Saturday, July 4, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Queen's Plate

Danish Dynaformer:  Photo by Michael Burns
Welcome friends to the Turk and the Little Turk, a horse racing blog written by a bald hack handicapper known as the Turk, with editorial comment and most sarcasm from my fifteen year old son, The Little Turk.

We'd like to thank The ThoroFan for allowing us to provide our insights for their readers. Queen's Plate Day.  The Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby is the lazy description usually assigned to this race.

This is a $1 million restricted to Canada born runners, run on a fair running fake dirt surface, with a big field that on paper always appears slow and unaccomplished.

This is not the Kentucky Derby.

There are 20 wins total between the 14 entrants, a maiden, three without lasix, a filly, and a large shadow cast by the death in the Plate Trial of Danzig Moon, Fifth in the Kentucky Derby, sixth in the Preakness, and a wonderful horse who was coming home before a fatal mid race breakdown.  So let's get this straight:
Don't be lazy, this is not the Canadian Kentucky Derby, it is the oldest race in North America, since 1860, it's quirky and uniquely Canadian. Let's get after it!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
WInShaman Ghost/1A
PlaceDanish Dynaformer/7A
ShowAmi's Flatter/14A-
Also Ran'sConquest Boogaloo/8B
Billy's Star/5B--
Breaking Lucky/9C++
Milwaukee Mist/12C+
Sweet Grass Creek/6C
Easy Indygo/10D
Bear at Last/13D
Woodbine Race 11: Post Time 5:38 ETThe Queen's Plate
1 1/4 Miles on Fake DirtFor 3 YOs

I'll start by saying that this is a terribly difficult race to handicap, even when a big favorite is running. There isn't a prep season like we have for the Triple Crown season, and these horses have spent their winter and springs running all around, so its hard to gage them against each other.  Races like the Marine Grade 3 and the Plate Trial, both at WO, are where I typically like to start my handicapping.  I'm not putting up the Plate Trial video because of the Danzig Moon breakdown that I can live without seeing again, but four of these runners went in the Marine, won by Shaman Ghost, and five went in the Plate Trial, won by Danish Dynaformer.

I have a group of three as possible  in the Win spot: Shaman Ghost/1, Danish Dynaformer/7 and Ami's Flatter/14.  I think all three will be bet heavily so none of these represent a great price.  Shaman Ghost is a nice off the pace runner with decent Beyers.  (Remember to adjust your thinking, a mid to upper 80's Beyer and a 2:03:45 is most likely what wins this race.)  I like him coming off the pace here and I like horses that have some rally in them.  Very light chalk.

Danish Dynaformer, I reckon, will be the post time favorite.  A Roger Attfield, Charles Fipke and Patrick Husbands collaboration (Mount Rushmore-like names in Canadian racing), this horse won the Plate Trial by also coming off the pace and he had a nice rally and ate up alot of ground late in a Show finish in the Marine.  A win on yielding turf at KEE shows class.  Lots to like!

Ami's Flatter, a horse the Turk Clan bets on name alone, as our since deceased cat Ami demanded as much.  Breaking from the far outside post, the 14 spot (this race does allow up to 17), the son of Flatter had a great spring on the Triple Crown trail with a 4th in the SF Davis at TAM, a Place in the Tampa Derby, a Show in the Florida Derby, but very flat and dull in his return to WO in the Marine. Trainer Josie Carroll has Contreras up, who left his mount on Danish Dynaformer for this.   Loyalty or belief in the horse?  I guess we'll find out.

That's three horses, all of which should be chasing and rallying off the pace.  Where will that pace come from?

Academic, the lone filly and Woodbine Oaks winner, will be on or very close to the lead.  I think she hangs on for a minor prize, that's all I'm prepared to pick.  Fillies racing boys get bet hard by punters, don't be surprised by her price at post time.

Rounding out my exotic pool is a grouping of four:  Conquest Boogaloo, Billy's Star, Breaking Lucky and Portree, with Milwaukee Mist just outside looking in but could have been included here.  
Honestly, I could ramble about these runners but when you look at the PPs they all have warts.

Conquest Boogaloo raced to Show in the Plate Trial but was well up the track in the Marine. Trained by Mark Casse with Alan Garcia up.
So, what to do with this Turk?

The betting menu has 20 cent Trifectas/Triactors and 20 cent Supers available.   I think I'll do something like:

$1 Tri:  1-7-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 OVER 1-4-5-7-8-14 =$73 or $14.60 in the 20 cent variety.
A bit pricey.

Perhaps I look at a simple box:
$1 Tri Box:  1-4-7-8-14=$60

I think I'll be waiting as long as possible to see where the value is and I'll single someone and build a trifecta around, something like this:

$2 Tri:  1 OVER 4-7-8-14 OVER 4-5-7-8-9-11-14 $50.  I like this combo the best.  In this I have Shaman Ghost on top.
Almost any handicapping book will tell you bet consistently with your betting capital and try to block out having a good or bad feeling about a race influence you.  Build the best handicap you can and bet it.  I ignore this advice sometimes and if I'm not feelin' it, I don't bet.

What makes me feel better about a race?  Data.  I like more data on the PP's to guide me.  I like video and data, and that is just something I lack here.

Have fun with it yourself and keep it real.  If you have a betting problem, seek help.  If you have a handicapping problem, seek a better handicapper than this bald hack.

My regular readers should give you an indication of the hard core nature of this blog.  

Turk Out!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: G1 Mother Goose

By Valerie Grash, Foolish Pleasure 

This esteemed 1-1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs) contest was once part of a race series with a complicated history, the 3-year-old filly Triple Tiara.  While such historic and worthy goals like the Triple Tiara are no longer awarded in American racing, the Mother Goose remains a race of great importance, in recent years won by great fillies like Smuggler, Bushfire, Octave, Rachel Alexandra, Devil May Care, Zo Impressive, Close Hatches and Untapable. For some Kentucky Oaks competitors, it marks their return to racing, but there are plenty of late-blooming fillies ready to spring a big upset. Let’s break down the field by post position:

#1 Embellish the Lace
(Super Saver, out of Distant View mare Expanse)  Tony Dutrow/Irad Ortiz, Jr.

A half-sister to Grade 2 Illinois Derby runner-up Reporting for Duty and Grade 1 Travers winner Afleet Express, this lightly-raced gal is tossed in deep here. Earlier this month she began her 3-year-old campaign with a visually-impressive and completely dominating allowance optional claiming victory at Pimlico, winning at this 1-1/16 miles distance over 5 other fillies by nearly 14 lengths in a hand ride. This, however, is a totally different level of competition. Her two greatest advantages: breaking from the rail and her early speed. Someone’s going to have to go with her early, likely Munasara and Pleasant Tales. Otherwise, she may spring an upset going wire-to-wire.

#2 Include Betty
(Include, out of Eltish mare Betty’s Solutions)  Tom Proctor/Drayden Van Dyke

The Grade 3 Fantasy winner is the sole dead-closer in the field. And when I say dead-closer, I mean she will be so far back of the entire field most folks will write her off. Don’t. She recovered from a problematic run in the Kentucky Oaks by rallying for second against Keen Pauline in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, and when you look at her total career thus far you’ll see her BRIS speed figures have steadily improved with nary a significant drop. If the pace is hot early, she’ll be the one flying late for a piece of the action.

#3 Hot City Girl
(City Zip, out of Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire)  Linda Rice/Jose Ortiz

This New York-bred is a half-sister to 2-time Grade 2 Distaff Handicap victress La Verdad, a still-active racemare who’s excelled at sprinting. Unfortunately, that seems to be this gal’s strong point as well, leaving me puzzled as to why she’s being tossed in against non-state-bred company at this level and at this distance. Previously, she’s proven to be no competition against the likes of Grade 1 Acorn runner-up By the Moon (who beat her by over 8 lengths at Laurel in March) and Freudie Anne (who defeated her by nearly 10 lengths going this distance in the state-bred East View last December). She’s second-up off a break here, but hitting the board would be a shocker.

#4 Munasara
(Bernardini, out of Singspiel mare Lahudood)  Kiaran McLaughlin/John Velazquez

Undefeated in just 2 lifetime starts, this extremely well-bred Shadwell Stables homebred is also making a major jump in class, but has a good bit to recommend her, not the least of which is her early speed. The filly she beat last time out, So You Say, came back to crush a 6-furlong Belmont allowance race by over 9 lengths, so there’s a good form line (albeit minus the graded stakes experience of some of the others in here). It’s somewhat surprising that she hasn’t yet raced on turf given that her Eclipse Champion Turf Female award-winning dam Lahudood captured the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (as well as the Grade 1 Flower Bowl on turf), and has produced a half-sister to Munasara, Aghareed, who won a 10-furlong listed turf race (Prix de Liancourt) at Longchamp in France. However, she appears to have plenty of stamina breeding, so this race may just be a stepping step to the more distance-suitable Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 26 and Grade 1 Alabama on August 22, both at Saratoga. Love that regular jockey John Velazquez is aboard.

#5 Chide
(Blame, out of A.P. Indy mare Yell)  Al Stall, Jr. /Joel Rosario

Gotta love those Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider horses with creative one syllable names! This filly is extremely well-bred, by a Breeder’ Cup Classic winner (Blame) and out of Grade 2 Davona Dale winner Yell, who not only placed third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, but also ran second in the 2003 edition of this very race. However, while she’s produced a series of nice winners, none of Yell’s progeny have won at the graded stakes level. Chide attempts to be the first—and this is quite a jump in class. She did win against older mares last out, and she too should only get better with longer distances.

#6 Pleasant Tales
(Tale of Ekati, out of Awesome Again mare S’Avall)  Dallas Stewart/Junior Alvarado

Off a maiden win over a sloppy Fair Grounds track, this filly was entered in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra—and was CRUSHED, contending early, but fading to finish 25 lengths back of the winner I’m a Chatterbox. Off a 2-month break, trainer Dallas Stewart cut her back to 7 furlongs, and she flattened to finish fourth, well back of Chide who is also entered here. Yes, she won last out against the likes of minor stakes winner Sibling War and a host of maiden winners—nothing spectacular, but building her confidence. A solid 5-furlong workout in advance of this start and her early speed work in her favor. Her second dam is Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, so she hails from quality, but not sure that’s enough to recommend her here.

#7 Money’soncharlotte 
(Mizzen Mast, out of Chimes Band mare Something Wicked)  Kelly Breen/Eric Cancel

With a maiden win over this Belmont track (albeit a sloppy one), this filly has a bit of an advantage over some others, but, boy, has she had bad racing luck! Checked at the start, she had no chance in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, and despite hitting the rail, she still managed to finish a distant third in the Grade 2 Gazelle. Then she went in deep, contending well enough early, but fading to finish next-to-last (15 lengths back) in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. First-up off the break, she posted a bullet sub-one minute 5-furlong workout prior to this start which is encouraging. I’m just not sure she’s Grade 1 material, especially at a route distance.

#8 Danessa Deluxe
(Summer Bird, out of Came Home mare Belle’s Home)  Jorge Navarro/Manuel Franco

She finished less than a length back of Eskenformoney in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks with John Velazquez aboard, and then went to the sidelines for nearly 2 months before returning to finish fourth behind Keen Pauline and Include Betty in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. What I don’t like here is the loss of John Velazquez who stays aboard Munasara—New York-based jockey Manuel Franco takes the reins for the first time. She put in a sharp 5-furlong workout at Monmouth in advance of this start, but I’m just not convinced she’s up to this level of competition.

#9 Eskenformoney 
(Eskendereya, out of Not for Love mare But for Money)  Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano

Somewhat surprisingly for a Todd Pletcher-trained horse, this filly is the most seasoned in the field, with 10 races already under her belt, including close-up finishes in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. Toss that poor performance in the Kentucky Oaks—she lost any chance with a bad break. The real question is the distance. She’s done well in 1-mile races, but can’t hang on that extra half furlong. This will be her first start since the Kentucky Oaks, and previously she’s done well off a break. Expect her to be on or near the lead early, and probably there for a piece of the exotics.

#10 Wonder Gal 
(Tiz Wonderful, out of Dixie Union mare Passe)  Leah Gyarmati/Rajiv Maragh

Rather shockingly, she hasn’t won a race since her maiden effort in a New York state-bred stakes race last July. However, she is 3-times Grade 1 stakes-placed, twice over this Belmont surface and once an impressive third-place finish, just a length back of juvenile filly champion Take Charge Brandi, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race at Santa Anita. With veteran Gary Stevens aboard, she finished a game third last out in the Grade 1 Acorn, but today it’s New York-based Rajiv Maragh who takes the reins. She’s never NOT hit the board over “Big Sandy” so I expect nothing less from her this day. Looking for a big race out of her.


Trifecta box (2, 9, 10): Include Betty, Eskenformoney, Wonder Gal

Longshot flyer (4): Munasara

Friday, June 12, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Stephen Foster H.

Welcome friends to The Turk and the Little Turk blog, and this week's race of interest, The Stephen Foster Handicap.

Before I go to far, I'd like to thank the good people of The Thorofan for allowing this hack handicapper and wretched blogger the opportunity to write for its good members. Poor Stephen Foster.  He wrote some of the most memorable songs in Americana, including Camptown Races, Old Susanna and My Old Kentucky home, yet he died penniless at age 37 after smashing his head into a chamber pot  as he passed out from a high fever.

 We remember him each year for this race, and his songs are forever ingrained into people of my generation and before me, you know, when kids use to play outside and frolicked in the summer before electronics. I like the Stephen Foster Handicap quite a bit and its a key handicap division match.  This edition of the race presents some real challenges to a handicapper and bettor.

In a relatively small field of seven, you could make a legitimate case for five to Win and the final two, and their long prices, take away from the betting opportunity a bit.  I think Lea will be the post time chalk and near even money with Commissioner and Hoppertunity hovering near 4 or 5 to 1.

If you are price hunting that leaves from my legitimate five two more runners, Noble Bird and Cat Burglar.  Noble Bird is intriguing to me while Cat Burglar coming off the Pimlico Special show I've relegated to Show or Fourth in this Crowd. I expect it to be wet based on this weather forecast.  Keep your eye on track conditions as well as scratches, as if the field drops to six, especially if one of my tosses scratches, value starts to really get diluted. Let's get after this!

Horse/PostTurk's Grade
PlaceNoble Bird/4A-
Also Ran'sCat Burgler/7B-
Majestic Harbor/6C-
Churchill Downs Race 8: Post Time 9:42 ETThe Stephen Foster Handicap G1
1 1/8 Miles on DirtFor 3 YO's and Up

I typically hate playing horses returning from Dubai, but Lea has been freshened and is training well. Trainer Mott is 15% off the layoff, the horse is 5 for 5 in the money on fast dirt, has a win in the wet stuff and is a versatile turf runner as well.  13 of 15 in the money lifetime for Lea and connections.

Commissioner should challenge for the Win.  Trainer Pletcher's 4 YO son of A.P. Indy has won two straight at a 1/16 longer than today and should be out there on the pace if he comes well from the gate and gets forward positioning.

 I've slipped Noble Bird in fairly high on my handicap and he'll be equally high in my bet construction.  The 4 YO is not in the same class as the other top horses here but current form seems really good:  a close loss by a head in the Grade 2 Alysheba here at CD on Oaks Day, a nice run a KEE before that for a win. He may not like the extra route of dirt as he's more of a miler, but we'll see.  Expect anywhere from 8 to 12 to 1 odds, so I like the value in the Top 3.

  Hoppertunity was my Derby horse last year before he scratched.  I liked his win here in the Clark Handicap last Thanksgiving but he hasn't really built far off of that.  I like Smith up today and his solid work at CD since early April for Trainer Baffert who is 22% of a layoff like this.

 And finally Cat Burglar, Baffert's other runner here, who's a bit slow but steady.  I have him pegged from 2nd to 4th. With five horses I think can finish in the Top 4 I'm thinking Trifecta/Superfecta with the only real question if I take a stand and single Lea for the Win.

Something like this:  a $2 Super of 2 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 OVER 4-1-5-7 is a $48 dollar bet.  

It's a lot of betting capital for a return that may be kinda eh.

 A 2-1-4-5-7 $2 Tri Box would cost $120.  Eh. A $2 Tri with 2 OVER 1-4-5-7 OVER 1-4-5-7 would cost $24 bucks.

 I like the handicap, I'm not sure I like my bet ideas yet.  Have some fun with it friends, keep the gambling real and enjoy.

 Don't forget to tune into NBC Saturday Night for the races.

Turk Out!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Belmont Stakes

By Tom Amello, Trackfacts

My pre-race analysis and assessment begins with the race favorite; from there I work through the field…lowest odds to highest odds.

Luck to all.
Running Styles:
E         Early Speed, wants or needs the lead
EP       Early Presser, near the lead throughout
P         Presser, front half of the field stalker, never behind half the field
Clo      Rear half of the field runner and deep closer

 Post 5) (3-5) American Pharoah (E/EP/P) Espinoza/Baffert

            The annual hope for a Triple Crown winner brings to mind the 1999 science fiction film, The Matrix, where the plot revolves around a futuristic society’s hope of finding “The ONE”, an individual with the power to change everything. Only 12-furlongs around the massive Belmont Park oval and a somewhat talented group of seven rivals stand in the way of American Pharoah’s bid to become Thoroughbred racing’s “THE ONE”, the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. ONLY 12-furlongs and seven shooters!!! It’s tough to be “The One.”

Race track legend Harvey Pack warned of “never betting a horse as the favorite to do something they have never done before.” No runner in this field, including 3-5 American Pharoah, has been the 12-furlong distance of the Belmont Stakes. Additionally, where every past Triple Crown winner has previously raced well and/or won at Belmont, American Pharoah has never raced over the Belmont surface. That’s sage advice from Mr. Pack, and perhaps a major historical knock on American Pharoah. Hmmm?! 

While Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has saddled Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem in failed efforts at garnering the Triple Crown, there are several reasons why American Pharoah, in the context of this field, looms highly likely to accomplish the task. First, American Pharoah possesses exceptional tactical speed and a quick turn of foot. Jockey Victor Espinoza can let the gates open, read his rivals and place his horse wherever he wants past the grandstand, through the clubhouse turn and down the backstretch. Second, American Pharoah has soundly defeated every rival he faces today. Third, he has carried the weight, the impost of 126 pounds, in his most recent victories. Fourth, he is a true “Road Warrior” carrying his race to no less than five tracks, handling every type of surface, including synthetic. Fifth, and most importantly, each and every one of his wins has been decisive, with American Pharoah increasing his lead and drawing farther away at every call. Friend Kerry Thomas of Thomas Herding Technique had this to say in his Derby profile of American Pharoah: “Herd management is important to American Pharoah, and ever since the blinkers came off, he has owned every herd he ran with.”

 The early pace and pace tactics will determine the outcome. Trainer Baffert might instruct jockey Espinosa to go to the lead from post 5 and, if left somewhat alone, take the field gate-to-wire. If the field trips the timer close to 1:13, advantage to the front runners. If two or more horses vie through the early stages in anything closer to 1:11.40, advantage to Stalkers.

Brilliance, acceleration, willingness, determination and courage are essential for winning a Triple Crown. American Pharoah is blessed with high degrees of these qualities…and a positive “herd dynamic.” A repeat of either of his last two efforts will make him difficult to defeat, and he will become “The One.”  

Post 6 (5-1) Frosted (P)     Rosario/McLaughlin
Minor throat surgery, a rider switch to Joel Rosario, a change of venue from Gulfstream Park to Aqueduct , and a change of tactics resulted in Frosted’s workmanlike win in the Wood Memorial. Racing sixteenth while in the clear early on in the Kentucky Derby, Frosted mounted to only serious challenge to the three Derby pace setters, sweeping the field to finish fourth a neck behind pacesetter Dortmund. Trainer Kieran McLaughlin, given his perception of the pace scenario, thought his charge to be the “2nd best horse” in the Derby.
Frosted should have no problem with the distance. He has adequate tactical speed breaking from post 6 to settle third or, more likely, fourth in the early stages. He has worked exceptionally well over the Belmont surface, including strong company works with stable mate Tamarkuz. Since trainer McLaughlin had Jazil ready for a top effort in the Belmont, one can expect Frosted to be well-prepped. Should a pace battle ensue or the speed horses find the final two-furlongs beyond their scope, Frosted should be grinding on late.

Post (8) (6-1) Materiality (E/EP) Velazquez/Pletcher
Materiality appears to be the main rival and most likely to lock horns and battle favored American Pharoah at some point in the race. Well regarded since handling the Upstart in the Florida Derby, Materiality, unraced as a juvenile, suffered the curse of Apollo in the Kentucky Derby. Curse or not, he lost all chance that day when breaking poorly from post 3.

Taken completely out of his running style, Materiality raced from the rear, was bottled up and galloping along, then finished well when finding room in the stretch, galloping out past the wire. That finish, however, might not have been as good as it looked, since the colt was untaxed early and had energy to run late.

 Materiality comes into this race off five weeks rest and sports several solid works over the Belmont surface. As a son of Afleet Alex, the 12-furlongs should not be a concern. However, in this short field of eight and reuniting with jockey John Velazquez, there should be no traffic problems at the start. Will Velazquez drop the gauntlet and send Materiality to the lead from post 8, attempt to outrun American Pharoah to the inside and attempt to win going gate-to-wire? Or will Velazquez use Materiality’s speed and tactical speed to play cat and mouse with American Pharoah, stalking him throughout? The latter scenario favors American Pharoah.  There would be no surprise should these rivals race 1-2 around the track from start to finish, or if such tactics do in one or both.

Post 1) (10-1) Mubtaahij (P/PS) Ortiz, Jr./DeKock
Mubtaahij’s adventure from Dubai to Arlington Park, to Churchill Downs made it unlikely he would deliver a top effort on Derby day. The Irish horse by way of Dubai, however, would enjoy a perfect rail trip in the Kentucky Derby only to lose ground in the late running, finishing a non-threatening eighth. Comments from his prior efforts in Dubai indicate he tracked the leaders before moving to the lead in all three, winning two. True, the early pace of European and other International races is significantly softer. Thus, when allowed to settle in his first American race, Mubtaahij was much farther back in the field than usual. And, once certain he was out of contention, jockey Soumillon did not punish him or ask for any late run.

            Trainer Mike DeKock is well-respected around the world. The fact he did not pack up and go home suggests there is more to this colt than we have seen. DeKock immediately shipped to Belmont Park, has worked Mubtaahij aggressively, and clocker reports suggest we will see a much improved effort on Belmont Day.

            Mubtaahij is bred to run all day, and owns two wins at 1 & 3/16. The projected pace of the Belmont Stakes should be closer to 1:13 than the 1:11.20 of the Derby. Mubtaahij should be third or fourth under top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., establishing perfect position along the inside. Mubtaahij needs a top effort to be in contention late. If able to race over the track as well as he has worked and repeat his stretch performance in the UAE Derby, Mubtaahij might be the strongest near-pace finisher and one to deny in the lane. 

Post 3) (12-1) Madefromlucky (P/PS) Castellano/Pletcher
Madefromlucky has been a Todd Pletcher 2nd or 3rd stringer, beginning his career at Monmouth Park rather than Saratoga. Additionally, he was sent to the Oaklawn Park Triple Crown preps where he was easily defeated twice by American Pharoah. Pletcher wisely opted to skip the first two legs of the Triple Crown, pointing Madeforlucky to the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

            An improving colt, Madefromlucky easily handled four rivals as the 9-2 third choice in a weak edition of the Peter Pan. The Peter Pan-to-Belmont Stakes move was successful in 2014 for Tonalist but has not been a particularly successful move; Madeforlucky is not the talented Tonalist. While a win over the track is an important advantage, Madefromlucky must tote an additional 10-pound impost while facing much tougher competition over 12-furlongs.

This colt has been forwardly placed in most of his races but lacks the early foot of both American Pharoah and stable mate Materiality. Perhaps Pletcher is planning to send Madeforlucky as a “rabbit” to engage or pressure American Pharoah, while uncoupled mate Materiality rates comfortably behind those two? If not, it is difficult to see how Madeforlucky will factor.

 Post 2) (15-1) Tale of Verve (Clo) Stewart/Stevens
Dallas Stewart may never end up in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, but he is in the bettors Hall of Fame for Triple Crown long shots. He “earned his bones” when Golden Soul finished 2nd to Orb at 34-1 in 2013, and Commanding Curve 2nd to California Chrome at 38-1.

This year he had maiden winner and deep closer Tale of Verve on the AE list for the Derby but failed to get in the gate. Undeterred, he entered the Preakness, and this $400k son of Tale of Ekati, out of an Unbridled mare, took to the Preakness slop closing from last to 2nd at 28-1. 28-1 on a maiden… in a Graded Stake? Those odds are testimony to Stewart’s ability and following. Said another way, 28-1 was a significant underlay.

            And so Tale of Verve will try the Belmont Stakes, a deep closer up against the race dynamics and eligible for lesser conditions. Was it talent? Was it the slop? Tale of Verve is unlikely to get slop on Saturday or score an upset. He might, just might, hit the board again. 15-1 line odds are not at all generous.

 Post 7) (20-1) Keen Ice (Clo) Romans/Desormeaux

            Keen Ice, a son of Curlin, ran a sneaky good race in the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Kent Desormeaux asked for run into the far turn, slipped past Materiality when angling off the rail only to be blocked behind horses around the turn and into the stretch. Keen Ice then found stride, bulled his way through from between horses while on the wrong lead, switched leads when clear and finished as well as rival Materiality.  

            Deep closers are always at the mercy of pace and trip. Keen Ice has shown promise and improvement while failing to win (8-1-0-2). He remains eligible for N1xAllowance and Non-Winner of 2xLifetime conditions, not the resume of a Graded Stakes contender. The best pace dynamic for runners like Keen Ice is FAST EARLY/FAST LATE. It is unlikely he gets that scenario in the Belmont Stakes. Keen Ice is bred to relish the 12-furlong distance, however, and when any of the distance-challenged rivals in front of him hit their individual wall, Keen Ice will be keeping on. Looms an unlikely to upset; big threat to hit the board.
Post 4) (30-1) Frammento (Clo) Smith/Zito
Trainer Nick Zito has an excellent record in the Belmont Stakes, but it is doubtful that Frammento will add to it. While keeping Graded Stakes company since the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, Frammento has done very little other than a closing 3rd at 63-1 when adding blinkers and passing tired rivals with a perfect inside trip. Can you forgive Frammento’s lack-luster fourth behind Carpe Diem in a slow Blue Grass Stakes? The non-effort breaking from post 18 in the Derby might be forgiven. But this colt is slow on speed figures and races from the rear. Mike Smith gets the mount. Smith might save ground but swinging wide is his trademark. Frammento will be the longest odds on the board and is strictly for Zito fans. In a field of eight, anyone might run fourth.

 Selections in order of preference:

5) American Pharoah
8) Materiality
6) Frosted
1) Mubtaahij
7) Keen Ice
3) Madefromlucky
4) Frammento
2) Tale of Verve
Suggested Trifectas:

5 over 1-6-7-8 over ALL
5 over 1-6-8 over ALL
5 over 6-8 over ALL
5 over 6-8 over 1-6-7-8
5 over 6-8 over 6-8 
6-8 over 5 over 1-6-7-8 
Trifecta box 5-6-8

Suggested 10-cent Superfectas:

5 over 6-8 over ALL over ALL
5 over ALL over 6-8 over ALL
5 over 1-6-7-8 over 1-6-7-8 over ALL
5 over 1-6-7-8 over ALL over 1-6-7-8
5 over 1-6-7-8 over 1-3-6-7-8 over ALL
5 over 6-8 over 1-3-6-7-8 over 1-3-6-7-8
5 over 6-8 over 6-8 over ALL
5 over 6-8 over ALL over 6-8
6-8 over 5 over 1-3-6-7-8 over ALL

Handicappers' Corner: Metropolitan Handicap

By Robert Marks, They’re in the Gate

Yes, we are all excited to see a possible Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah, but how about this undercard for Belmont Stakes Day!

This includes the $1.25 million Grade 1  Metropolitan Handicap. The race is also a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge race. The race is loaded with talented horse flesh.

Here is the field listed by Post Position, Name, ML Odds and Jockey:

1 Private Zone             4/1    M. Pedroza
2 Bay of Plenty           20/1   M. Smith
3.Noble Moon             30/1   J Ortiz
4 Tonalist                    5/2     J Velazquez
5 Tamarkuz                 10/1   I Ortiz
6 Wicked Strong         6/1     J Rosario
7 Bayern                      7/2     M Garcia
8 Pants On Fire           15/1   P Lopez
9 Honor Code               6/1    J Castellano
10 Kobe's Back           20/1   G Stevens

Private Zone is the clear pacesetter here who should be right on the lead early. This is your clear best speed horse in the bunch. Tonalist won last years Belmont Stakes and is 4-4 over this track. Trainer Christopher Clement is a master and picking the right spots for his horses and they are always ready to run. Expect no different from Tonalist here.
Wicked Strong is looking for his 1st win of the year, finishing 3rd and 4th. He gets a rider change in Joel Rosario (from Rajiv Maragh). He comes off a 6 week rest and his workouts suggest he is sitting on a good one. Bayern, last year's Breeders' Classic Winner has only one race in his 4 year old campaign, a lackluster 6th at Churchill. He needs the lead and I don't see how he gets it from Private Zone. Honor Code likes to run in midpack and chase the early speed late. He has already beaten Private Zone earlier in the year. If he saves ground and gets his trip this could be your winner.  We see the race playing out with Private Zone the pacesetter, Bayern just behind with Tonalist, Honor Code and Wicked Strong in the tracking positions.


Here are my selections based upon a $40 bankroll and including a bonus Pick-3 selection:

$20 Win: Honor Code
$1 Tri Box ($12); Honor Code, Private Zone, Tonalist, Wicked Strong
$1 Pick 3 ($8) (Races 9-11)  Honor Code/Private Zone over Twilight Eclipse/Blue Kitten over American Pharoah/Frosted

It will be a Super Day, be safe, and have fun!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Handicappers' Corner: Knob Creek Manhattan S.

The Grade 1 Knob Creek Manhattan goes as the 10th race on Saturday. It is the race before the Belmont Stakes, on a day that might well be an historic day in racing history.

The Manhattan has a purse of one million dollars and is contested at a mile and a quarter over Belmont’s inner turf course. It drew a field of 11 colts and geldings.

From the rail out:

1.    Hyper – Second race back after a 17-month layoff was an even effort in the Grade 1 sixhorse field, over this course. May need another to be back at his best.
2.    Twilight Eclipse – Highweight and deserving ML favorite, winner of the Man’o War, a high class horse that always makes his run, but has never run at this distance.
3.    Finnegans Wake – West coast turf star, dead closer, needs to work out a trip.
4.    War Dancer – Has shown more speed since the trainer change to Mott. Third race back off a layoff, in light, could have some upside.
5.    Big Blue Kitten – Twelve time winner, another that has never won at the distance and must work out a trip.
6.      Legendary – Very nice horse but appears a cut below.
7.      Slumber – Hasn’t won in more than 2 years. Not a fan of first time “blinkers on”  for a 7-year-old.
8.       Biz The Nurse – One of two Euro horses, classy, yes, not sure if he measures up
9.       Magic Artist – Would be shocked.
10.   General a Rod – First time turf, out of a Dynaformer mare, breeding says “should turf” good works, Johnny V aboard, when perhaps he could have ridden Jack Milton? Have to consider.
11.   Jack Milton – Classy horse, but the big question is…does he want to go this far?

Twilight Eclipse is the deserving favorite here. Regular rider Castellano stays aboard, giving up the mount on multiple stakes winner Jack Milton. Will he be as effective at this distance? And do you want to play the fave?

General a Rod is going to the grass for the first time. TAP was pleased with the way he moved over the lawn when he worked with stablemate Jack Milton on May 30. Interesting to me that JV is aboard. Has a long shot look.

But the pick for the win is War Dancer. He has shown a recent a change in his running style. It could a maturity play or the effects of a trainer change - or a little of both. But I like it. He is also getting six pounds from the top two choices. His last race was a winning effort. With two nice works since then, he is worth a long look, and is my top choice.

It’s a great card on a great day of racing!

And as always,
Fast & Safe to all our equine friends!