Friday, April 1, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Florida Derby (G1)

The Florida Derby is a Chalky Bet

By: Jeff Cobb a/k/a Chalk Eating Weasel

It's Florida Derby time! And at last, we have a field size worthy of a Derby prep race.  Isn't it interesting that I only have to write Derby and you know exactly which one I am writing about? That's a rhetorical question, no need to answer.

The field size is 10 and only two, Fellowship and, of course Mohaymen, are returning from the earlier GP Derby preps. Fortunately, a many of these contenders are pretenders and we'll sort them out easily enough. But first a word about the track configuration. 

The 9 furlong distance at GP makes it very difficult for horses from the outside to compete for the win because the starting gate is so close to the first turn. Outside horses are always faced with a dilemma. Speed horses have to gun it out of the gate to avoid being hung out 6 wide on the first turn. As a result, they use too much energy in the first quarter and can't last. Closers from the outside have to dawdle out of the gate in order to drop down to an inside position and avoid being hung out too wide themselves causing them to give up to much ground on a track that is normally favorable to early speed. 

If you use the Brisnet PP's, note the weighted impact value for post positions from 8 out is totally anemic. You could argue that this is based only on 9 races at the distance and not statistically significant. I've been watching this track for years. Believe me, it is significant.

The colts in the sweet spot on the track are 1 Sawyers Mickey, 2. Fellowship and 3. Majesto. Sawyers Mickey is trained by Peter Walder and is  0 for 7 lifetime. Really? Scott Speith made the trip all the from wherever it is he came from to ride this (now don't write anything nasty about the horse, he can't help it that he just ain't fast enough to beat even Maidens). No early speed, but does seem to be able to pick up some positions late. If you’re a super player, maybe on the bottom of your ticket. Otherwise, stay away.

Our old friend from the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth is back to take another shot at Mohaymen. Fellowship is a legit colt trained by Stanley Gold and ridden by Jose Lezcano. Fellowship has managed to accumulate $468k thanks to being a Florida bred. In open G2 races (with small and relatively weak fields) he has two shows on a track which does not favor his come from behind running style. There aren't any real rabbits in this race to set it up for him. I think 3rd once again may be the best he can hope for.

Number 3 Majesto trained by another local trainer, Gustavo Delgado gets Javier Castellano back for an encore trip. Majesto finally broke his maiden on his 5th try. We all know how hard it is two win next time out in the non-winners of two category, so how can we expect Majesto to fare against the likes of Nyquist and Mohaymen. The short answer is we can't.

Breeder's Cup Juvie Champ Nyquist (Doug O'Neill and Mario Gutierrez) makes the trip from Cali. Why? They don't need the points, they're in. They came because the timing is right and frankly, the 3 year old colony at GP has come up a little wanting this year. Nyquist is unbeaten in 6 tries at 3 different courses. You've heard of horses for courses, but here's a horse for any course it seems. Sprints, routes? Makes no difference. 

Nyquist comes out of his 7 furlong 3 year old debut. No doubt this race was only a warm up, but what a warm up winning the G2 San Vicente! Here is where I wish I had access to the sheets to see if what I see in the Brisnet PP's holds up in sheets numbers. Here's why. Nyquist ran a 103 Brisnet figure last out exceeding his high as a 2 year old in the Best Pal by one point. Sheets theory holds that when a 3 year old runs back to his 2 year old top, the next race should be really big. The big caveat with Nyquist is that he doesn't need to win this race. He can come over here, finish second against an overall weak field, get in his Derby prep, and still pick up a nice check. It's up to you to decide what the intention is here.

Number 5 is Copingaway. Trained by Jaime Mejia (0 for 48 at the meet) and ridden by Miguel Vasquez. Copingaway has 1 win in 14 starts. Does anybody get the feeling that the racing secretary was scrambling around the barns trying to find 3 year olds to enter the race so they wouldn't have an embarrassing 5 horse field for their signature race? Toss this guy, he doesn't belong.

Number 6 Chovanes is trained by super feed trainer Jorge Navarro and ridden by Edgard Zayas. Unfortunately, Chovanes could not win until dropped into the claiming ranks. This colt belongs in and Optional Claimer for non-winners of one other than.... He will not compete against Nyquist and Mohaymen.

 Number 7 Takeittotheedge would actually be interesting in a different race after having a dominating Maiden debut. He is similar to one of my favorite betting angles which is to find a 2nd time starter who showed competitive ability last out. I expect such a horse to run better 2nd time out. Alas there are a few more details to this angle 1) the horse should not have won that race and 2) he should be back racing against other maidens. Takeittotheedge is competitive against nearly this entire field. Might be good choice to take underneath in those vertical exotics if you are so inclined, but leave him out of the win hole here. Needs a little more seasoning.

Now we get to the dreaded outside positions number 8 Fashionable Freddy has not been competitive in the non-winners of one other than category and will not be competitive here. You'd think by that E5 Brisnet rating that he might have some early foot, but then you look at his pace numbers and realize that the fields he was up against must've been rather mediocre. Remember what I said about a weak 3 year old colony at GP?

Number 9 Mohaymen (McLaughlin and Alvarado) has not yet faced a competitor like Nyquist and he has the post position working against him as well. However, like Nyquist, he is undefeated. Also, like Nyquist, his Fountain of Youth number takes him back to his 2 year old Brisnet figure top. Oh I wish I had the sheets. He could be sitting on a big one, and he will need it to beat Nyquist.

Lastly we have number 10 Isofass, who, unfortunately is nosofast. Francis Abbott the 3rd is not a trainer who wins G1 races, this one is another who is only in the race to fill out the field.

It is sad that in a 10 horse field there are only 3, maybe 4 with a serious chance to do any damage. The rest are only fillers.

I don't know what the intentions are for Nyquist, but even if he is only running at 90%, he is easily better than at least 8 of the other entries. The only real competition will come from Mohaymen who should have no trouble overcoming PP 9 against this sorry lot.

I can't choose between Nyquist and Mohaymen although I do lean toward Nyquist for the win. 

Since Nyquist and Mohaymen are going to be dominating the win pool I'll have to look to an exacta to salvage any kind of value. Fellowship could be a real good bet to be third yet again, and I won't be surprised if Takeitotheedge gets into the money. 

So here is the Chalk Eating special once again. I'll put a little extra on Nyquist in the exacta with Mohaymen.

$60 Nyquist over Mohaymen
$40 Mohaymen over Nyquist

Sorry to be such a chalk eater, but I can only call them like I see them.

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