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Back to Belmont!

Today was a great day as I graduated from college (along with at least a couple other horse racing Tumblr kids!) 

I was already mad excited for the Belmont Stakes card, but with a Triple Crown now on the line I’m even more amped. That was a great Preakness, and I’m glad my faith in the Chrome to dispel doubters was rewarded. Now it’s on to Belmont, and I’m excited as heck to be in attendance for what will be a great run towards history.

Social Inclusion

Social Inclusion

Chrome Heavily Favored in Preakness


(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire/Alex Evers)

The hero heading into— and out of— the Kentucky Derby returns as expected to Old Hilltop at Pimlico for the 140th Preakness Stakes. Shiver me timbers, could we expect a Triple Crown run this year? Run back just two weeks after running farther than he ever has before at a totally new track and at a distance only slightly shorter… the question remains, can Chrome shine again? Several Derby runners and a swath of promising new guns will head in to challenge, with just 3 runners in the past 10 years winning both the Derby and the Preakness, and only 2 of those 3 were able to run in the Belmont.

$1.5 million Preakness Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 3/16 miles on dirt at Pimlico Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, May 17 at 6:18pm EST.

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

1) Dynamic Impact - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - Stretching out from the 9-furlong Illinois Derby (III) which he won in gritty fashion over Midnight Hawk, the Tiznow colt is well-rested coming into this race and has won a pair of back-to-back races by a neck or less. The distance ought to appeal to him as an improver, and he’ll likely aim to sit off the front runners.

2) General a Rod - Javier Castellano, Mike Maker - The Roman Ruler colt ran as good as anyone else in the Derby, being steadied and blocked repeatedly to finish 11th, beaten about 8 lengths. Before that race, he had never finished off the board and this will be his 2nd start under new trainer Mike Maker for new owners Skychai & Starlight Racing. He could be placed nearly anywhere and gets Castellano up after running most of his races on or near the lead. He could move up now that he is contending against fewer horses and has a chance to run a real race. Question is if he can outrun Chrome, as the two will likely run near each other.

3) California Chrome - Victor Espinoza, Art Sherman - The Lucky Pulpit colt is riding a huge high coming into the Preakness after serving up an undefeated three-year-old season thus far. His Derby wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t have to be and it appears Chrome will get another similar setup with a lot of early speed funneling into this race. The inner post aids Chrome, who will likely run a very similar trip as he did in the Derby. 

4) Ring Weekend - Alan Garcia, Graham Motion - It wasn’t that long ago that I was singing this Tapit colt’s praises, and he still calls for some as a G2 winner who can sit off that lead. The notion that Our Caravan, who got away too soon for Ring to catch last out, lost the Peter Pan (II) a good ways doesn’t flatter him as he hops off a fever that sidelined him.

5) Bayern - Rosie Napravnik, Bob Baffert - Another horse I really liked in the months leading up to the Derby, the son of Offlee Wild has yet to finish off the board in 4 starts including a DQ’d-to-2nd win in the Derby Trial (III). The blinkers come off in hopes that Bayern will be able to target horses in passing. Baffert has won many a Preakness and brings a quality horse to the gun fight, but Bayern’s weakening in the stretch has brought questions as to whether he go beyond one-turn races. Likely to run on or near the lead and has talent regardless.

6) Ria Antonia - Calvin Borel, Tom Amoss - A Breeders’ Cup winner by disqualification and a non-winner in her 3 races this year, the Rockport Harbor filly switches trainers again to Tom Amoss from Bob Baffert in an effort to show up in the colts’ race rather than face fillies in the Black-Eyed Susan. She was staggering last out, finishing 6th way back in the Kentucky Oaks. Figures nor removal of the blinkers nor any real tactical advantages seem like they will do the trick here versus what she faced in her last race. The real “girl power” stories of the Preakness lie in stalls 5 and 7.

7) Kid Cruz - Julien Pimental, Linda Rice - The scratch of this Lemon Drop Kid colt from the Wood Memorial all but guaranteed my confidence in Wicked Strong, so the addition of him in the Preakness feels all kinds of interesting as a once $50k claimer turned stakes winner, having won 3 of 5 starts. Out of everyone in the field, I think Kid Cruz is the biggest threat to Chrome by running style alone and he has a win over the track from the Federico Tesio. Include, include, include.

8) Social Inclusion - Luis Contreras, Manuel Azpurua - A phenomenal allowance winner at Gulfstream before being 3rd stretching out in stakes company for the first time in the Wood Memorial, the Pioneerof the Nile colt is one of the many talented colts who got shafted from Derby participation and comes here fresh. While the Preakness falls to the “fastest,” I question S.I.’s fitness at this stage and if he even wants to go beyond 8 furlongs, as he had a pretty playful lead in the Wood but fell to pieces in the stretch to lose by more than 3 lengths. He should be considered on talent, but buyer be wary.

9) Pablo Del Monte - Jeffrey Sanchez, Wesley Ward - A non-winner this year in 3 tries, the Giant’s Causeway colt ran a good 3rd in the Blue Grass (I) before passing on a late Derby entry when enough horses in front of him scratched out. Like many Ward trainees, he was a romping winner as a juvenile and really hasn’t sharpened up beyond that. Kind of a weird horse for this race, generally a toss.

10) Ride On Curlin - Joel Rosario, Billy McGowan - Rosario replaces Borel on this promising Curlin colt, who leaps from a rallying 7th in the Derby to the Preakness. Often getting his best gear late, the race could set up for him and he ran a much better race in the Derby than what was suggested, as he began picking off opponents as soon as he was in the clear. But again— seconditis? Keep him pegged either way.

Top 3 Picks in Order (with acceptable win odds)

1) Kid Cruz (12-1)

2) California Chrome (4-5)

3) Bayern (4-1)

Nothing against Chrome, but I can’t recommend him at a piddling 3-5 morning line, though don’t get me wrong I WANT TO BE IN ATTENDANCE FOR A TRIPLE CROWN RUN WHEN I GO TO THE BELMONT! However, from a bettor’s vantage point, it’s Kid Cruz all the way with a lot of potentially distance-challenged early speed types to set the tempo. If it goes like the Derby did with softer fractions, which it might, Chrome gets it. If there’s a chink in the armor or if things go quickly, it falls to Kid Cruz in a photo. I listed Bayern for third because I think Baffert may have something up his sleeve, and will likely change tactics for the colt coming into a longer race with no blinkers.

Value Pick: Kid Cruz is listed at 20-1 on the morning line. I would like 12-1 or better.

GHR Turns 3, Other Updates

Hi everyone!

Thanks to everyone who stayed and read on for the Kentucky Derby analyses as well as welcome to all the new followers! I hope you like what you’ve seen so far! I’ve been so freakin’ busy with school and scrambling to do Derby updates that I completely forgot about this blog’s 3-year anniversary which happened nearly a month ago. A gigantic THANK YOU to all of my supporters and followers… it seems like only yesterday I felt I was preparing myself to be blogging into the dark abyss of the Internet. Not so!— GHR is on track to hit its 1,000th follower by Preakness time!

  • Rest in peace to Crusader Sword, a 29-year-old stallion resident of Old Friends Cabin Creek. While we’re still editing my documentary Roughshod (and will be until probably Septemberish, unfortunately!), I hope to put something out on the Internet for this special guy who won the Hopeful Stakes back in ‘87. If I’m not mistaken, I got to take the very last video footage of this great racehorse and I’d like to put it up online for all to see.
  • I am going to write about my Wood Memorial and Old Friends excursions! I’ve started on both but got way too busy to finish them!
  • I’ll be releasing a list of stakes I’ll be attending over the summer soon. Good news for photo reblogging fans: I’ll be doing a lot more stuff this summer, and I’m 82.58% likely to be upgrading my camera again.
  • Derby Handicap winners, if you haven’t already contacted me back about your stuff, thank you for being patient; I hope to ship everything out late this week/early next week. Marioangel, I haven’t been able to message you so please send me a fanmail or an email when you can to dawnawood AT gmail dot com when you can.

Thanks again everyone and high hoof!


Soapbox Time: Chrome’s “Slow” Beyer Doesn’t Matter


I’m talking to you, Mr. Andrew Beyer, who may I remind everyone openly doubted California Chrome's chances of doing remotely well in the Kentucky Derby because of his… *drumroll*… pedigree. If you reread my pre-Derby analysis, I was pleasantly surprised at the back-class of Chrome’s family tree. And any half-enlightened turf writer would know that out of the two, the dam side is the most important when sifting through pedigrees, and this colt has La Troienne written down multiple times and Numbered Account twice, who practically bled blue! COME ON!

And it comes out of absolutely no bias that I ascertain that California Chrome’s 97 Beyer speed figure for the Kentucky Derby— historically one of the slowest figures— does not matter. Let me count the ways factually and hypothetically:

  1. Speed figures are not the end all, be all to handicapping. In fact they should be used if you cannot determine who to pick after considering everything else, or are looking to see who has the slightest bit of edge in a wide-open race.
  2. Numbers are not indicative of potential, they only account for displayed effort. A horse who was kept in check, or like Chrome who was EASED at the end, will not give out an accurate speed figure that shows how good they really are. Only horses who are going all-out at the end will provide accurate figures.
  3. While many horses spit out the same figures again and again over their careers, three-year-olds in their spring season are at the stage where they are changing their form and showing their long-term potential as the distances change. A horse who ran a 100 Beyer going a mile in April can really take a nose dive going just another furlong a month or two later. This is how we get overhyped horses and upsets.
  4. There was a notably strong headwind in the stretch of the Kentucky Derby. I know because I keep hearing about it. That might help explain Chrome’s slow final time, why few horses were moving forward in the stretch, and the resulting slow Beyer. Again, he wasn’t all-out while most others were.
  5. If Chrome DID for whatever reason give a Beyer higher than his career best 98, we would all be biting our nails as to whether he could maintain that lunge forward heading into the Preakness and then the Belmont. 
  6. The old “let’s blame the track” always works. But honestly I’d rather have a slow track versus a fast one, the latter of which we’ll probably get in one or both of the next legs.
  7. Yes, the last quarter was run in a sedated:26 1/5. But if you can win in that kind of pace pulling up, why not save it for next time? 

Perhaps in a sense I am searching for reasons to excuse California Chrome, but at the same time, it feels unfair to assail the winner for not being a super horse straight out of the gate. It would be overkill to keep comparing him to Secretariat or even someone as recent as Barbaro. But make no mistake— Chrome is the real deal.

C’mon Oxbow!

Twitter can be unexpectedly useful at times, especially since I am far more fond of conversing with strangers rather than people I see every day. One semi-new follower and racing fan sent me a recent picture his friend took of Oxbow:

And some not-so-lovely news followed the picture…

Let’s hope none of it is true.

Funny Cide being a ham for me at Saratoga (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Funny Cide being a ham for me at Saratoga (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Funny Cide (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Funny Cide (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Did he have a huge wager on Oxbow or was he just plain excited? (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire, edit by @ThoroughbredAR)

Did he have a huge wager on Oxbow or was he just plain excited? (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire, edit by @ThoroughbredAR)

Preakness Reflections

I participated in a web chat on Preakness Saturday hosted by Emily. It was a fun, hope-filled type of experience, and unless I’m daft, I don’t think anyone picked someone other than Orb as the likely eventual winner. Now that the race is over and done with, I can “unload”:

  • I knew Itsmyluckyday was going to have a big shot to bounce back and win after that workout, but Pimlico played toward early speed all day which gave Oxbow the big advantage in the end to keep on going. Yes, I admitted in the Derby Dozen that after running a race every single month, Oxbow was likely off his top form. I still maintain that belief, but with his pedigree and favorable placement in the field, he managed to hang in there strong enough to win. Great job to all those who had him on top.
  • Orb didn’t look likely to win from the word go. He was moved into relaxing position far back early, which looked fine given the solid pace of just under :24 for the opening quarter. But he didn’t move up. Then horses began cutting around him to the inside. I was honestly shocked to see he finished 4th with that dull a performance. Maybe it was the dead rail zone, maybe not.
  • Now that Orb has lost the 2nd jewel, we can start looking forward to a free-for-all in the Belmont. We actually have an amazing lineup this year for the race by the sounds of it, and both Orb and Oxbow are listed as possibles. I don’t like either one to win the race, and I’m probably going to wind up favoring a fresh horse. But alas, that race is 3 weeks away so we shall see…
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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