Friday, July 21, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Diana Stakes (G1)

The Diana Stakes - A Case Against Lady Eli

By: The Turk

Lady Eli- Equisport Photos
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan and the Handicapper's Corner for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today about The Diana, a Grade 1 affair run over 1 1/8 miles of the Mellon turf course at Saratoga.

Keep your eye on the scratches, changes and track condition.  With a six horse field, one scratch would be one too many.  Weather doesn't seem to be an issue at the Spa until
                                                                                       maybe Sunday.

At Saratoga, when analyzing your Past Performances, a T in a circle represents a race run on the Mellon or outer turf course.

A T in a square box represents an inner turf event.

As with any two turf course configuration, inner turf races have very tight corners and its different racing dynamics.  Take that into account when judging cross over horses from one track to the other.  You'll also note visually why you won't see many shorter sprints on this turf course, as it's hard to configure without placing the starting gate right on the 1st corner.

Are you a Saratoga watcher, a Del Mar watcher or both or some other combination over the summer meets?  I love Saratoga even if my ROI's are lower at Saratoga than most other courses.  I lived in Saratoga during the 1986 race season and I walked to the track from my house on Jumel Place.  I could have bought the little house for $70,000 from my landlord, and it recently sold for $450,000. My ROI off the racetrack in Saratoga isn't any better!

 As far as Del Mar,  I was very turned off by the former artificial surface.  It played horribly and I have yet to really come back.  It's not an East Coast/West Coast thing with me, in fact, as an East Coast Handicapper I use to play Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood exclusively.   For me, I'm going to focus on Arlington Turf and Saratoga Turf and Dirt Routes, that's my summer plan.

Today's Diana is a six horse field with the mighty Lady Eli leading the way.  At $2.4 MM lifetime earnings, she towers over the rest of the field with 11 starts and 11 times in the money.  She's not unbeatable, and she will be bet hard and heavy on opening weekend,  Let's see if we can make a case against her. 

Lady Eli has finished in the Win or Place spot in every race in her 11 race career.  That's multiple Grade 1 competition.  When you watch her a beaten nose in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last year, how do you take anything away from her.

She followed that race up with a long break, a Place by a head in the Jenn Wiley  and then set a career high best Beyer of 104 in Gamely.  I think if this race is run 100 times she wins 90 of the 100 races.

  Gamely Stakes Grade 1:  1 1/8 Mile Hillside start on Santa Anita Firm Turf

 I look at the field and I wonder where pace pressure will come from.  I'm not sure it will and she may have the lead early and hold it.  I think that's the most likely scenario and from an overlay perspective, I'd have a hard time taking a position a against her, but the tote board will make that decision for me.  There are at least two legitimate candidates to beat her in this field.

Let's take a look at Antonoe and Dickerson:

  Just a Game Stakes Grade 1:  1 Mile Firm Turf at Belmont

Great trip and ride by Castellano, taking the rail when the rail opened late.  This was not some paceless fake Grade 1.  Watch the stride, watch the power.  Impressive win for Antonoe.  Trainer Chad Brown has a very impressive stable this year, and with Antonoe and Ladi Eli, he has an embarrassment of riches.  I would expect Antonoe will take one run at Lady Eli but lets not expect that sort of gift trip every race.  You have to respect the speed she showed on that late run.  I'm really floored watching that.  

Dickerson is a flawed but very talented 5 YO Medaglia d'Oro mare.  5 wins in 7 career turf starts. Three straight wins this spring, all graded stakes over routes of grass.  Not a great trip in the Just A Game, sent outside late, willingly up for Show and one more hop away from Place.  If I get 9/2 or 5-1 I'll be happy.

Jenny Wiley Grade 1:  1 1/16 Miles on Firm Turf at Keeneland  

Quidora (GB) has class, but her class won't win this.  She had a nice stalking trip in the Grade 2 New York but I didn't think she really got rolling until 1 3/16ths.  

New York Stakes Grade 2: 1 1/4 Miles on Firm Turf at Belmont

She's cutting back 1/8 of a mile.  Watch her here over soft turf at 1 1/16 miles in a big field at Keeneland, the Grade 3 Valley View.  

My Impression hasn't really made an impression on me, and I'm more impressed with her connections than anything she's done on the track.   Training nicely and coming in off an effort at PARX on July 4th,  winless in 4 starts in 2017 for Trainer McGaughey, with Ortiz up for owner Stuart Janney III.  The trainer/jockey were 21% together last SAR meet.  5 Wins in 13 turf starts. Unless things go really upside down its hard to imagine anything but a minor Exotic prize.

I've tossed 4 Year Old Harmonize.  You can't cover everyone, but Bill Mott is a hard one to just discount.  While today's field is small, this is a classy group, including this daughter of Scat Daddy.  It's hard to believe the Florida Derby and excellent sire Scat Daddy is gone, may he rest in peace.

Antonoe-NYRA Susie Raisher
So what do we do with this?  As I write this on Thursday night, I take stock of what I know:

The Turf should be firm.

The Course should be in good shape.

A six horse field with Harmonize and My Impression long shots and not very live.

I'd expect the tote board ranking will be Lady Eli, Antonoe, Dickerson, Quidora in that order.

I'm not sure where pace will come from.  This is a pretty similar group of running style horses.  Is it as simple as Lady Eli going gate to wire?  I think that's a strong possibility.  Who will take late run and who has best late turn of foot?  I like what I've seen in a limited body of work from Antonoe.

I'm not sure what I'm going to bet yet, but whatever I do, I'm going to keep the risk/reward quotient realistic.

Have fun friends.  Do your own handicapping and bypass the tip sheets.

Turk Out!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Handicapper's Corner Delaware Handicap (G1)

Songbird Ready to Fly in Delaware 'Cap

By: Nicolle Neulist, Blinkers-Off

Delaware Handicap (G1), fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the dirt, post time 5:30pm EST

Originally dubbed the New Castle Handicap in 1937, this race was stretched to its current mile and a quarter distance in 1951, and took its current name in 1955.  It has always been restricted to the distaff division, and over its years has produced some illustrious winners.  Its first year at a mile and a quarter Busanda won; Busanda remains a stakes namesake at Aqueduct, and she produced champion and Hall of Fame inductee Buckpasser.  Coincidentally, a horse who joined Buckpasser at the top of the three-year-old division in 1966 was also produced by a Delaware Handicap winner – Graustark was out of Flower Bowl (1956), a mare for whom a Grade 1 at Belmont is still conducted.  More recently, champions like Blind Luck (2011) and Royal Delta (2012, 2013) have graced the winners’ circle in the Delaware Handicap.

A day will likely come when it makes sense to bet against least in the eyes of this bullheaded longshot player.  But, even when the nation’s premier dirt distaffer gives anywhere between nine and thirteen pounds to her foes, this is not that time.  Rick Porter, the principal of Fox Hill Farm, hails from Wilmington, Delaware, making this a homecoming of sorts.  And, try as the Delaware Park racing office certainly must have tried to lure someone over who could make a race of it?  That didn’t quite happen.  Weep No More is a Grade 1 winner, yes, but has not seen hit the board in five starts since that stunner in the Ashland over a year ago.  Miss Mo Kelly and Martini Glass have some bits of listed stakes form.  Line of Best Fit and Hone In have occasionally tried stakes company, but have yet to make it in black-type company.

In other words?  If you insist upon playing the Delaware Handicap, you will want to play exotics.  Songbird will pay five cents on the dollar in the win pool...and yet, that almost makes sense, as a humdrum effort by Songbird (to the extend that she is capable of humdrum) would still be good enough to eclipse a strong effort by any of her five foes.  If she hadn’t tried a mile and a quarter, perhaps there would be a question.  But, she won the Alabama (G1) last year at the same distance, and should be able to tackle it again.

So, who’s the best of the rest?

Line of Best Fit has not tried stakes company since 2013, but she is in career form at the age of seven.  She has won three of four starts this year in allowance-optional company at Penn National and Parx.  The last two wins came with Edwin Gonzalez in the irons; Gonzalez returns today.  Of course, this is a large step up from that.  But, she won her only start over the Delaware course, back in May of last year.  Her connections, trainer Kieron Magee and rider Edwin Gonzalez, have both been solid at Delaware this summer.  From a race shape perspective, Line of Best Fit is best coming from just a little off the pace.  Songbird likely takes the front-end initiative, but Line of Best Fit should be able to chase her all the way around for second.

Long shot Hone In’s recent form is not much to look at.  Trainer Victoria Oliver has been running her on the turf over and over again, despite her having finished on the board just once in eight starts on the grass.  Her form has been better over the dirt, which she returns to here.  Two starts back, she won an allowance at Indiana Grand in the slop, so the possible rain in the forecast for Saturday will not hurt her. If the course is dry (which is a bit more likely)?  She has good races over a dry track as well; she’s not just a slop monster.  The distance is a question, as she has never gone a mile and a quarter before.  But, being by Smart Strike out of a Tiznow mare, she has plenty of stamina influence close up in her pedigree.  There’s enough to like about Hone In, as the likely longest shot on the board, to play her underneath in the Delaware Handicap.


#5 Songbird (1/5)

#4 Line of Best Fit (12/1)

#6 Hone In (15/1)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Handicapper's Corner Belmont Derby Inv. (G1)

Yoshida Tough to Overlook in Belmont Derby Invitational

 By: Reinier Macatangay, Thoughts on Racing, Life and More

Accepting the value on a horse like Yoshida in the $1.2 million Belmont Derby (GI) on Saturday can be tough for bettors. For starters, the 3-year-old son of Heart’s Cry (JPN) is trained by the legendary Bill Mott for Winstar Farm. The public favors certain connections.

Plus with such enormous talent displayed in his last two starts, people will notice Yoshida's actual ability too.

For instance, the 3-year-old son of Heart’s Cry (JPN) recently took the James W. Murphy Stakes with devastating ease. And he did this despite a poor break where he was pinched by his stall neighbors and had to start the race from last place. He bulled his way through. 

The winning margin of four lengths is also superb. As for why, it is because horses cannot win turf races in a blowout fashion most of the time. A margin of a few lengths on grass is equal to a lot more on dirt, while the majority of other turf races end up in a clustered mess. 

Yoshida also broke his maiden by four lengths using early speed to wire them at Keeneland. At Pimlico, he came from last. Both wins indicate the young talent can adapt well.

As pointed out above though, do not expect any kind of value on Yoshida. This is the kind of horse bettors will pound at the windows, to possibly below 2-1. But he does look great.

Other handicappers will look towards the two European invaders from the Aidan O'Brien barn, Homesman and Whitecliffsofdover. Ironically, both horses are American-bred.  

The former is a Group 3 winner in Ireland. He gave the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot a chance and closed okay for fifth. It did not appear he made a huge impact on the race.

Meanwhile, the latter horse Whitecliffsofdover is a royally-bred son of War Front. His second dam is a full sister to the well-known sire Pulpit, who is a son of A.P. Indy. The A.P. Indy line is not generally known as a great list of turf influences, but most of them can run long.

Can Whitecliffsofdover go from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles? It is a valid question, despite the pedigree. At least, O’Brien applies Lasix to both and is experienced at shipping here.

Going down the list of probable winners, the rail horse Good Samaritan and Ticonderoga deserve consideration off their second and third-place finishes in the Pennine Ridge (GIII).

The Pennine Ridge winner Oscar Performance, who also competes in this race, got away with a relatively easy and uncontested lead. Good Samaritan and Ticonderoga had little chance after the half went in 49 and the six-furlong split went in 1:14. Both of them closed well.

For a crazier pick, give Makarios a glance over at 30-1. Yes, this big Nick Zito-trained colt lost the Pennine Ridge by five lengths, but the jockey never had a chance to tip out on the turn. With a little more breathing room, he could blow up the trifecta like at Keeneland. 

Nevertheless, the race runs through the promising Yoshida. He either will live up to the hype or go down against tougher competition in this spot. 

$100 Handigambling
$30 Win - Yoshida
$20 Exactas - Yoshida / Homesman, Whitecliffsofdover
$15 Exactas - Yoshida / Good Samaritan, Ticonderoga
(If Yoshida really becomes pounded in exotics though, just watch the race.)

Handicapper's Corner: Belmont Oaks Inv. (G1)

Belmont Oaks: Brown's Quartet Ready to Run

By: Michael Mills, ThoroFan 

Welcome to the Chad Brown Invitational. Not only does Brown have four fillies entered, but he has won the Belmont Oaks Invitational 4 of the past 5 years. Twelve three year old fillies will go to the post:  

1) Coasted...can run a big one as evidence by her second in the Breeders Cup last fall, but seems a step below the top fillies in here. Trainer is 0-20 in graded stakes this year.  

2) Beau Recall...west coast invader has to be thrilled not lining up against Sircat Sally as that one has had her number each of the past three starts. Nothing against Prat but find it interesting that Talamo doesn't come with her for a run at a million dollar purse. 

 3) Violet Blue...big step up from MSW to a Grade I. The distance seems to fit but wrong race.  

4) Grizzel...winner of two straight but the class jump and added distance don't looking promising. 

5) Key To My Heart...comes in from Ireland for Aidan O'Brien who is one of the best in race. Some give in the ground may help but not for our top spot. 

6) Journey Home...well bred filly should enjoy the extra distance presented her but she just doesn't look fast enough.  

7) connections all around and working well but would be surprised to see this one being the best of the Brown runners. 

8) New Money Honey...nothing wrong with the title Breeders Cup Champion next to your name. Appears to be ready to make her presence felt. 2 for 2 on the Belmont green.  

9) Dynatail....should be on the lead, but I project she will have company to keep her honest.  

10) Fifty Five...Solid New York Bred will be in the mix coming for home but don't think the last 1/8 of a mile will be kind to her.  

11) Daddys Lil Darling...improving and appears by the recent morning runs to be ready for a big one. The questions are the surface and the distance.  

12) Sistercharlie....The French import for Brown appears to be a good one. Should get the distance but the question is will she take to the Belmont green. 

Projecting a faster pace than most forecasters, that is if the course stays on the firm side. #8 New Money Honey appears to be the best of the Brown fillies, with #12 Sistercharlie next, followed by #7 Uni and #10 Fifty Five. So the winner has to come from that group correct? 
Most likely it will, but we are going to take a flyer with #11 Daddys Lil Darling. While there are the surface and distance questions, her last effort was huge. She seems to be a filly on the improve and we know when McPeek has one ready he will find a good spot for them to have a chance to succeed even though it may look as he is reaching to high (ie Golden Ticket's Travers win).

The Play: $30 Win #11 $40 Place #11 $1 Tri 11/7-8-12/2-5-6-7-8-10-12 ($18) $1 Tri 7-8-12/11/2-5-6-7-8-10-12 ($18) Total Wager $106 

Have A Day!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: United Nations Stakes (G1)

International Cast Set for United Nations Stakes

By: Michael Amo, ThoroFan Chairman

With representatives from France, German, Canada, Ireland and Kentucky, this grade one stakes race with a $300,000 purse qualifies to hold the name United Nations Stakes---sort of. All except two have had experience at the Grade One level – Itsinthepost (#2) and Lucky Lindy (#9). However, only one, Beach Patrol (#1) has been successful at the grade one level, winning the 2016 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.

Weather forecast for Monmouth Park is a little unstable with intermittent thunderstorms predicted throughout the day. The turf may be a little soft which should be considered in handicapping the race. Pace of the race may be a little hot, however this may be mitigated by the wet going.

 Let’s take a look at the field to see if Beach Patrol has any competition.

     1.   Beach Patrol (Lemon Drop Kid) comes off four consecutive Grade One efforts with all except one in the money. Distance should fit and he is bred for a yielding course. He appears to be the early, legitimate speed in the race. With Chad Brown’s focus on turf racing you have to respect this horse.

     2.   Itsinthepost (FR) (American Post) is the French bred who has been states-side for a good part of his career. This will be his first attempt at grade one company. His consistent Beyer figures suggest he might be a contender from a tactical position.

    3.   Bigger Picture (Badge of Silver) is returning for another chance at the United Nations. His performance since last year has markedly improved. His comparative Morning Line odds highlight that. Looking at his last three races he seems to be the one most comfortable with the distance. Last race proved he does not mind soft going.

     4.   Closing Bell (Tapit) has shown gradual improvement since returning from Australian racing. Mott has him back and after the last race he looks like he is ready for the step up, however not this large of a one.

    5.   Messi (GER) (New Approach) has been preparing at Fair Hills for conditioner Graham Motion. The layoff shouldn’t be a problem. Seems to like being forwardly placed and may push Beach Patrol.

    6.   Liam the Charmer (Smart Strike) is out-classed but likes the longer going and will be running late. Perhaps his best chance is for a piece of the exotics.

    7.   Can’thelpbelieving (IRE) (Duke of Marmalade) ran a nice race in the Man O’ War Stakes last year at Saratoga against Wake Forest and Money Multiplier. This second entry for Motion may sit back and watch Beach Patrol and Messi duke it out and come fast at the end. Dangerous with enough early speed to be poised to move up in the stretch.

    8.   Oscar Nominated (Kitten’s Joy) ran a splendid race in the Turf Classic against Beach Patrol which was determined by Daily Racing Form to be a Key race with 3 of the 9 starters winning their next time out. Fast enough to be in contention, especially in the exotics. Fair price.

    9.   Lucky Lindy (Harlan’ Holiday) needs a lot of luck to compete against this field.

The race looks on paper to be a race that Chad Brown’s Beach Patrol should win. However, Graham Motion has a one-two-punch with the front runner Messi (GER) and the tactical speedster Can’thelpbelieving. The other two that are of interest are Bigger Picture, a distance specialist and Oscar Nominated who made name with his performance in the Turf Classic; both are trained by Michael Maker.

It looks like Beach Patrol (5-2) will be pushed by the German entry Messi (12-1) and maybe Oscar Nominated (5-1). This should end with an exciting stretch run to the wire. The two who will benefit from this pace scenario are Bigger Picture (4-1) and Can’thelpbelieving (8-1). Given the shape of this race, it is difficult to back Beach Patrol at low odds.The value play lies with one of the others.

Here is how I see the finish:
     1.   Bigger Picture (#3)
     2.   Beach Patrol (#1)
     3.   Can’thelpbelieving (#7)
     4.   Oscar Nominated (#8)

My Handigamble is:
$5 Exacta Box ---1,3,7------$30
$1 Trifecta Box –1,3,7,8 ----$24
$40 to Place on #3 ----------$40
Six dollars remaining for a celebratory cold one.

Good Luck, but keep the day job!

Handicapper's Corner: Queen's Plate Stakes

Will a Filly Capture the Queen's Plate?

By: Nick Costa, Trackside With Trackman

Horse racing fans and Canada’s best 3-year-olds are gearing up for the 158th running of the Queen's Plate, the country's oldest and most prestigious race for thoroughbreds, and North America’s longest continuously run race, taking place Sunday at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack.

Founded in 1860, this 1 1/4-mile-long race contested on the Polytrack, is only open to three-year-old’s who were foaled in Canada, and this year's edition attracted a field of thirteen, including fillies Holy Helena and Inflexibility, the first and third place finishers respectively from the Woodbine Oaks. The former was installed as the morning line favorite following the post draw. Also in the field, is Queen's Plate winter book favorite, Tiz A Slam, fourth last out in the Plate Trial, and trained by 8-time Plate winning trainer Roger Attfield.

Besides Attfield, the race features three additional trainers who have combined for 5 Plate wins, as well as six jockeys totaling 8 wins, with Eurico Rosa da Silva and Patrick Husbands having two each.

The Queen’s Plate is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown series. The second and final races are the Prince of Wales Stakes in Fort Erie, Ontario, and the Breeders’ Stakes back at Woodbine in Toronto. 

Two years ago, when American Pharoah won the American Triple Crown, it ended a 37-year drought in the United States. For Canada, the wait hasn't been as severe, but its still been a notable period-of-time since 2003 when Wando last accomplished the feat.

Who will take home the prize this year? Let's have a look at each contestant from the rail out for this $1 million 10-furlong test.

PP - HORSE - Jockey/Trainer - ML Odds

1-CHANNEL MAKER - Hernandez/Mott - 4-1--Graduated in style when breaking his maiden in the Vandal Stakes last summer in just his second start, winning with front-running effort after shrugging off early challenges. After his first start in 2017, an eighth-place finish at Gulfstream, he was transferred into his current barn. Under Mott, this son of English Channel suffered a couple of troubled trips at Keeneland, but still ran quite well. Proven talent on turf finished second in his first ever start on Tapeta last out in the Marine Stakes after looming a major threat to the outside. He drew to within a head of the leader at the stretch call and the two horses separated themselves from the rest of the field. However, down the lane, the leader and eventual winner turned that narrow advantage into a two-length margin at the wire. Serious contender.

2-GUY CABALLERO - Ortiz/Phillips - 10-1--This gelding by Quality Road has a knack for closing well in the stretch. Such was the case in his seasonal debut against a strong allowance field where he got motoring late to secure second place. Off that seven- furlong sprint, he was stretched out in distance for the Plate Trial, and this lightly raced runner who was a 20-1 longshot in a field of six rallied from last place against fractions that did not compliment his closing style to get up to win in the final strides by a half-length. As a 2-year old, he showed ability with a third-place finish in the Display Stakes that closed out his juvenile campaign. Comes in fresh and on the improve, and gets an extra furlong of real estate.

3-HOLY HELENA - Contreras/Jerkens - 3-1--After her winning performance in the Woodbine Oaks, Ghostzapper filly is well deserving of this appearance. Her final time for the 9-furlongs was more than a full second faster than the winner of the Plate Trial a couple of races before on the card. She made her debut in New York in April and was runner-up that day, but broke her maiden impressively in a determined effort second time out. Off that score, she was highly touted when shipping up for the Oaks, so much so, that she was made the ML favorite for that race. However, the betting crowd thought otherwise and foolishly let her slip away at 6-1 odds, and then watched her rally confidently from mid-pack behind a strong pace for a going away 1-length win. Generally, fillies who win big in the Oaks are extremely tough in the Plate, and this gal is surging upward quickly.

4-SPIRIT of CALEDON - Lermyte/Parente - 50-1--Although it came in start number six, breaking maiden ranks is the high-water mark thus far for this horse. Last time out, against non-winner allowance company, he raced mid-pack before launching a bid around the far turn and into the lane, but his late run came up short and he finished third. Connections had to pay a $25,000 supplemental fee to run this Mike Fox gelding in Canada's premier race. Don't see this one being any sort of factor.

5-INFLEXIBILTY - Castellano/Brown - 10-1--From the same connections as recent G1 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, this gal invaded from New York for the Woodbine Oaks and was anointed the 5-2 betting favorite. She was positioned up close early and had a good stalking trip, but the daughter of Scat Daddy, who was making her debut over the polytrack surface, was caught behind the tiring leaders and was shuffled back to mid-pack by the three-quarter marker before getting herself off the rail and untracked. Once clear, she rallied between horses through the stretch for a third-place finish, but six lengths behind the runner-up horse. The Oaks was just her third lifetime start following a pair of grass efforts at Gulfstream and Belmont which resulted in a second-place showing and a win, respectively. The barn is highly capable wherever it goes, and they have an improving and dangerous racehorse with this filly.

6-KING AND HIS COURT - Boulanger/Casse - 5-1--Sovereign Award champion 2-year-old from last year is the most experienced runner in the field with thirteen career starts, including four victories and nine in-the-money placings. Other than his two races away from his home base of Woodbine, which came during the winter/spring in a pair of G3 Stakes on the U.S. Triple Crown trail, resulting in consecutive lackluster off-the-board finishes, this son of Court Vision has been ultra-consistent and enters here off a rail skimming runner-up finish in the Plate Trial. LOVES Woodbine, winning the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes as a juvenile, in addition to his dominant win in the Wando two starts back. If he displays his strong late kick, which seemed to be absent last race, he's certainly a huge threat to win.

7-STATE OF HONOR - Husbands/Casse - 8-1--Made all the pace to the halfway point in the Kentucky Derby, but simply couldn't keep the momentum going in the grueling 1 1/4-mile G1 event. Last time out in the Plate Trial, he again took control of the early lead and held it into the stretch before succumbing late. Colt has kept a busy campaign racing once a month since January, and has been graded stakes placed multiple times, including runner-up in the G1 Florida Derby behind the eventual Kentucky Derby winner. Despite those accolades, the son of To Honor and Serve remains just a maiden winner through a dozen starts, but that lone win came over this surface last October.

8-MALIBU SECRET - Garcia/Pierce - 20-1--Well regarded and improving Malibu Moon colt, owned by Sam-Son farm, winners of this Canadian classic five times, enters the Queen's Plate with just three races on his resume. The dark bay colt debuted with a runner-up finish in the Vandal Stakes on the turf in his lone juvenile race here last summer. Suffered a minor shin injury following that start and went to the sidelines for eight and a half months. Upon his return in maiden allowance company, he rallied swiftly from eighth-place to first to earn his graduation. Last time out in the Marine Stakes, which marked his stakes and two-turn debut, he had a bit of stretch trouble when finishing third, but his overall performance was encouraging enough to earn a start in here. Has more speed than he's shown and carries plenty of potential. Runs third time off the layoff, often a horse's best, so he cannot be dismissed.

9-MEGAGRAY - Campbell/Keogh - 30-1--Langfuhr colt is lightly raced with just four starts. Broke his maiden second time out last year and then following an eight-month layoff, he returned with a good third-place finish in his seasonal debut in the Wando Stakes behind a pair of top Plate contenders after attending the early pace. Three weeks late in the Marine Stakes, he was in the mix behind horses as they rounded the far turn, but could only chase down the stretch as the top two finishers pulled away, and he ended up a distant fourth. Will need a career best effort to get it done.

10-VAUGHN - Callaghan/Mattine - 50-1--A late addition to the lineup, this colt by City Zip has just two starts on his resume. It was an inauspicious beginning to the races for this colt as he practically walked out of the gate in his debut. He trailed the field, but stayed on the inside all the way into the stretch and passed tiring horses for a seventh- place finish. Two weeks later, going 8.5 furlongs over a turf course listed as yielding, the result was a much-improved effort. He broke alertly, stalked the leader from just off the pace, made a strong bid approaching the end of the turn to get within a half-length of the front, then ran evenly through the lane in a third-place finish. Unlikely to succeed in this spot as only one maiden has ever won the Queen's Plate (Scatter the Gold in 2000).

11-AURORA WAY - Leparoux/Simon - 6-1--A few minor issues and a fear of the starting gate prevented this Giant's Causeway colt from racing as a juvenile. However, when those problems that hindered him were finally overcome, he appeared for his racing debut the day before the Plate Trial, and what an impressive showing it was. He raced in mid-pack behind slow fractions before commencing his bid approaching the far turn. He swept four-wide and upon took a short lead at the top of the lane, he then opened up on his rivals to win comfortably by four lengths at the wire. The Plate has always been the target for this runner, and despite his late start to the races and the lack of experience against more seasoned rivals, his connections are hoping the talent this colt possesses can be the equalizer.

12-TIZ A SLAM - Rosa da Silva/Attfield - 10-1--Son of Tiznow was one of the better juveniles locally last season winning three of four starts, including a confident score in the Cup and Saucer Stakes over the Woodbine lawn. This year as a sophomore, he's on a three-race losing skid. Finished fifth in a close effort in his opener down at Tampa, then returned home to be a game second as the heavy favorite in the Wando Stakes. In the Plate Trial, he stayed within striking distance, but then lost ground around the final turn and appeared to be hampered with no racing room. Once the field straighten away, he then managed to finish up nicely along the inside to be beaten less than 2-lengths. It was a bit of a strange trip, but nonetheless it still served as a useful prep. Talented runner would give Attfield a record ninth Queen's Plate win should he take this Canadian Classic. Is a major player and looms perhaps the one to beat.

13-WATCH ME STRUT - Moran/Phillips - 30-1--In his initial try around two-turns last month, he was racing ninth and last with a quarter-mile remaining before kicking into overdrive, circling widest on the far turn and zipping past his eight rivals to score a one-and-a-half length victory in non-winner allowance company. That was the gelding's third win from five starts. He notched two wins and a third-place effort last year from his three juvenile starts before being put away. The son of Strut the Stage lost all chance when he stumbled and bumped into a rival at the start in his 2017 opener back in early May. Look for him to be trying to make an impact late.

This is always an interesting and difficult race to handicap as it is run at a mile and a quarter like the Kentucky Derby. And once again, we're dealing with the same uncharted territory of horses having never before competed at the distance. One just doesn't know with any certainty that a horse can get the 10-furlong distance until it is proven. Success in the preliminary races at middle distances (1 1/16 and 1 1/8) is not enough to predict how a 3-yr old will perform at a mile and a quarter. The additional distance of ground that needs to be covered is what separates the contenders from the pretenders. The race is won or lost in the last furlong.

What to do? I'm not an expert on thoroughbred pedigrees, but I find that spending a little bit of time perusing them can let you know which horses have the inherent genetic ability and plenty of stamina in their blood to get the distance, and which ones could be challenged by the grueling mile and a quarter. 

In addition, when handicapping the Plate, two-year old experience, which is critical for KY Derby candidates, has only mild importance here, simply because the Plate is contested later in the year than the Derby. What is more important to consider is that a horse has experience at a two-turn distance. 

Winning these races isn't necessary, but running well in the most recent preps is usually a requirement.

Pedigree, plus performance gets the prize. 

Based on pedigree, the horses listed below (alphabetically) grade out best for me in terms of being bred to handle the 10-furlongs and I believe one of them will be the likely winner.

Channel Maker
Malibu Secret
Tiz A Slam

I will let the odds at post time dictate as to which horse(s) I will back to win.
Good luck, and as always, enjoy the race!