapid rise over the past few weeks is nothing short of storybook – and hopefully his future career will continue in such a positive direction. In short, I’m not actively picking against I’ll Have Another as I was with Big Brown, but I’m not handing him the victory in advance either. While I believe he has a better shot than many recent Derby-Preakness winners before him, this is no walkover – see you at the track!

PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML Odds
1. Street Life Chad Brown Jose Lezcano 12-1
Has a very attractive pedigree, but a third-place finish in the Peter Pan suggests to me that the distance may yet be beyond him.
2. Unstoppable U Kenny McPeek Junior Alvarado 30-1
Has a win at Belmont and a fine trainer in Kenny McPeek, but it’s a lot to ask at this point in his career.
3. Union Rags Michael Matz John Velazquez 6-1
It’s a question of whether he will have the luck – on paper, this race should be a good fit and traffic trouble should not be an issue, but he seems to have a habit of running into trouble. Will the jockey change help?
4. Atigun Kenny McPeek Julien Leparoux 30-1
Another McPeek trainee has the distance pedigree, but perhaps not the experience.
5. Dullahan Dale Romans Javier Castellano 5-1
He has trained like a pro for the past several weeks and looks amazing; nothing not to like.
6. Ravelo’s Boy Manny Azpurua Alex Solis 50-1
Very much outclassed here.
7. Five Sixteen Dominick Schettino Rosie Napravnik 50-1
The son of Invasor has Rosie Napravnik on board and a maiden win, but it’s a huge step up.
8. Guyana Star Dweej Doodnauth Shivmangal Kent Desormeaux 50-1
I like that he’s by Eddington, but I’m not a huge fan of his jockey or race record thus far.
9. Paynter Bob Baffert Mike Smith 8-1
It’s hard not to imagine that Bob Baffert would like to spoil a Triple Crown, given how close he’s come to winning, and I really like this horse – word on the street is that he’s better than Bodemeister; we should know soon.
10. Optimizer D. Wayne Lukas Corey Nakatani 20-1
The very-experienced Optimizer looks like a distance horse on paper, but he has struggled against top-flight competition. He might prefer turf.
11. I’ll Have Another Doug O’Neill Mario Gutierrez 4-5
He’s undefeated this year, and will finally get to go off as the favorite (in all likelihood); the only knock on the horse himself is that his works this week have not been quite as impressive as those before the Derby and Preakness, but it’s clearly within his grasp.
12. My Adonis Kelly Breen Ramon Dominguez 20-1
Has not won since his 2-year-old year.

Predictions: Dullahan, I’ll Have Another, Paynter, Union Rags
Longshot: Paynter

Preakness 2012: On the Record

Has it really only been two weeks since the Kentucky Derby? Given the way the dates fall this year, it seems as if it’s been longer (though presumably the trainers wish they had a bit more time).  But the Preakness is indeed upon us, and I humbly offer the following thoughts:

PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML Odds
1. Tiger Walk Ignacio Correas, IV Kent Desormeaux Ramon Dominguez 30-1
Ran in the Wood Memorial (rather behind the better horses). Can’t see him being a huge factor here.
2. Teeth of the Dog Michael Matz Joe Bravo 15-1
I doubt Matz thinks of this horse as the strongest in his barn, although he could develop into a solid G2 prospect.
3. Pretension Christopher W. Grove Javier Santiago 30-1
Not today (or any other against this level of competition).
4. Zetterholm Rick Dutrow Junior Alvarado 20-1
Very lightly raced, but perhaps the most interesting of the new shooters.
5. Went the Day Well Graham Motion John R. Velazquez 6-1
While the Belmont looks tailor-made for him, he’s got a great shot here as well, and I fully expect to see him in the picture at the finish.
6. Creative Cause Mike Harrington Joel Rosario 6-1
Had one of the worst trips in the Derby but should not have as much ground to make up here – presuming he’s not still tired, he’s a strong threat.
7. Bodemeister Bob Baffert Mike Smith 8-5
The quick turnaround is a lot to ask after his Derby performance, but he’s the real deal.
8. Daddy Nose Best Steve Asmussen Julien Leparoux 12-1
I didn’t love him going into the Derby, but he may be happy to have Leparoux back on board. Still expect to see him behind the first group of finishers.
9. I’ll Have Another Doug O’Neill Mario Gutierrez 5-2
I can’t complain when my longshot pick wins the Derby and replenishes my TwinSpires account. Again, I’m a fan of his pedigree, I love his association with Lava Man and I expect he’ll win or be in the money here.
10. Optimizer D. Wayne Lukas Corey Nakatani 30-1
Again, I wasn’t a fan before the Derby, and I can’t see him winning here either.
11. Cozzetti Dale Romans Jose Lezcano 30-1
Very nice pedigree, but it hasn’t translated to much success on the track yet.

Prediction: Bodemeister, Went the Day Well, I’ll Have Another, Creative Cause
Longshot: Went the Day Well
(insofar as he counts as a longshot)

Post-Kentucky Derby Musings

I'll Have AnotherAs is not infrequently the case, the 3-year-old picture has been thrown into a bit of disarray after the Derby, and like a lot of fans, this year’s installment is one that’s left me with mixed feelings.  I’m glad I cashed my across-the-board bet on I’ll Have Another, but it would have felt a bit more rewarding (albeit not remuneratively so) to do the same with one of my numerous Union Rags-based exactas.  That said, I really like I’ll Have Another’s pedigree – I was a fan of his sire, Flower Alley – and I love that the stalwart Lava Man serves as his stable pony.  I cannot say I’m thrilled by the off-track record of his trainer, Doug O’Neill, however; it’s always more pleasant to see one of the ‘good guys’ win, as opposed to those with a long string of drug violations (and the irksome would-be hipster hat didn’t do him any favors).

But leaving most of the human baggage aside, we had a truly thrilling horse race to enjoy.  I never expected Bodemeister to show such speed for so long – I fully expected he would run out of steam after an early speed duel with Trinniberg and/or Hansen (a horse I’d never have bet had I gotten a good look at his condition in the post parade, but my television coverage was not ideal).  My thought was that he was flash some brilliant speed and fade to fourth for fifth, then come back fitter later in the year, but he certainly showed he’s a truly impressive talent – imagine what he could do if he could rate! The Preakness looks like his perfect race, but he’s still a maturing horse; still, I’m very excited to see more of him in the future.  The other close finishers, Dullahan and Went the Day Well, were also very impressive.  Went the Day Well put in a fine performance (this time, one I thought we might see), but I did not anticipate Dullahan having his half-brother’s aptitude for the Churchill Downs dirt.  Both horses have already shown great versatility, and they should also have interesting trajectories this year – Went the Day Well, in particular, looks like he will love the Belmont.

Poor Union Rags just can’t seem to overcome the bad racing luck he’s been running into (literally) lately.  I’m a fan of Julien Leparoux, but perhaps he just isn’t the right fit for the horse, and I’d be very pleased to see a local jockey on a local horse – Rosie Napravnik for the Preakness, anyone?  Hopefully he’ll soon return to the form we know he can achieve. The real puzzler for me was Hansen – he clearly did not enjoy anything about his Derby experience, but was it just an off day or something more?   Gemologist simply did not fire either.

But back to the I’ll Have Another, who suffers a bit on two counts: he doesn’t have a feel-good human backstory that excites media interest (though surely his young jockey coming from almost nowhere to win America’s most well-known race counts for something), and he’s not as visually-impressive as a horse like Union Rags; his previous wins this year (including the Santa Anita Derby) have been nearly overlooked (though I can at least feel cheerful about having listed – and used – him as my longshot).  But he does have Lava Man in his corner, and he’s the Derby champion – let’s see how things go in Baltimore.  I’ll be following him (and Lava Man) on Twitter, in any case!

Kentucky Derby 2012: On the Record

It’s that time of year again! As ever, I don’t think there is a requirement for there to be twenty horses again this year, but twenty there are, so let’s have a look (and make sure to follow @superfecta on Twitter for more):

PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML Odds
1. Daddy Long Legs Aidan O’Brien Colm O’Donoghue 30-1
He has the distance foundation and he’s probably the least-likely horse in the field to be compromised by this post position, given his grass-racing background, but he did not seem to love Churchill Downs when he was here before; the surface remains a question mark.
2. Optimizer D. Wayne Lukas Jon Court 50-1
I think Jon Court is a great jockey and it’s nice to see him get a Derby mount, but it’s hard to rank Optimizer up with even the middle ranks of this field.
3. Take Charge Indy Patrick Byrne Calvin Borel 15-1
He had everything go his way when he won the Florida Derby, and he has Calvin Borel in the irons – and, more importantly, near the rail – but with a field this size, I don’t see him getting lucky again here.
4. Union Rags Michael Matz Julien Leparoux 9-2
I would have preferred to see him a little further out and I still worry a bit about his pedigree for the distance, but he always seems to want more; I’d never bet against Julien Leparoux at Churchill Downs, though, and he is my ‘local’ horse, so I’m hoping for a good result. And you should go watch his documentary (not just because I’m in it)!
5. Dullahan Dale Romans Kent Desormeaux 8-1
Mine That Bird’s little half-brother tries to follow in his footsteps, but the surface switch is a question mark – even if recent history suggests that it’s no big deal.
6. Bodemeister Bob Baffert Mike Smith 4-1
Given Bob Baffert’s heart attack in Dubai, it’s only natural to root for him here, especially with a horse named after his young son, but while Bodemeister looks like he’s growing into a very nice horse indeed, it might be happening a bit too late for this race. I expect to see him as a major threat later this year, and he could well be in the money.
7. Rousing Sermon Jerry Hollendorfer Jose Lezcano 50-1
He just seems like a solid G2-G3 horse, I can’t see him being a factor here.
8. Creative Cause Mike Harrington Joel Rosario 12-1
He has the right breeding and a good foundation, and I expect to see him as a contender.
9. Trinniberg Bisnath Parboo Willie Martinez 50-1
He looks like a sprinter, and a very good one too; I’d love to see him in a shorter race.
10. Daddy Nose Best Steve Asmussen Garrett Gomez 15-1
Another who seems more comfortable on turf, although his pedigree could keep him in contention.
11. Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin Rajiv Maragh 15-1
He seems to be flying under the radar, but he could be a serious threat; do not discount him.
12. Prospective Mark Casse Luis Contreras 30-1
His last-place finish in the Juvenile does not bode well for his chances here; seems overmatched.
13. Went the Day Well Graham Motion John Velazquez 20-1
He’s the grass-to-dirt horse to back in my opinion; he seems to improve a bit each time out, although he’s probably more likely to hit the board than finish in front.
14. Hansen Mike Maker Ramon Dominguez 10-1
I wish they would allow him his blue mane and tail, but even without them, he has a fine chance if he avoids an early speed duel; his post position seems a bit better for him in that regard, but early speed is a concern.
15. Gemologist Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano 6-1
This horse should be getting geek cred for his dam’s name referencing The Dark Crystal, and he should be getting racing cred for his undefeated record. I would be thrilled if he went off at 6-1.
16. El Padrino Todd Pletcher Rafael Bejarano 20-1
Like Union Rags, he had an unfortunate Florida Derby, but on paper, he looks good. Will he have the luck?
17. Done Talking Hamilton Smith Sheldon Russell 50-1
He seems unlikely to step up to this level of competition.
18. Sabercat Steve Asmussen Corey Nakatani 30-1
I can’t see him featuring much beyond the start.
19. I’ll Have Another Doug O’Neill Martin Gutierrez 12-1
I like this horse a lot, though it’s a tough field – he’s my longshot and I would not be surprised to see him near the winner’s circle.
20. Liaison Bob Baffert Martin Garcia 50-1
I haven’t been that impressed by his efforts this year and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday.

Prediction: Union Rags, Gemologist, Hansen, Creative Cause
Longshot: I’ll Have Another/Alpha

You Can’t Scare Me, I’m Sticking to the Union (Rags)

Union RagsApologies for the radio silence of late; I’ve been busy with the day job and writing and coding for other outlets that actually pay me, but with Triple Crown buildup in full swing, I’m back in action.

I’m excited that we have another horse with local connections to follow in Union Rags, and I was happy to help out the good people of TrackPack PA with some (hopefully cogent) thoughts on the colt and his appeal around these parts. Check out the trailer to the resulting documentary, and come back later in the week for the full film.

In the meantime, I’m always online as @superfecta – follow along! Here’s hoping we can all look forward to some amazing Jamie Wyeth prints of Union Rags as his career progresses.

Breeders’ Cup 2011: Saturday Wrap-up

Drosselmeyer beats Game On Dude
No doubt Goldikova’s final race will be many people’s chief memory of the day – add in some truly bizarre results throughout the weekend, and this year’s Breeders’ Cup looks like a bit of a head-scratcher in retrospect. But think of the high points: Joseph O’Brien (surely, the only jockey in the world who towers over me) wins one for his dad, we have some some exciting 2-year-olds to watch for next year, a ‘freebie’ horse winning a Breeders’ Cup race in the excellent Amazombie, and a thrilling result in the Classic. While I did not hit the Exes Exacta (Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland facing one another in a real race), I did have money on both Drosselmeyer and Game On Dude, so I at least made up a little bit of what was otherwise a terrible wagering weekend (for me).

Let the (very, very confusing) Horse of the Year discussion get going…it’s not often I’m glad I’m not a voter!

Breeders’ Cup 2011: Friday Wrap-up

Royal Delta wins the Ladies' ClassicSome quick highlights from Friday: Secret Circle looked sharp, but Shumoos was perhaps more exciting finishing just behind him. And there were some great longshot wins from Musical Romance and Perfect Shirl. My Miss Aurelia looks to have a bright future, and I really need to make back all I lost with a strong showing Saturday!

Breeders’ Cup Classic

And so, on to the main event – will something happen that could knock Goldikova off the top of Twitter’s trending topics?  Follow along to find out…we’ll be posting our customary wrapups-with-Blingees after key races on both Friday and Saturday (with or without any jockeyfights).

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1. Prayer for Relief Rafael Bejarano Bob Baffert 30-1
Can’t see it happening.
2. Flat Out Alex Solis Charles L. Dickey 6-1
Seems to be coming into his own, but he couldn’t beat Havre de Grace in the Woodward.
3. Drosselmeyer Mike Smith William Mott 15-1
Last year’s Belmont winner has proven his victory was no fluke – could hit the board.
4. Ruler On Ice Garrett Gomez Kelly Breen 30-1
This Belmont winner still needs to work on that.
5. So You Think Ryan Moore Aidan O’Brien 5-1
Most well-traveled horse in the field apparently likes working on dirt…
6. Ice Box Corey Nakatani Nichaolas P. Zito 30-1
His recent efforts have not inspired confidence.
7. Rattlesnake Bridge Calvin Borel Kiaran McLaughlin 30-1
Seems overmatched here.
8. Game On Dude Chantal Sutherland Bob Baffert 10-1
Comes in with a nice record; the Chantal Sutherland/Bob Baffert combo should be the most telegenic in the field.
9. Stay Thirsty Javier Castellano Todd Pletcher 12-1
Travers winner is certainly talented, but I’d prefer his chances next year.
10. Havre de Grace Ramon Dominguez Larry Jones 3-1
I want her to win because she’s the best, not just because she’s The Filly.
11. Headache Paco Lopez Michael Maker 30-1
Won last time out, but a huge step up in class.
12. Uncle Mo John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 5-2
The Dirt Mile would have been perfect.
13. To Honor and Serve Jose Lezcano William Mott 12-1
Flying under the radar a bit here…worth watching.

Predictions: Havre de Grace, So You Think, Stay Thirsty, Game On Dude
Longshot: Drosselmeyer

Breeders’ Cup Mile

The moment you have all been waiting for – the Goldikova show! With the exception of the connections of the horses running against her (and one would imagine that even some of them are hoping she’ll make history), it would be hard to find anyone not looking for the French star to end her career with a fourth Breeders’ Cup Mile victory.

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1. Goldikova   Olivier Peslier Freddy Head 7-5
I’d never bet against her, for sentimental or cash-related reasons. Let’s do it!
2. Zoffany  Ryan Moore Aidan P. O’Brien 20-1
Looked great last year, but then ran into Frankel – did it hurt his confidence?
3. Courageous Cat   Patrick Valenzuela William I. Mott 8-1
Certainly effective against American milers, but will have much more to do here.
4. Mr. Commons Mike Smith John A. Shirreffs 20-1
Seems to prefer turf miles, but again, he’s not faced Goldikova.
5. Gio Ponti Ramon Dominguez Christophe Clement 4-1
I hate to root against such a wonderful horse, but I will be in this instance. Hope for a good second.
6. Get Stormy Garrett Gomez Thomas M. Bush 15-1
Very honest horse – could see him hitting the board.
7. Jeranimo Martin Garcia Mike Pender 20-1
Has never been terribly consistent.
8. Byword  Maxime Guyon Andre Fabre 12-1
Has faced some impressive European fields and should finish well.
9. Court Vision Robby Albarado Dale L. Romans 30-1
Seems to have lost a step this year.
10. Sidney’s Candy John Velazquez Todd A. Pletcher 15-1
A fine horse, but I can’t see it being his day.
11. Strong Suit Richard Hughes Richard Hannon 10-1
Another Frankel victim, but one who has rebounded of late.
12. Compliance Officer Alex Solis Bruce Brown 30-1
Has done very well since being claimed, but has never faced this company.
13. Turallure Julien Leparoux Charles Lopresti 8-1
Another solid North American contender, but this field goes to 11.

Predictions: Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Strong Suit, Byword

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2 year olds. On dirt. Cue often-misguided early Derby buzz.

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1. Take Charge Indy James Graham Patrick B. Byrne 30-1
Looked very tired in his last race (and I say this as a fan of his dam, Take Charge Lady).
2. Dullahan Kent Desormeaux Dale L. Romans 8-1
Half to Mine That Bird tries the dirt. Looked good on turf, but will his form translate?
3. Crusade Julien Leparoux Aidan P. O’Brien 12-1
European invader also a dirt debutant.
4. Drill Martin Garcia Bob Baffert 8-1
Still learning, but worth keeping an eye on.
5. Hansen Ramon Dominguez Michael J. Maker 10-1
Undefeated in two starts and generating some buzz.
6. Prospective Luis Contreras Mark E. Casse 30-1
Won two out of three at Woodbine.
7. Creative Cause Joel Rosario Mike Harrington 7-2
Looks bred for turf, but seems to love the dirt. Impressive Norfolk winner.
8. Speightscity Corey Nakatani Gary Contessa 20-1
Big step up in class, but they are all only 2.
9. Alpha Garrett Gomez Kiaran P. McLaughlin 15-1
Second to Union Rags in the Champagne.
10. Union Rags Javier Castellano Michael R. Matz 2-1
Undefeated buzz horse looks a strong favorite here.
11. Daddy Long Legs Ryan Moore Aidan P. O’Brien 12-1
Another European horse, but with a very American pedigree.
12. Fort Loudon Luis Gerardo Stanley Gold 20-1
Very experienced, but another taking a jump up in class.
13. Optimizer Robby Albarado D. Wayne Lukas 15-1
Another who looks like he could go for either turf or dirt.

Predictions: Union Rags, Dullahan, Creative Cause, Alpha
Longshot: Prospective