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Sword Dancer Day: A Photo Blog

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The photo blogs continue with a bit of a throwback as I continue crunching through the knee-deep archival stuff from the Saratoga 2014 meet. 

They may not be the most thrilling to watch, taking place at least two fences between the apron and the course itself, but I’ve grown extraordinarily fond of turf racing since I began following horse racing. More often than not, grass runners have this magnificent look to them, which when paired with long careers and wild blanket finishes, makes them more exciting than our celebrated dirt races. Having seen some great grass horses already in the past such as Point of Entry and Winter Memories, there was reason to be antsy about my inaugural trip to a Sword Dancer Invitational (I). Anyone would be a little anxious knowing they were more likely than not about to fall in love with someone.

Of course, driving to and from Saratoga and standing up all day from sunup to sunset can take its toll on you, so I was quite exhausted and ready for a bit of a reprieve and to start raking in a few winnings at the windows. As it turned out, it was a tremendous day for those who bet and those who just love coming to the races— best known as your typical day at the Spa!

My day kicked off with a bit of a sleep-in (after a while, you really do start recognizing all the horses in the morning whether you know their names or not!) followed by a timely trip to be among the first to get the autographs of everyone in the Saratoga jockey colony. For a donation of $10, fans received an 11”x17” poster with the opportunity to snatch easy John Hancocks before the first race. Because I am a giant chicken and it’s been a goal of mine to reform my ways, I was determined to say words to a favorite jockey or two… I AM NOT WORTHY BUT HI I LOVE YOU! And good news, I do after all have a little courage inside!

Me: “Hi Johnny. Great ride yesterday.”
John Velazquez: “Oh thank you! You’re so nice!”

Yes I died. He’s probably my favorite, and he spoke to me and I spoke back. Mark this day in the books. Joe Bravo was also super nice if I had to cherrypick just one more name from the countless faces that were at the signing. Unfortunately Edgar Prado was not there nor was Joel Rosario, but it was an enjoyable little event and all proceeds went towards helping an injured rider.

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The jockey poster signing proceeds went to benefit injured rider Michael Straight, who was seriously injured in a 2009 spill at Arlington. With the funds, he may be able to walk again using an bionic exoskeleton device.

As far as the ponies go, it was a day of great performances and super longshots, starting with race #1 on the inner turf course. Breaking from the rail, it was the royally-bred Darley entry of Small World and Irad Ortiz Jr! Irad, a talented turf rider, was able to take the daughter of A.P. Indy from wire-to-wire while dismissing a late challenge from Sky Bird to win at 17-1 odds. It was the beginning of some excellent gut plays…

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It’s a Small World!

One of my favorite winners of the day came from one of my favorite barns. Chad Brown is more than pretty good with the young ones, and put them on grass with a great turf rider like Joel Rosario, and you’re in trouble. One of three debuters in the 9-horse third, Tammy the Torpedo lived up to her name and then some as the daughter of More Than Ready sprouted wings late in the stretch and flew home first. Of course, I could be caught cheering for her in her stakes debut recently in the Miss Grillo (III) at Belmont, where she finished third.

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Can you stop a torpedo? I don’t think so! Tammy the Torpedo meets the winner’s circle at Saratoga.

Another good-looking filly from that same race, Carta de Oro, should be kept in your cards. She was unplayable that day running for the stale George “Rusty” Arnold barn, but is a real looker with great turf potential. But there were plenty of cool maidens out on the dirt as well as the turf…

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Backflip heads to post.

For anyone that follows WinStar on Facebook or elsewhere, you may have seen video of one of the first Super Saver foals toppling over backwards after she was born. That filly debuted at Saratoga on Sword Dancer Day, appropriately christened Backflip. She didn’t win like many other Super Savers went on to do this summer, but it was cool to see her run for the first time under the colors of Bortolazzo Stable with Todd Pletcher training. 

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Top Decile

But alas, this pick 3 was ruined by one horse and the winner of Backflip’s race. Al Stall Jr notched his second win in just eleven starts at Saratoga this meet with the chestnut Congrats filly Top Decile, who debuted under Rosie Napravnik. That burned a bit with me, since I was a Turbulent Descent fan and this filly had speed pedigree to flaunt (Congrats over a Forestry mare). I would regret it a lot later, but that was the end of betting for me for the day.

After a short break, it was showtime for even more upsets and I hate admitting it to this day, but I would have covered the two upsetters in the races preceding the Sword Dancer, which ultimately paid out roughly $1,000 for a $1 pick 3. Saratoga is a punishing place.

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Dulcedumbre

With Todd Pletcher running a bit dry since Stopchargingmaria’s Alabama (I) victory, he made for a pretty bad bet at short odds in race #8 with Our Amazing Rose and Discreetly Elusive. I didn’t forget how impressed I was with a Candy Ride [ARG] I saw earlier in the meet, and Dulcedumbre was coming out with Alan Goldberg’s small stable with red-hot Irad Ortiz Jr up. Singing falsetto to her 12-1 morning line, she cut the corner coming home and that’s all she wrote; it was Dulcedumbre sprinting home a grand winner over the two Pletchers. I felt soulless after that one, knowing I just made a huge mistake not doing the pick 3 like I had planned. It only got worse…

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And they’re off in the Alydar!

Alydar is more than worthy of his own race, and the second running of his namesake stake at Saratoga over 9 furlongs drew 6 horses of varying ability and form. The favorite was Alpha, who won last year’s muddy running of the Woodward (I), which would make sense but aha! He hadn’t done much since winning the Travers (I) on a dry and fair track which screamed suspicion, even for a horse who won all of his starts on this track. Dawly looked interesting, but he was a bit of a tough sell class-wise. Roll on to examining the biggest longshot Farhaan and there it was again, that little voice mocking me from the inside— he’s got Irad Ortiz… he lost his last but that was on all-weather… and you know how this race went already!

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Last early, it was all Farhaan closing in at the end to win the Alydar at about 8-1 odds (longest shot).

You’re killing me, Toga! And now on to the feature race: the star-studded, sizzling Sword Dancer!

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O’Prado Ole

If I had bet on this race from a strictly visual perspective, I just about died seeing how beautiful 4-year-old O’Prado Ole was in the flesh. Yet another chestnut stunner by English Channel who picked up the mount with John Velazquez, he was assigned longshot odds in the field of 7 horses. At this point I was getting text messages about who I liked. Honestly, most of the field had a pretty darn good shot, and I would be busy rooting for the beautiful War Dancer, a horse I’ve liked for a while. However on that token, I’ve liked Imagining since last year’s Joe Hirsch (I) at Belmont. But the one horse who had every right to make everyone betting against him a wee bit damp in the pants would be breaking from the middle…

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Main Sequence

On the muscle and as bright as a copper penny, Graham Motion has obviously done great work with Main Sequence, who needs little introduction as the closing hero of this past United Nations Stakes (I). With Imagining setting the pace, I anticipated another really great showing from this classy gelding and I was not disappointed by what I saw.

Spotting the field several lengths at the start, Main Sequence was slow into stride taking his usual position at the back of the pack as Imagining took command over O’Prado Ole and War Dancer. Setting a sharp yet confident pace for the 1 1/2-mile distance, it was beginning to look like Imagining might get away just based on how good he looked running. The blinkered Shug horse, big and intimidating, was beginning to draw away smidgen by smidgen. G1 winner Twilight Eclipse, who lost this race last year by just a length, kept close tabs on Imagining as the field began bunching up early, almost a half lap around the course remaining. Main Sequence, threading his way up front slowly, began hitting his stride rounding the far turn. "Main Sequence! Main Sequence is coming powerfully on the outside!"

Was he going to get there? Imagining let it rip as soon as he set his path to straight, with Twilight Eclipse glued to him. When was Main Sequence going to get going? It didn’t look good, but as soon as I thought those words, Rajiv Maragh shook him back to life, and Main Sequence popped his knees skyward into a frenzied drive. The crowd screamed for one, the other, the other one. 

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It was Main Sequence in a brave dive to the wire over Imagining and Twilight Eclipse!

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Big winners Rajiv Maragh and Main Sequence, now a two-time G1 winning pair!

In one of my favorite races from the Saratoga meet, the Sword Dancer fell to the courageous Main Sequence putting in another fantastic performance over top turf horses. Trainer Graham Motion was incredibly gracious for this fantastic horse in the winner’s circle, and there were thanks all around. If I didn’t love him already, Main Sequence kept glancing over at my clicking camera and before they led him out, he stopped his handler and gazed back over his shoulder in a very obvious model pose. Main Sequence, the ham of American turf racing!

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Be sure to get my good side, Dawna! Main Sequence, the Ariana Grande of racehorses.

My Sword Dancer day lesson: be it running in a big race or saying hello to a human hero, there’s a little courage in us all if you dig a little deeper!

Alpha

Alpha

Racing Beat: October 20

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More Suffolk Downs sibling royalty! Jo Jo is a half to graded stakes-placed gelding Setsuko, who is best known as one of Game On Dude's most fierce rivals and a habitual runner-up in the biggest G1 races out west.

Dullahan retires with a tendon injury and curiosity as to whether or not the U.S. market supports synthetic breeding. The Unbridled’s Song in him should help him move a bit in attracting interest. Weeps for a Dullahan-less future… RIP buddy, it was a pleasure seeing you at Belmont.

Rest in peace, Hoofit [NZ]. Game all day, and a source of “pick a horse based on their name” joy. Also RIP to Take Control. And Formulaforsuccess, who I saw race this year/photographed.

I get ridiculously starstruck in horse racing… the guy photographer who pointed out Honor Code to me at Belmont goes by “Easy Goer” on Flickr. Had I known that I would have tensed up just like I did when I was in line at Saratoga next to “Rock and Racehorses.” >.> #incurable

Already interested in what the headlines might say when Flashback comes back, er or returns? What sounds better?

An anti-casino protester broke the nose of a 60-year-old supporter/track employee at a Suffolk Downs rally this past week. Not great press for them. Polls currently show 49% of East Boston voters support a casino at the Downs— which will be receiving a city vote on November 5— while 43% dissent. The vote will be even more intriguing now that Suffolk has dropped Caesars as a management partner after finding out they had history of criminal activity overseas. THE PLOT THICKENS!

If only we could bet on who we think will finish last. Alpha's a near-lock in the Dirt Mile!

Don’t let me down Joe Talamo, Moreno has been doing surprisingly well every time out and needs an A+ ride to stay alive in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

I’m glad I got to see Mizdirection in the flesh before she retires as a broodmare prospect selling at the November sale. She had one of my favorite Breeders’ Cup performances from last year— 2nd just to Calidoscopio [ARG]— and is just such a cool mare.

I’m beginning to sense that maybe it’s not such a grand comeback story that Point of Entry is returning straight to the Breeders’ Cup Turf after a 5-month layoff and dozens of pins in his leg. Let the man go into retirement peacefully!

Another cool mare set to retire: Include Me Out. Includes are pretty darn cool by nature.

Tweet o’ the Week: I get jealous of these people who get to go on multi-farm tours

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Flat Out Tries for His 3rd Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday

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Just how good is the Jockey Club Gold Cup this year? 7 out of 8 horses have at least one Group/Grade 1 win to their credit, there’s one Kentucky Derby winner, one Belmont winner, and the returning Jockey Club Gold Cup winner of two years’ past. With many horses looking poised to sit off the pace and spring big numbers when asked, this is more than likely going to be a big, defining race for the winner.

Much to my luck, Super Saturday looks like it’s going to be beautiful out for once! Read on to see my top 3 for the JCGC.

Continue reading…

Racing Beat: September 1

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I’m sad to report that this blog will be affected by the Tumblr epidemic known as backtoschoolitis as of September 5. I promise I’ll get vaccinated for next year.

Yeah, sure, the Jockey Club Gold Cup will be a great prep for Cross Traffic… do it… I’ll get fantastic odds on the real winner!

I don’t normally talk about follower counts, but I’ve been gaining between 1 and 5 *every* day since my Saratoga trip. I blame the original photos. Hi everyone and thank you! I’m always pining for new pony paparazzi adventures! Currently on the calendar: Belmont’s Super Saturday on September 28, the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November, and a visit to Sequel Stallions— home of Freud, Bluegrass Cat, and many others— in January!

What happened to War Academy?

Expedia has been bribing me all month with flight deals… every single roundtrip flight from Hartford, CT to Ft. Lauderdale, FL has been under $200 heading into November, which is a peak travel time for snowbirds. Let’s hope it stays that way for Florida Derby time! INEVITABLE SKY TRIP!

Female jockey power: newcomer Janelle Campbell rode Makeitorbreakit to a 70-1 upset at Suffolk Downs this week.

That card at Saratoga yesterday was the worst excuse for a Saturday lineup I’ve seen in quite a while with the most backwards [at least in long-term legitimacy] results. That’s okay though, it’ll skew the odds in later races in my favor. We all remember Stay Thirsty in the mud and we all know how he ultimately did elsewhere.

Rest in peace, Indygo Shiner.

People have suggested in the past that I was ridiculous to try to always include weather information in my breakdowns. *looks at Saratoga’s card yesterday* OH YEAH, TERRIBLE, SILLY DUMB ME FOR WANTING TO KNOW IF IT WOULD RAIN AT ALL THE DAY OF OR THE DAY BEFORE.

I was watching “The Cup” on Friday and all of a sudden, MAD-EYE MOODY! Dah!

How does one acquire a “buzzer” and what is it?

Tweet o’ the Week: He looked ready… wretched rain…

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Paynter Ships In for Strong Woodward Renewal

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The G1 race won and lost by some of the greatest ever to race, the Woodward Stakes returns for another year with 7 horses lining up to take a shot. Five of them are from the Whitney (I), and hope for a decent shot now that Cross Traffic has been pulled somewhat last-minute from contention in favor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Not a whole lot of big surprises have resulted in past runnings, and I am proud to say I’ve picked the winners of the last two editions: To Honor and Serve and Havre de Grace.

A chance for storms clouds Saratoga on Saturday, but nothing more concrete than that. Nobody in the field is a true “mudder,” but Fort Larned has struggled on an off track at Belmont last year in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Mucho Macho Man flailed on it earlier in the year racing at Gulfstream. Again, not expecting slop…

$750,000 Woodward Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga. Post Time: Saturday, August 31 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Ron the Greek - Javier Castellano, Bill Mott - The Full Mandate stallion was a leader in these competitive dirt races last year, but hasn’t been winning much of them this year, last out finishing a decent 4th in the Whitney. Due to the injury of his usual jockey, he gets the leading meet rider Castellano and is apt to try to close in just as he did last time. Second twice in three past Saratoga starts, Ron will need pace to win, which with the defection of Cross Traffic, he is unlikely to get on a track that typically doesn’t favor closers anyway.

2) Successful Dan - Julien Leparoux, Charles LoPresti - The half to Wise Dan by Successful Appeal, the “other Dan” had an incident leading up to the post parade of the Whitney last out, but still managed to kick on again in the stretch to finish a humble 2nd in a race he probably could have won. Trainer LoPresti boasts this gelding’s last 3-panel workout time was probably better than shown because of fog, and I agree with him. Take Cross Traffic out of the race, and Successful Dan could finally get that successful trip he’s been searching for all season. Top 3 horse at worst.

3) Fort Larned - Brian Hernandez Jr, Ian Wilkes - The E Dubai son had a jumbled start which affected his positioning last out in the Whitney, where he had no real excuse to finish a disappointing 5th. His connections say he looks relaxed and ready. Fort Larned’s Whitney looked like the hodgepodge mess he got handed in his Stephen Foster burnout last year, where he was floated wide and got discouraged to finish out of the money. If he can eliminate a jumbled start, it’s in the bag. If not, well…

4) Flat Out - Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott - I have a peculiar habit of always liking whomever Junior Alvarado rides when I’m at the races, and the G1 winning son of Flatter shouldn’t be discounted. Never off the board in his 3 Saratoga starts— but no wins— Flat Out has beaten Cross Traffic earlier in the spring and won his last start in the Suburban (II). Flat Out looks to be in good form coming into this race, but he usually requires a weak pacesetter to peter out for him to make an appearance in the winners’ circle. Even if Fort Larned fails to spring to the front, I don’t see him making a winning move. This race might even be a prep for a repeat in the JCGC, which has always been his forte.

5) Paynter - Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert - The Awesome Again “miracle colt” returns to the east in his first appearance since running a heroic 2nd to Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. A conventional dirt beast, Paynter showed heart and talent in just missing to Kettle Corn last out at Del Mar, and he looks to be in good shape. I do not like shippers coming to Saratoga, but given the fact that this is Paynter and we had a runaway shipper win last weekend, I will make an exception. He will likely try to sit off of Fort Larned, or secure the lead again should that horse fail the break. He can win this.

6) Mucho Macho Man - Edgar Prado, Kathy Ritvo - The Macho Uno colt showed signs of improvement running 3rd last out in the Whitney, where he stayed steady to miss by 2 1/2 lengths to a persistent Cross Traffic and game Successful Dan. Many issues I have about this horse: I *did* like him for last year’s Classic, but it appears we have a different horse for 2013, where he is winless in 3 starts. Mucho is a fast breezer when he’s coming into his really good victories, and he’s just been loping lately. He did next to nothing in the Whitney when the stretch came into view, just as he did with a weaker field at Aqueduct after his pull-up in the Sunshine Millions where they played with blinkers. I love Prado, but I would be shocked if this horse came to life and won.

7) Alpha - John Velazquez, Kieran McLaughlin - The Bernardini colt was handed his first Saratoga loss last out in the Whitney following a similarly lousy performance in the Met Mile, both in which he was beaten by about 7 lengths and was simply outrun. Johnny V is a nice addition, and to his credit he breezed out 4 panels in :47 and change. He would have to be an improved creature and a true horse-for-the-course to win though.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Fort Larned (Scratched due to injury)

2) Paynter

3) Successful Dan

[edit: with the defection of Fort Larned, I’ll move up Flat Out as the #3 choice]

I’m still not budging from the Fort Larned bandwagon. Yes he is the type of horse who needs to have things go his way, but we all saw what that type of horse did last weekend when Will Take Charge took the Travers, and this horse has got class. Paynter is a big threat on conventional dirt, and will likely be there should Fort Larned decide to miss darting to the front again. Successful Dan should have won the Whitney, and has the right kind of class to win.

Value Pick: If Fort Larned (4-1) sticks with his morning line odds, there you go. Paynter likely to be bet to the moon.

Racing Beat: August 26

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GAME ON DUDEEEEEEEEEEEEE! What was that again about not being able to get 10 furlongs or do poly?

As some of you know, I work nights in a hospital and I was weirdly delighted to come across bottles of furosemide aka Lasix the other day while in the cardiovascular wing. I’ll probably be excited the day I get old and get injected with this stuff… I AM A RACEHORSE!

The internet broke out into applause when Doug O’Neill claimed back Toomanytomatoes in a 22-way shake. *claps*

How do Group 1 races in Europe get filled to the brim but most U.S. G1 races get like 5 entries?

My original, very first Speightstown love came back: Wine Police! I’ll have to dig through the Galloping Hat Rack archives to find my first posts about him, but aw yeah!

I want to go to Del Mar one day so I can tell you guys whether it’s better than Saratoga or not… I doubt it… that ocean will have to be pristine with no cigarette butts or inconveniently placed rocks anywhere!

I am now 3-for-3 in predicting losers of major stakes races in my dreams: Alpha, Stay Thirsty, and now Verrazano.

The crushing feeling one gets when not one, but two horses are put down. Rest in peace, Sarava’s Dancer and Kris Royal. Could the 3rd and 4th fatalities of this Saratoga meet be blamed on a super fast track [for the biggest stakes weekend]? It’s possible.

Ego boost: I noticed my blog’s weekly page view counts exploded last week, particularly on Friday and Saturday. I wonder why, it’s not like I made any outer links. The pick 4 stuff I’ve been doing lately is the only new thing I’ve been doing… this is just like all those times I got referred as an “expert” by other people. It just feels weird.

Mike Smith can’t seem to win. One day he’s blamed for Palace Malice's poor run, the very next day he's applauded for riding Royal Delta. And people suggest “backseat training” is more of a problem.

I’m stuck between feeling elated that Bustle finally won a race— and on the turf at Saratoga, no less— and feeling irked that she got claimed from the Matzes. :/

Do you ever wonder if a few really stupid things were different, that one could like a horse more? Just sayin’, they should have done away with braiding Rachel Alexandra's mane… not a big fan of the braids… Tapizar's looked ok, but eh!

There’s nothing quite like watching Royal Delta run. She merely gallops under a hand ride while other top horses like Authenticity are driving to [try to] get within touching distance.

I still have Mudflats in my virtual stable. I was just about ready to delete him when he finally won at Del Mar after dropping way down in class. I wonder how much they bought him for early in the year… BIG MISTAKE. My virtual stable actually did pretty good this weekend…

Tweet o’ the Week: I want this kind of backside access :’(

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Fort Larned Aims to Repeat in Whitney Handicap

A match-up of some of the best handicap horses in the country, the Whitney Invitational (I) looks strong once again this year with returning champ and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned leading the fray with Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man, the dizzying speedster Cross Traffic, the strong record breaker Successful Dan, and last year’s Travers (I) winner Alpha surfacing for the challenge. It’s the key race of the $500,000 Late Pick 4 and the first Breeders’ Cup Fantasy Capping race. Weather looks likely to be beautiful in New York this weekend with possibility of spot showers that shouldn’t affect the main too much.

"TUMBLR’S BEST HANDICAPPERS" FANTASY CAPPING CREW! This is our first race to nail! Have some Brisnet PP’s to help with your picks.

$750,000 Whitney Handicap Invitational (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga. Post Time: Saturday, August 3 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Successful Dan - Julien Leparoux, 118 lbs, Charles Lopresti - While likely not going to stay at his 12-1 morning line odds (who the hell wrote that?), the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding and full brother to Horse of the Year Wise Dan was favored as the horse to beat in his last start in the Stephen Foster (I), where he was outmoved by the big favorite here, Fort Larned. That was his 2nd start off a long layoff, and nowhere near his track record-breaking best, and he has never been worse than 3rd at this 9-furlong distance. While it will be his Saratoga debut and Lopresti has sighed over being stuck on the rail, “Dan” should be considered a threat as one of the classiest in the field. However, he has some serious work to do on recovering those old big numbers of his.

2) Mucho Macho Man - Edgar Prado, 119 lbs, Kathy Ritvo - Around this time last year, I was favoring this Macho Uno colt to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (obviously I had a change of heart in November when I surmised that Fort Larned would win). Not yet a G1 winner or a Saratoga winner in 2 past tries, Mucho has had a rough year struggling in the mud in the Sunshine Millions then was beaten by about 4 lengths last out in an overnight stakes at Belmont. San Pablo was the worthy winner of that race, but MMM looked a snorish third slightly behind Hymn Book, who most recently finished 2nd in the Monmouth Cup (II). On the plus side, his class level is unquestionably good and he has a strong record on a fast track, finishing out of the top 3 only twice in 17 starts. Mucho turned a strong 4 panel work back in June, and has since been preparing to go long for this race. Ideally built, he will be at a price for his class if you’re willing to excuse his last start as something he needed. To me personally, clockers need to be singing Mucho’s praises for him to have a shot against Fort Larned, and he’s only been graded as “workmanlike” lately.

3) Fort Larned - Brian Hernandez Jr, 122 lbs, Ian Wilkes - Unraced since his titanic “unchallenged, gallantly” 5-length conquering of the Stephen Foster (I), the E Dubai stallion was the winner of last year’s Whitney in a playful romp and by the numbers, he should be able to repeat. Known to throw a clunker here and there if he’s forced wide, Fort Larned reads like a single but keep in mind how often favorites fail at Saratoga.

4) Cross Traffic - John Velazquez, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher - I was shocked at how fleet-footed this Unbridled’s Song colt was, reminding me much of his sidelined gray stablemate and fellow Unbridled’s Song son, Graydar, who managed to defy my expectations of holding his speed up for 9 furlongs in a G1 stake. He was scarcely bested last out by Sahara Sky and multi-graded winner Flat Out— both at a mile, and is super consistent in his running and rating style. Very quick, Cross Traffic looks to be maxed out as a miler, though I thought similarly of Graydar. At 5-2, he is overbet for an unproven horse at the distance, but surely use him in exotic plays.

5) Ron the Greek - Jose Lezcano, 118 lbs, Bill Mott - The Full Mandate son was tops last year coming into this race, but has looked better since he departed from his peak form last summer. Out of the money just twice at this distance in 12 tries, Ron the Greek will try to take advantage of all the speed in his race and recover his old form. A tall order of an entry, Ron sparkled on an off track earlier this year in the Sunshine Millions, got pinched to lose by a half length in the Charles Town (II), but couldn’t catch Fort Larned last out in the Stephen Foster (I). Saratoga is not a closer-favoring track, and even with all the speed up front, Ron would need to have an ideal trip where he’s not too far off this year (as he was last year) and will need to improve. Use in your exotics.

6) Alpha - Joel Rosario, 115 lbs, Kieran McLaughlin - The Bernardini colt and last year’s Travers (I) winner, Alpha has seen better days, losing pretty badly in all 3 starts this year in Dubai. Unruly in his last start in the Suburban (II), he’s been training better since returning to the States. Dare I say it, he has a shot. Bernardinis are tops in New York, and this colt is 3-for-3 over Saratoga’s main under a featherweight. Hell, if Stay Thirsty can beat Groupie Doll at Aqueduct, I’m a monkey’s uncle to doubt Alpha. Use in your exotics for sure at 10-1 (on that note, how is “Dan” 12-1 and Alpha freaking 10-1?)

7) Csaba - Luis Saez, 114 lbs, Philip Gleaves - The Kitten’s Joy colt is a past G3 winner back in Florida, and ships here out of trying to take advantage of a sheer dumb luck strategy that the pace up front will fall apart. Should a freak rainstorm break out, use him. Otherwise, he probably doesn’t belong as a horse who can’t compete with classier types.

8) Fast Falcon - Junior Alvarado, 114 lbs, Nick Zito - Awesome Again progeny typically improve with age, and Fast Falcon looks to be no exception when nearly besting Percussion at this distance, and later the pair finished 2-3 to Calidoscopio [ARG]. He was beaten 2 1/2 length last out to Flat Out and Last Gunfighter at this distance, and has some serious late pace kick. Should the pacesetters wear each other out, Fast Falcon looks likely to gallop up there, but at this class level, he probably won’t be good enough to win. Exotic horse for sure though.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Fort Larned (even)

2) Successful Dan (4-1)

3) Fast Falcon (9-1)

I’m fairly confident Fort Larned is the all-around best horse in the field who shouldn’t encounter a whole lot of trouble as a horse who can sit off of Cross Traffic’s hot pace, pounce when that one [likely] folds, and hold off the late movers with his class. I had issues picking 2nd the most, ultimately going with the classy Successful Dan over MMM, whom I’m not sure is the same horse he was last year. Fast Falcon is keen for 3rd, and can conquer other classy horses here with a pace setup.

Value Pick: I’m not sure which one bettors are likely to ignore more, but Fast Falcon (9-1 or better) looks keen for the top 3 and Alpha (12-1 or better) loves this track. Neither will likely win, but they are must-haves in the exotic category.

Racing Beat: April 21

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I’ve been kind of dead on updating this week, I realize and apologize. Let’s hope my academic hustlin’ will pay off in the form of a sexy GPA and won’t get in the way of my choosing a Derby winner.

Winning Cause making the Derby quite possibly? Pedigree is tops, but he’s only been winning on Keeneland’s main *shrugs*

I have this idea of booking the school’s green-screen studio space, shooting myself “running away” from something, then chroma-key in a video of Alpha so it looks like he can’t catch me. Get it? Because he’s slow? Kekekeke

Handsome Mike was an interesting bet to win at Keeneland last week, which he did, but not at those goofy odds. Why does he keep getting bettors’ attention?

Goodbye Black Caviar. It’s been nice having you around. There aren’t any words fit enough to describe you. I hope you go to Animal Kingdom.

Glad to be right about something. Departing caught my eye winning like he did without Lasix, but was plagued by bad trips when he needed a better one.

I have no idea who I like for the Oaks.

Wonder what they’ll name the new full brother to Zenyatta.

Pilfer has been bred back To Bernardini. As a To Honor and Serve fan and an early watcher of Elnaawi (by Street Sense), I think this may be the only time I’m interested in a Bernardini spam.

Feeling a bit weird not liking any Zayat horses heading into the Kentucky Derby.

It has occurred to me multiple times that I have yet to see a Kentucky Derby winner in the flesh. The only horse that could change that anytime soon is Palace Malice should he win the roses in the coming weeks…

Dear Bob Baffert, while you’re shipping Game On Dude around to the most prestigious, high-dollar dirt races, please remember the northeast.

Revolutionary and Red Rifle have been workout mates lately. I need a picture of those two.

Tweet o’ the Week: I tried out Gizoogle for a few minutes and look what happened

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Racing Beat: February 10

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I wonder if Europe is obsessing hard over Goldikova's baby boy as much as people here are obsessing over Rachel's and Zenyatta's. One out of these three doing badass would be a pleasing percentage.

Proof Frankel's baby brother is going to be even better than him: HE HAS A BLAZE!

I’m already sick of this dumb Kentucky Derby points system. One of the biggest motivating factors behind it is that it’ll be “easier” for the public to follow. Ok, maybe? But wouldn’t winning the big races that ought to be televised be even more of a help? The Santa Anita Derby, the Florida Derby, the Wood, the Arkansas… come on now…

My mother the pedigrees-I-know/buttcapper will be dismayed to hear that Quiet American has been pensioned. So much sad.

I am so unbelievably pissed at Joel Rosario for that shitty ride on Animal Kingdom. Who was it on here that hated him already? Was it you Paige?

One horse I forgot to mention but meant to in my last Derby Top 10 update: Texas Bling, the super longshot that won the Springboard Mile. He’s an Oklahoma bred and an underdog at that, but he’s been working super well according to reports. On a similar note, Dewey Square may try turf… his last workout earlier today was over it.

There goes Coolmore jumping the shark again by buying an interest in Verrazano.

I am dying I want to see Gary Stevens ride in the flesh so bad.

There’s not much to see yet brewing in Dubai: Travers (I) champ Alpha ran last in the Al Maktoum Challenge (II) while Lovely Pass won the UAE 1000 Guineas in achingly slow time (1:39 flat for the mile).

Rumor has it Keeneland is looking to rip out their poly in favor of dirt. I’m all for it; handicapping would be made easier and horsemen would take competing on the surface much more seriously. History is full of doubters when it comes to horses who only win on synthetic.

As I continue working on my Oaks Top 10, I’m keen to include a filly of Phil Simms’, partially because of her name: Miffed, a three-year-old daughter of Purge, who is worth watching.

Sweet baby Street Life is off to be a California sire. All dreams of him standing in New York are dashed.

An old favorite in Wasted Tears just had her first foal, but I died when I saw that it was a colt by Malibu Moon. Ugh. No. At least he has a cool facial marking?

Tweet o’ the Week: More cute babby picture time, this one by Even the Score

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Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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