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Constitution Snaps a Speed Duel

And remains undefeated to win the Florida Derby! Yet another Tapit colt that surged to victory, how happy am I!

Leaderboards are now updated, and we have a new leader! Le—pamplemousse leads the pack by 40 CENTS over Iadoreunna/Teamchlorine, with third place Marroquin within breathing distance. Le-pamplemousse and Thoughtsonracinglifeandmore both had Constitution for week #9.

Next week is the last week, barring the possibility of a tiebreaker round, with the Wood Memorial on deck. I will honestly say this in advance: I will not be able to announce the winners right away since I will be at Aqueduct for the whole day. Best of luck everyone!

Cairo Prince Laces Up for Florida Derby

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Week 9/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest! Submit your choice of horse through this link by 6:28pm EST (20 minutes before post time). Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.

A very key prep race in recent years, the Florida Derby is always at the forefront of the Kentucky Derby prep races with past winners like Barbaro, Orb, and Big Brown catapulting off to a blanket of red roses. Cairo Prince returns off the Holy Bull (III) as well as the top two from the Fountain of Youth (II) greet the likes of the Swale (II) winner Spot and two-for-two winner Constitution.

$1 million Florida Derby (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Saturday, March 29 at 6:48pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 122 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Wildcat Red - John Velazquez, Jose Garoffalo - D’Wildcat progeny typically do not go the distance, but the Fountain of Youth (II) winner aspires to prove that one wrong. Attracting Johnny V to the irons after that head win over General A Rod, the colt has won 4 of 6 starts (with 2 places), all at Gulfstream Park. A very strong entry made stronger with Johnny V, the real test for him will be duplicating the form he showed in the Fountain of Youth while stretching out.

2) Matador [ON] - Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse - Getting blinkers on, the Malibu Moon colt made up a bit of ground late in the Tampa Bay Derby (II) last out, finishing 5th beaten nearly 6 lengths. Oxley hopes the blinkers will focus Matador’s speed, if there is any.

3) Cairo Prince - Luis Saez, Kieran McLaughlin - Unraced since his Holy Bull (III) romp, the Pioneerof the Nile colt has been prepped carefully for this start over at Palm Meadows. A winner of 3 of 4 starts— one missed in a photo finish with Honor Code— he’s the class of the field. I strongly suspect that this is serving mainly as a prep for the big dance, and Cairo Prince won’t be too urgent to conquer all that speed. However, should the surface favor him, he could stalk and pounce.

4) Constitution - Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher - Lightly raced with 2 wins in 2 starts, the Tapit colt drew well clear of a very nice-looking allowance race back in February to win by 3 1/2 over Tonalist. Tapits have been racking up wins, and while Constitution gets a step up in class, he could also pounce late as a horse who could likely get 9 furlongs. Top jock Castellano gets the mount.

5) East Hall - Juan Levya, Bill Kaplan - “Showed little” in the Tampa Bay Derby (II) while running 8th, the Graeme Hall gelding has 2 wins at Gulfstream. He probably doesn’t belong here, and even if everything cracked down to allow for him to pass rivals late, it would take an awful lot of luck for that to happen.

6) General A Rod - Joel Rosario, Mike Maker - Renewing his rivalry with Wildcat Red, the Roman Ruler colt was battling in tandem until the wire of the Fountain of Youth, which he lost by a stubborn head. He loses Castellano to Constitution, which is interesting but probably political, and picks up Joel Rosario. He totes a ton of speed for the pedigree, and Mike Maker is 30%. Overall, he’s a pretty good bet to go far.

7) Allstar - Orlando Bocachica, Marcus Vitali - Always fun to see a Flower Alley join the fray. Allstar was claimed from Coolmore/Pletcher three races back, and since then has won 2 of 3 races, all at Calder and at a mile or less. His last start saw him whipping a Calder allowance field by 4 1/2 lengths. His best speed figures pale in comparison to the rest of the field, which is discouraging.

8) Spot - Corey Lanerie, Nick Zito - See Spot stretch out? It could happen. A gelded son of Pulpit, Spot is bred similarly to Bernardini and other distance goers following an upset win in the 7-furlong Swale while sweeping in late to overtake the rest of the field. Zito has Spot sharp for this race and he could very well stretch out as a proven closer in a speed-heavy field on a track he already likes.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) General A Rod

2) Spot

3) Cairo Prince

A favored horse, Cairo Prince will draw far more money than he should coming off a layoff in a very fast field. However, should General A Rod and Wildcat Red lock up again, the field could fall to an off-the-pace horse like Cairo Prince or even Spot who could come running late. Overall, I like the upside on General A Rod, who has the pedigree to stretch his speed out further than Wildcat Red. Spot has some potential to stretch out while pouncing on the fast-moving pace, and Cairo Prince should be in the mix.

Value Pick: Spot

Contest Pick: General A Rod

Leaderboard Update Coming, Florida Derby Jotform

Let me apologize for my lack of activity and general slowness to give updates about the Derby Handicap. I just had a ton of work from my 3 most neglected classes to do early in the week and then there’s the documentary which has been hogging my time. Submit away through here, and I will get the Jotform updated by this afternoon along with the Florida Derby analysis.

Updates - Summer Racing and Such

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When it rains and the “turf” goes soft, I scratch Harley from running outside in the yard. Sad face. And yes I’m rereading Seabiscuit on my nightstand.

With the trip to the Belmont Stakes in the books and the Triple Crown wrapped, I do have some future photo ops and features that are destined to appear on GHR:

  • Kickstarter hopes to launch this week, filming begins this week: The goal is $4,000 over three weeks, and I will be contacting racing media and blogs about spotlighting the Lipsticks & Longshots project to drum up funding and excitement for the movie. There will be photo and video updates as that project sprouts wings. When it launches, I will link it and if you’d like to help (and get a few exclusive early supporter rewards in return!) please do! For as little as $5, you can get a thank you in the credits!
  • Future NYRA appearances by me: Whitney (likely), Coaching Club American Oaks (possible), Belmont’s Super Saturday on September 28 (goal).
  • I am weighing if I can go to the Breeders’ Cup this year too. Ticket prices are fair right now, and if I can get a press pass I will become even more likely to go. I’m also thinking of the Florida Derby in 2014 since I do believe it’s during my spring break and I could use a real vacation from school, work, and whatever project I’m doing for Advanced Documentary class leading up to my internship.

Thanks everybody in the meantime! I know updates have been slow, but they should be getting bumped up as the big races and summer meets come alive and I can focus a little better.

High hoof!

Dawna

Derby Dozen #1: Orb

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(Malibu Moon x Lady Liberty, by Unbridled)

  • Trainer: Shug McGaughey (Hymn Book, Easy Goer, My Flag)
  • Jockey: Joel Rosario (5th last year on Creative Cause)
  • Owned by: Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable
  • Record: 7-4-0-1
  • Earnings: $921,050
  • Top speed figure(s): 97 Beyer, 101 Equibase

Background: The bay colt represents the legendary Shug McGaughey’s latest (not that there has been many in recent years) attempt to capture racing’s biggest event, with decades passed since Easy Goer came within breathing distance of capturing both the Derby and the Preakness. Orb stamped himself as a solid competitor after turning three, and represents some of racing’s oldest names with McGaughey training, carrying the silks of the Janneys (Stuart Janney III’s father owned Ruffian among others), and bred by the illustrious Phipps family.

Prep Schedule: A perfect example of why waiting and seeing is often the best yardstick for measuring Derby potential; Orb was slow to understand racing but showed some grit in his two-year-old year, debuting 3rd at Saratoga in a race won by Violence after breaking slowly from the gate and trailing. After misbehaving and enduring more trouble, he broke his maiden on his 4th try at Aqueduct in December, ousting the talented Freedom Child and Revolutionary going a mile. As a three-year-old he has won three straight and all at Gulfstream including the Florida Derby (I) and the Fountain of Youth (II) preps. With two comfortable, confident-looking wins at 9 furlongs, Orb remains right on track.

Pedigree: Sire Malibu Moon— by A.P. Indy and out of a nice Mr. Prospector mare— had a very short-lived career but has spawned plenty of routers as well as sprinters in a successful stud career. Dam Lady Liberty is by Unbridled, who is quickly becoming a top broodmare sire (G1 winners Shackleford, Tapit, Dream Rush) and major influencer in the three-year-old classics (traced in Real Quiet, Victory Gallop, Empire Maker, Red Bullet, and more). Lady Liberty’s dam Mesabi Maiden won the Black Eyed Susan (lI). TrueNicks Rating: A, Variant 2.65

Running Style: Off-the-pace

Pros: Orb appears to be a safe sell all around, with McGaughey representing some of the best training outfits in the country despite not having a lot of Derby contenders. Orb appears to be peaking right on time and runs well within himself to extend to 10 furlongs.

Cons: Regular rider Johnny V breaks up with Orb in favor of the brilliantly fast Verrazano, which may give that horse a tactical advantage over Orb. Orb also favors an off-the-pace running style, which a lot of other horses are looking to get which could lead to cramped conditions. Also worth noting: filly Dreaming of Julia scampered 9 furlongs in 1:48.97 while Orb took 1:50.87— about a 10-length difference.

Final Word: Likely to be the second favorite to Verrazano in the betting, Orb should have a place in everyone’s top 5 picks, doing little wrong since the start of the year with room to grow after defeating several worthy horses on the trail already. He has talent, the right connections, and above all, the right fitness and mentality to get the job done.

Critiquing the Contenders: Orb

After weeks of trying to beat a lot of Pletchers and other top favorites and getting really weird results, it’s only natural that I start questioning my own methods once again. I liked Revolutionary from the word go, but barred myself from liking Orb too much originally because I liked Revolutionary and Violence already and good gosh, why would I like 3 horses all with cool names?! Orb got the boot, I guess, because he was a Malibu Moon. Malibu Moons are good or not good, and it’s hard to find one that is good for very long. I’ve been on the McGaughey-Phipps double bandwagon since Hymn Book won the Donn (I) for me though, so he does have some street cred.

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Malibu Moon is a good-looking guy by the undisputed legend A.P. Indy and out of a pretty nice Mr. Prospector mare. He reminds me of Pulpit in many ways, though I found Pulpit to be more likeable, namely because he actually did something on the track before going to stud. Malibu Moon raced twice, breaking his maiden on his second try running 5 furlongs. Appropriately, he is known for passing on precocious ability, as seen with Declan’s Moon (G1 Hollywood Futurity winner & graded sprinter), Kauai Katie (very fast, precocious 3-year-old apt to stick to sprints), Devil May Care (precocious gal who broke the mold, winning the 9-furlong Coaching Club), Prospective (winner of the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby), Eden’s Moon (G1 Las Virgenes winner), and Ask the Moon (back-to-back G1 winner at routes).

His dam side is actually what makes him the most likable to me, out of Lady Liberty, a daughter of classic winner Unbridled, whose Fappiano lineage has been on fire in the winner’s circle. Lady Liberty ran in some nice graded events without doing much, though her dam Mesabi Maiden (by Cox’s Ridge) was a winner of the Black-Eyed Susan (II) at 9 furlongs. With all this in mind, Claiborne is looking pretty crafty: did they mix Malibu Moon’s tendency to pass on speed and early ability (on a classic backdrop of A.P. Indy/Mr. Prospector) with a mare capable of going far?

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Conformation-wise, Orb is not as impressive as other horses on the trail. In fact, he reminds me of Prospective a bit. There is nothing overly “wow” about Orb just from looking at a picture, but if you watched the Florida Derby post parade I’m sure you noticed his attitude. What makes Orb a convincing sell is his attitude. Happy horses win races, and that is part of what I personally hunt for when “paddock picking.” Orb even has his ears forward in the above image winning the Florida Derby.

I wrote this piece partly to chew apart the growing “real contender” list and to really get down and inspect Orb after his final prep race. I wrote before the Florida Derby that he had no excuse to lose it with Merit Man and Shanghai Bobby apt to give the race some pace, and he showed an all-new dimension by running swiftly at the end despite some pretty pokey fractions. The win streak he has going at Gulfstream doesn’t really concern me as to whether or not he can transfer that to Churchill, and in fact I don’t credit it towards Gulfstream, which naturally favors up-front runners anyway. I think Orb is a horse that needed time to “get it” and now that he does, he’s just learning more as he goes along. And with that said, Orb earns a place above many others on my Derby list.

Baby Orb (Photo by Claiborne Farm)

Baby Orb (Photo by Claiborne Farm)

Bobby, Lucky, and Orb Line Up in Florida Derby

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***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 8 of 10! Please submit your top 3 picks IN ORDER OF FINISH through this submission form (easiest and quickest method), via Tumblr message, or email. You have until 1 hour before the scheduled post time noted below to submit or edit your picks. See the Contest Tab for details.

One of my favorite Kentucky Derby prep races, I look forward to the Florida Derby every year no matter who is running. One of top producers of Derby winners and top finishers— particularly in recent years— the race features a rematch between the Holy Bull (III) top two who have not raced since that late January showdown, as well as the Fountain of Youth (II) winner Orb.

Weather looks spotless leading up to the race, so count on Gulfstream to be dry and souped up.

$1 million Florida Derby (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Saturday, March 30 at 6:19pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 122 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Shanghai Bobby - Rosie Napravnik, Todd Pletcher - Gallant in defeat last out in the Holy Bull (III), it was reckoned that the formerly spotless Harlan’s Holiday colt needed a good first start back, and lost to a track record-breaker in Itsmyluckyday. Breezing like he has always been doing, Bobby will get the advantageous rail but will need to prove he can last 9+ furlongs here. I won’t beat a dead horse repeating what I think of him.

2) Pick of the Litter - Jesus Castanon, Dale Romans - A Kitten’s Joy who has shown some impressive ability out galloping, he just broke his maiden on his second try last month here at Gulfstream, decimating the field to win by more than 7 lengths over 9 furlongs on dirt. I love Csaba, who was another Kitten’s Joy who proved he liked the dirt a bit more than his grassy pedigree suggested. He didn’t beat much in that maiden, but works like a champion and is worth a look breaking outside of Bobby.

3) Itsmyluckyday - Elvis Trujillo, Eddie Plesa Jr - Impressive in his track record-breaking Holy Bull (III) win, the Lawyer Ron colt has an affinity for Florida tracks with back-to-back stakes wins over Gulfstream’s fast main. A threatening pacestalker, there’s little need for me to reintroduce “Lucky”, who ought to be a factor if not a winner in this race.

4) Pontiff - Alan Garcia, Dale Romans - A half brother to the mighty Pulpit sired by Giant’s Causeway, you’d be correct to expect big things from Pontiff judging by pedigree alone. Racing wide the whole way last out in only his second start, he fell short of his first win by a closing neck over 9 furlongs here at Gulfstream, albeit on a sloppy sealed going. Romans hopes to close that gap with improvement and what will hopefully be a fast pace. A steep ascent in class, he’ll at least be interesting to watch.

5) Frac Daddy - Corey Lanerie, Ken McPeek - The Scat Daddy colt suffered a bruising debut in the Holy Bull (III), where he grabbed a quarter and was found to be with a throat injury. I don’t doubt McPeek’s insistence that this is a class horse who got a poor trip. Uncaptured, who barely beat him in the KY Jockey Club Stakes (II), came back to nearly win the Spiral last weekend and Frac Daddy has some pretty good speed where it counts. Excellent, fast breezes show he’s back in shape.

6) Orb - John Velazquez, Shug McGaughey - The Malibu Moon colt blossomed late, storming to back-to-back wins on Gulfstream’s main in a 9-furlong allowance before upsetting Violence in the Fountain of Youth (II). Johnny V will look for a pace meltdown for this closer. I wish I liked him more, but between the Malibu Moon as a sire thing and how perfectly the FOY set up for him I can’t bring myself to rank him above some others here.

7) Indy’s Illusion - Rajiv Maragh, Barclay Tagg - Winless since October, the classy A.P. Indy colt was bested a neck last out by Gunderman going 9 furlongs here at Gulfstream after falling to Orb in a similar event. He strikes me as a horse who needs more time or even more distance. He can’t keep up with too many at the end, otherwise I would like him more.

8) Merit Man - Kent Desormeaux, Robert Hess - A funny spot for a sprinter. The With Distinction Florida-bred colt won the Spectacular Bid Stakes in his first start of the year before steadying in the Hutcheson (II). Tough to acknowledge this sprinter in a 9-furlong event, especially considering the layoff and inability to win at the graded level yet.

9) Are You Kidding Me - Jose Lezcano, Roger Attfield - The Run Away and Hide colt has decided to try dirt for the first time despite being winless in graded events and since August of last year. On the plus side, he’s classy falling short just a nose last out against Noble Tune in a one-mile grass allowance. Attfield says he trains well on dirt, but yes will be tested here and from an outer post, too. I would willingly take him at long odds in anticipation of headlines reading “Are you kidding me?” in yet another unbelievable Derby prep result. I can see it!

10) Narvaez - Paco Lopez, Agustin Bezara - Always excited to see a Holy Bull colt in the gate. Winner of his sophomore debut, he dead-heated with the talented Declan’s Warrior in a 7 1/2 furlong dash on Gulfstream dirt. Not a whole lot to show class-wise apart from that mention, he hasn’t really been tested and this is a pretty sizeable stretch-out.

Top Picks in Order (with acceptable odds):

1) Itsmyluckyday (2-1)

2) Frac Daddy (10-1)

3) Pick of the Litter (15-1)

Best horse here is Itsmyluckyday, who has a tough record here in Florida and has been conditioned to the mint by Plesa for this race. I’m giving Frac Daddy and Ken McPeek a nod on a track that should fancy this colt’s natural speed. I admit it might be a bit premature to take an interest in Pick of the Litter, but he looked very strong running away in the stretch of his last win and lest we forget how much brother Csaba likes Gulfstream. How high you rank Orb and Shanghai Bobby is going to reflect how you think of Violence and his last race where he was hanging on after a hot pace set things up for Orb quite perfectly. I rank Orb 4th… good… but I question how good?

Value Pick: Are You Kidding Me is going to be my fun value bet. I want crazy good odds on him though, like 30-1. Pick of the Litter of course is going to hopefully be good money too…

Florida Derby Jotform Now Live!

For all you early bird pickers out there, I’ve activated the Florida Derby Jotform for Week #8 of the Derby Handicap Contest! Looks like a pretty decent race with 10 horses and a rematch between Shanghai Bobby and Itsmyluckyday… plus Orb! Submit selections here

My analysis should be online tomorrow as usual and I swear to update the leaderboard as soon as possible. For now, I go nap… long day of school after a long night of work.

Racing Beat: March 24

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Glad to know I got to see Agave Kiss race before she was retired. I really liked watching her races online, a filly with a lot of power. She’s booked to Tapit for her first foal.

ALSO GLAD: moody sprinter Hamazing Destiny.

Sounds like I might get to see the beautiful Cerro [IRE] in the Belmont Stakes this year!

Someone needs to be at the track all the time to photograph all these horses. I hate watching a big stakes and having no idea how pretty some of these underdog losers and victors are until afterward. Why are only famous ponies photographed? :/ Anyway, Black Onyx is pretty.

Orb won’t have many excuses to lose the Florida Derby with Merit Man setting the pace.

Getting people to love and watch horse racing is like getting people to love and actually read books. “TRY IT YOU’LL LOVE IT!… No you ought to try it this way… it gets better after the first hundred pages!”

Pure poetry in race calling: “Brutal power wrapped in an elegant machine!” Perfect for Black Caviar.

Something that drove me crazy this week: “handicappers” dismissing certain horses on the Derby trail because they took 4 or 5 times to break their maiden. Hello? Ever heard of late bloomers? Oxbow needed time to get good. I don’t recall who said it specifically.

The 2013 running of the Bourbonette Oaks will live in infamy preceded by “Fathead.” No.

I used Twilight Eclipse and Excaper in the Kent Stakes (III) last year, so naturally I was miffed when he decided to win in world record time yesterday.

Count on me to not want one of my most beloved Derby contenders from last year, Sky Kingdom, to win over Calidioscopio [ARG] yesterday. His Marathon win was one of the most exciting (and profitable) for me personally.

A full sibling to Zo Impressive is in the works! Zoftig is back in foal to Hard Spun for 2014! I miss “Zo.”

Tweet o’ the Week:

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Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. 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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