Friday, March 25, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Louisiana Derby (GI)

Louisiana Derby (GI) Gets Florida Invader

By: Michael Amo-ThoroFan

With 100 Derby points going to the winner and a good chance to claim the mantle of the leader in the Derby field, the Louisiana Derby will be an exciting race. For some they will need to run the race of their young lives to find their way into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. 

The course over the last week has been fair with most success found by horses running from the inside of the seventh post position. The three morning line favorites are positioned there ---  Gun Runner, Greenpointcrusader and Mo Tom. 

The field is loaded with stalking-style-runners with only a couple who have shown a proclivity to take the lead. Pace may be a problem for the closers. Only one horse, Battery, has run the distance of today’s race. Although it was in allowance company, he won it. Coming in from Gulfstream Park for Todd Pletcher at 10-1 suggests some opportunity. Here is a look at the field:

1. Gun Runner (Candy Ride) from the rail will be in the race and get a number of calls. He is working nicely and keeps his Risen Star jockey. If he had not been bumped at the 7/8 pole, maybe he would have won by more in the last race. Dangerous, but may get caught in a speed duel.

2.  Greenpointcrusader (Bernardini) returns after an eight week rest from a battle with the current Derby point leader, Mohaymen in the Holy Bull. His fractions were honest with a strong finish losing by 3 ½ lengths. He, too, was bumped, but kept his mind in the game. Velasquez returns to ride him.

3.  Battery (Bernardini) has shown his ability to get the mile and an eighth. He is coming up in company and may need this one. But the Pletcher/Castellano combination can be dangerous in any race.

4. Conquest Windycity (Tiznow) working exceptionally well with two bullets for trainer Mark Casse. May have trouble getting this distance, although his sire suggests not a problem.

5. Candy My Boy (Candy Ride) is the frontrunner that they will be chasing. He should have some trouble staying on the front for the nine furlongs, but may stay for some exotics.

6. Mo Tom (Uncle Mo) has had his picture taken in half the races he has run with other 50% holding for 3rd. Gets the services of a hot jockey, Corey Lanerie (27%). Should run back to his last with the rest. As a serious closer, he may not get the pace to run into. If he is to win, he has to get in the race early.

7. Toms Ready (More Than Ready) may not be ready for this level and distance. He has not shown great improvement from his 2-year-old year. Running against some of the same ones that beat him in the Risen Star suggests not much of different outcome.

8. Uncle Walter (Uncle Mo) had serious trouble in the Risen Star finishing last by 41 lengths. Trainer Maker tries blinkers to see if they will help. Needs more than blinkers to take this one.

9. Dazzling Gem (Misremembered) has a hot trainer, Brad Cox (35%). He ran a terrific last race in which two of the runners came back to win. Keeps jockey Bridgeman who works miracles with the trainer. Working nice. Big step up, but could surprise for a piece.

10. Zapperini (Ghostzapper) is another closer that will have trouble making up ground in the stretch. No excuse in the Risen Star and shouldn’t do much better here.

11.Forevamo (Uncle Mo) has two seconds over the Fair Grounds track. Showing nice improvement from last year. In the Risen Star he saved ground and moved fast in the last 2.5 furlongs. His problem is post position. If he can overcome that he will be dangerous in the stretch. With a 10-1 morning line odds there may be value in the play.

With inside post positions more favorable, horses 1-5 should be driving into the first turn. Gun Runner and Candy My Boy should vie for the lead. Greenpointcrusader should be breathing down their necks. As they settle into the backstretch expect Mo Tom and Forevamo to seek strategic positions in the field. As they turn into the stretch Gun Runner will have disposed of Candy My Boy and will be bracing for the challenge from Greenpointcrusader. Mo Tom and Forevamo will try to make a race of it. Greenpointcrusader will prevail with Gun Runner, Mo Tom and Forevamo fighting for second.

My picks:
1.  Greenpointcrusader (2)
2.  Forevamo (11)
3.  Mo Tom (6)
4.  Gun Runner (1)
5.  Dazzling Gem (9)

Bets: ($99)
$25 place: 11  ($25)
$5 Exacta Box: 2,6,11 ($30)
$5 exacta part wheel: 2/6,11 ($10)
$5 exacta part wheel: 6,11/2 ($10)
 $1.00 Trifecta key: (2,11) (1,2,6,9,11) (1,2,6,9,11) ($24)
[$1 tip for the bathroom attendant]

Friday, March 18, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Santa Margarita Stakes (G-1)

Is Taris Unbeatable in the Santa Margarita Stakes?

The Saturday program at Santa Anita has 11 races with the feature being the Grade I 500k Santa Margarita Stakes. The race is has a storied history, past champions include Zenyatta and Azeri to name a couple. Who will be this year’s winner and add themselves to the exclusive list of champions, let’s break it down. 


Santa Anita Race 9 – Grade I 1&1/8th Miles  Post Time – 7:30pm (EST) Advance Weather: Partly Cloudy, 80s

When first looking at this race the first thing you will notice is that the race is loaded with speed. Just about everyone in this field has running lines that are not far off the lead or on the lead. The likely post time favorite will be #7 TARIS (8/5). She has won back to back graded stakes with the last being a complete romp at Santa Anita. She has been to the winners circle seven times in 11 starts and looks to be in her best form right now. Likely to be shorter than her morning line, some people may try to beat her, I won’t be one of them. She is the play.

Backing the favorite as the winner, I’m going to try and find some value underneath in exotic bets with #4 LAVENDER CHRISSIE (10-1) and ALL STAR BUB (15-1). LAVENDER CHRISSIE ships in from Gulfstream after a winter freshening. She won the Zia Park Oaks in November and has been working steadily since. While she steps up in class, she might get the perfect trip sitting off all the speed and picking them up late in the stretch. 

ALL STAR BUB is intriguing at a price because she loves this track and is the only true closer in the field. Is she good enough? I don’t know, but at a huge price and likely to get pace to run into, if the race falls apart she may be the one left standing.

Good Luck!

My Plays:

Win: #7

>Exacta: 7/4,6

Trifecta: 7/4,6/ALL; 7/ALL/4,6 and 4,6/7/ALL

>Good Luck!

Handicapper's Corner: Rebel Stakes (G2)

Can Baffert Strike Again in the Rebel?

By Paul Mazur of Picks & Ponderings at ChicagoNow

This year's edition of the Rebel Stakes offers a purse of $900,000 (an increase of $150,000 over last year's edition), as well as Road to the Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) to the horses placed first through fourth.  The Rebel is the third of Oaklawn's four Kentucky Derby prep races.  The listed Smarty Jones Stakes and the Southwest Stakes (GIII) come before it, with the Arkansas Derby (GI) still to come.  The Rebel Stakes has been remarkably consistent through its history, as races go: since being instituted in 1961 it has always been restricted to three-year-olds, and has always been run at 1 1/16 miles.

Three winners of the Rebel Stakes have eventually won the Kentucky Derby.  American Pharoah (2015) kicked off his three-year-old campaign last year with a facile victory in the Rebel, and won the Arkansas Derby even more easily.  The rest of the story goes almost without saying: he won the first Triple Crown in 37 years, the Haskell, the Breeders' Cup Classic, and the title of Horse of the Year.  Sunny's Halo (1983) made his three-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes, won it, then annexed both the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby.  2004 Champion Three Year Old Male Smarty Jones (2004) swept the Southwest, the Rebel, and the Arkansas Derby before winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  Beyond American Pharoah, one other Rebel winner has finished his season as Horse of the Year: Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin (2007).  Other than those two and Smarty Jones, three other Rebel Stakes winners have also ended their year as Champion Three Year Old Male: Belmont winner Temperence Hill (1980), Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky (2010), and late-season dynamo Will Take Charge (2013).

Race 10: Rebel Stakes (G2), three-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 6:06 CDT

Death, taxes, and Bob Baffert winning the Rebel Stakes.  Since 2010, Baffert has won five of the last six renewals of the Rebel and has a chance to become this race's leading trainer outright at six victories with a win.  CUPID is Baffert's hope, and CUPID scratched out of the San Felipe Stakes that Danzing Candy took control of and asserted himself as a top three-year-old.  So CUPID ships to Oaklawn with hopes at grabbing his fair share of the nine hundred grand in the Rebel.  

What CUPID will get is a pace to chase into - someone in the fourteen horse field will go to the front and it projects to be AMERICAN DUBAI or SIDING SPRING.  If you find those names familiar, they were the pace controllers in the Southwest - the lead-in to this race.  Given that there could be an overreaction of pace and the race could have dawdling fractions, CUPID did close into :48 4/5 and 1:13 interior fraction when graduating - a full one to two seconds slower than the Southwest.  Even though it's not the same surface, the is that if CUPID is fine if an honest pace materializes or if it doesn't.  Martin Garcia comes east to ride. 

 SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS turned in a nifty rally to that solid pace last time in the Rebel and returns in this spot.  He certainly makes sense in this field, and stands to be favored off solid humans and that Southwest score.  In a prep season that has seen more chalk than a calculus lecture, SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS has the figures, form, and performance to be the wagering favorite and that - if you believe trends hold - makes him worth playing.  So does winning a similar race a month ago.  A double digit post is no picnic, but he did come from the parking lot in the Southwest and a carbon copy of his effort can defeat this bunch.  Quite usable for the multi-race wagers but that post makes this space a bit less bullish.  

 MADTAP might just get the coziest trip of all in the Rebel Stakes.  He locked horns in the early stages of his allowance race last time out and despite a wide trip, still coasted home to an easy score.  The Rebel will be the first time in stakes company for MADTAP, who is brought to you by the Winchell/Asmussen owner/trainer team that have had success here before with Untappable (2015 Apple Blossom) and Tapiture (2014 Southwest).  Why not another one, who - like the prior stakes winner - has Tapit as a sire.  There is an upward progression of speed figures with MADTAP and another step forward makes him a player.





Longshot:  #11 CUTACORNER was 23-1 in the Southwest Stakes and stands to be in that neighborhood again.  His Southwest was a nightmare of a trip where he was five wide into the first turn and affected by Z ROYAL taking up.  CUTACORNER gets a rider switch to Alex Birzer in the Rebel Stakes, and this Jack Van Berg trainee has brought his wide rallies each time in his late two-year-old and early three-year-old starts.  Sometimes it works (two back in an N2L), sometimes it doesn't.  The team hits at 50% in the money in the last two months.  This space is giving a second chance, and the odds will make a flutter on a "trip notes horse" worthwhile.


$7 Trifecta 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 11, 14 ($84)

$1 Exacta 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 11, 14  ($9)

$7 Win #3 ($7)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1)

Frank E. Kilroe Mile Attracts Ambitious Field

By: John Caro

This truly what racing is all about! Horses conditioned by three of the top turf trainers with jockeys who rate high in the money and win often. There are no slouches in this group. Hope there are no scratches for today’s race. Even those that do not have graded company experience show promise. And the prices will be slim for the favorites. But I believe “Chalk Eaters” should be wary.

Early and mid-pace will tell the story for this one. Last out the ML favorite, #4 Bolo (2-1) stalked a wicked fast pace through three quarters and got it done by a neck over the ever popular Obviously. Very impressive race and Ms. Gaines had Bolo ready for the challenge. Prat made a great move in the stretch to close the deal. So my question is “why is Prat (16% turf win & 44% ITM) off and Mike Smith (3% turf wins & 32% ITM) on board. No doubt Bolo is an excellent horse but can he come back with a different jockey? Brisnet boasts this guy has the highest speed figure at today’s distance (wrong).

A closer look at the Brisnet form shows #6 Midnight Storm (3-1) with better early and mid-pace (103/109) clocked a 101 for the mile at a similar time (1:33) in an 80K AOC here after an eight month break! By itself it would be impressive but the “WOW” here is to follow up into Grade I company and finish second by a half with an even faster early/mid-pace in the Shoemaker. Visually impressive on the video, too! The performance picture looked bleak as he ran often with little improvement. The one strong note is the early/mid-pace figures are consistent even in losses. Move forward to his last out; 60 day break, jockey change, good works and less pace to win against today’s second ML favorite, #3 Bal a Bali (7-2) by 1&3/4. Interesting that Midnight Storm is on another long rest with stellar works. D’Amato is 10 wins of 49 turf races and ITM 57% and top of the list for this meet. Does Midnight bulk up during the off time and for today’s race? He gets my vote as a contender and I use him top and middle in trifectas and supers.

Speaking of breaks. #3 Bal a Bali (7-2) and #7 De Treville (8-1) have both been on sabbaticals. Bal a Bali’s trainer has prepped this guy with some very nice works, including a buildup through 5, 6, 7 and 8 furlong outings at chop-chop speeds. Of course Prat aboard is a plus with his current meet 16% turf wins and 43% ITM stats. While the mid-pace is good at this distance it doesn’t appear to be as consistent as some and his early pace rating is not what I’d like to see for a mile. Prat has won on him once in three tries at this distance and well beaten by Midnight Storm in their last meeting.  I see him finishing 3rd today.

#7 De Treville has had a long break with continuous works since November, including a bullet 6 furlongs, to ready for this challenge. His class is consistent with the competition. Hard to find a lot of pace data. I have not gotten an opportunity to see all the races he’s been in but, he appears to like it on or near the lead in what appears to be fair times. His finishing times for 1600 meters is not on par with who’s running today. Shirreffs’ 90 day away stat is not high enough to concern me. Baze has his magic moments but I think he’s up against it here. They may do a one run close and we’ve all seen that move. Caution, place in the bottom half of exotics.

#1 OM (3-1) has the benefit of trying a second time since a layoff, 19% winning turf jockey and a conditioner who may only have had 8 turf events this meet but is winning at 37% and ITM 62% of the time. He has not been overworked and his consistent winning ways before his break may return. I like a very experienced jockey who can adjust to the pace. I want him in second or third. If the pace is soft he could be a winner.

#2 What a View (8-1) wants Desormeaux on his back. Kent has won 4 of six races, nosed out of one win and pushed 4 wide in a three length loss. This guys has never faced the level of competition but his numbers indicate he’s ready to give it a serious shot. His training regime is a steady diet of 5 furlongs with consistent times and a rested blow 8 days ago. His trainer, Ken Black, has only made 13 attempts at the turf this meet but is winning 23% of those and 54% ITM. Turf seems to be his specialty. I think What a View has the potential to contend this race and I’ll use him with Midnight Storm to win this one.

Last is the fifty to one shot #5 Kenjisstorm (50-1) Let’s be fair; Steve Knapp has only had this four year old since November. After two tries and an allowance win at Del Mar he takes a giant step to the Grade II San Gabriel against Obviously. Watching the video was pretty informative. Maldonado came flying out of hole 11 to track Obviously and I’m sure Edwin could not believe a horse could go that wide through the first turn. He did recover and was actually closing down the late back stretch while three wide and lost it after 7/8ths while going longer than ever at a mile and an eight. That wasn’t enough so we moved to a mile and a quarter with a rail trip, boxed in at a mile, squeezed through to poke in front to finish second against a fast closing older gelding, China Girl Lover. Then a win at a mile. And a very nice run, and the times were very close to the last outing for OM and Bolo with a middle pace equal to Bolo’s. Has the trainer who’s winning at 20% on turf and 40% ITM with a jockey who’s winning 16% and banking 42% ITM found this guy’s niche? I get why the odds makers put him at 50-1 given the poor showing in graded company but; this is a young colt who has only gone a mile or more twice and won both times at a mile and last time out speed was two digits slower than Bolo. I’ll check, but I’m sure he doesn’t know the other guys are big money winners. Maldonado likes this fella and is teaching him the ways of winning. 50 to 1. He may lose but not at that price. Don’t count him out.

Let spend some money based on $100. Feel free to use less. My prime bets are marked *
$2 Exacta – All with #5 Kenjisstorm    -    $24*
$1 Trifecta – 6 with 1,2,5 with All      -      $15*
$1 Trifecta – 2,6 with 2,6,5 with All       -     $20
$0.20 Superfecta  -  2,6 with 2,5,6 with All with All.  -  $16
$5 win #5*   $7 win #2*   $13 win 6*