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Florida Derby Submissions, Updated Leaderboards

I dared to dream and stay afloat of maintaining the Derby Handicap for a third year while in production of my largest documentary project to date… and it was going ok for a while, but I wound up goofing and only just now updating the leaderboards! Don’t forget to submit for the Florida Derby by 6:28pm EST tonight!

As we head into the 9th week, Iadoreunna/Teamchlorine is still on the lead, but only by about $2 as runner-up Marroquin made up ground fast after selecting Harry’s Holiday ($22) while being closely tracked by Le-pamplemousse, who was our Breeders’ Cup contest winner, who chose Coastline ($7.40). Three players successfully picked winner We Miss Artie ($19.20).

At least one person picked each of the top 3 horses in the Spiral, so do check your status. We have 2 weeks left! Ample time to make a late charge, as I really do believe we’re going to see something crazy again today with Gulfstream’s cement-fast main.

Tamarando Ships East for Spiral Stakes


Week 8/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest! Submit your choice of horse through this link by 6:08pm EST (20 minutes before post time). Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.

The Sunland Derby and the Spiral Stakes complete another weekend of Derby preps, with some interesting up-and-coming talents taking the stage for each of these G3 events and the fields filling well enough as the races begin to lengthen. The jewel of Turfway Park, the Spiral Stakes often yields an upset winner so it’s a great value race to play if you know your polytrack well, with past winners including Lil E. Tee, Animal Kingdom, and Serena’s Song, overall yielding 3 Kentucky Derby winners. Turf types have excelled in this race.

$550,000 Spiral Stakes (III) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on all-weather track at Turfway Park. Post Time: Saturday, March 22 at 6:28pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 123 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Big Bazinga - Luis Contreras, Katerina Vassilieva - A Woodbine transplant, the Bluegrass Cat gelding excelled on Woodbine’s all-weather as a juvenile and returns to it for the first time as a three-year-old in an attempt to bounce back on what could be his preferred surface. He lost the Holy Bull on dirt by some 33 lengths, but bounced back once placed on turf in his last start, missing by a neck in a Gulfstream allowance. Bluegrass Cat throws plenty of nice turf/poly horses…ahem, Kathmanblu, one of my favorite fillies! Usable in exotics.

2) Asserting Bear [ON] - Joe Rocco Jr, Reade Baker - A winner on Woodbine’s poly, the Bear Kid colt turned in career-best figs on the all-weather at this distance mark. He was a mere 3 3/4 lengths in the scrambled finish of the Sam Davis (III) last out on dirt. Bear Stables has had some luck in the past, and Asserting Bear has some good efforts on all-weather. Not that special an entry, but not a total toss-out.

3) Poker Player - Channing Hill, Wayne Catalano - Hyped and wide into the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (I), the Harlan’s Holiday colt hopped nicely off an extended layoff to run 2nd in the Battaglia prep for the Spiral, beaten nearly 5 lengths by Solitary Ranger but making up ground at the end. There is some pace here for Poker Player, who has shown he can do Turfway’s poly. He should improve off that layoff, but needs some stronger numbers to win.

4) Tamarando - Russell Baze, Jerry Hollendorfer - A titan on poly, the Bertrando colt boasts 4 wins in 7 tries on the all-weather and trainer Hollendorfer is no stranger to shipping and winning. Victorious in his last start, the 9-furlong El Camino Real (III), Tam looks fit as the likely favorite. In a field this size, it’s easy to see how Tam is among the best, but he won’t be at a worthwhile price.

5) Coastline - Stewart Elliott, Mark Casse - Speightstowns can pretty much do anything, and this one broke his maiden over Keeneland’s all-weather track only to fizzle in subsequent dirt starts, save one at Churchill. He has the best speed figure on the surface and is usually forwardly-placed. He can win at a nice price.

6) Smart Cover - Corey Lanerie, Dale Romans - Stumbling at the start of his three-year-old debut in a nice turf stake at Gulfstream, the Any Given Saturday colt is being given another try in this, his first start on all-weather. He ought to improve 2nd off the layoff, but his class is very questionable.

7) All Tied Up - Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher - Even the Score’s other son Dullahan loved poly, so why not All Tied Up? A victor in 2 of his 7 starts— all on the lawn— Pletcher sends this one to the poly for the first time. Pletcher is gifted at churning out some poly stars as he demonstrated with Silsita and In Lingerie in Turfway’s Bourbonette Oaks. All Tied Up with reap some pace should he liken to poly.

8) Solitary Ranger - Florent Geroux, Wayne Catalano - I really like the first US Ranger foals, and Solitary Ranger could be among the best of them, as he put on a show romping in the Battaglia stake prep and is 2-for-2 as a three-year-old and an artist on the all-weather. His works look excellent and he’s humming off that Battaglia win. Very nice horse who will look to help set the pace.

9) Almost Famous - Calvin Borel, Pat Byrne - A winner twice as a two-year-old, the Unbridled’s Song colt didn’t make an immediate lead in the Holy Bull (III) and just never got into the race, an action he repeated in the Fountain of Youth (II). He needs that lead, and by the looks of it, an uncontested one which he probably won’t get. I feel good about dismissing this one.

10) Harry’s Holiday - Rosie Napravnik, Mike Maker - Hansen’s owners return to the Derby preps with this Harlan’s Holiday colt, who went wide to finish 3rd in the Battaglia prep, but before that, romped in the 96 Rock prep at Turfway by 8 lengths. Can he route, or was the Battaglia not his day? Either way, he gets an upgrade with Rosie Napravnik.

11) We Miss Artie - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - The other G1 winner in the field, the Ramseys are taking another shot at the Derby preps with this son of Artie Schiller, last seen being whipped by 17 lengths in the Fountain of Youth (II). He won his only poly start— the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland from the 10-hole— and missed beating Storming Inti by a head before that, so talent is in check. Class alone could hand him the victory, but he doesn’t have the type of speed figures necessary to beat out many of these horses, even on poly. I also don’t like the way he was caught by Storming Inti in a race he should have had in the bag.

12) Arctic Slope - Albin Jimenez, Ken McPeek - Making his first start since November, the Van Nistelrooy colt is shooting for the moon after being beaten 12 lengths last out in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II). His lone poly start put him nearly 5 lengths behind We Miss Artie, albeit after a wide trip and a bad start. Very steep challenge for a horse to try hot off the bench.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) All Tied Up

2) Coastline

3) Solitary Ranger

Before I start, there are a lot of horses in here that could win this, and for that reason, I’m playing against the scary favorite Tamarando, who may very well win, and I’m not a huge fan of We Miss Artie, despite generally liking Artie Schillers… on turf. All Tied Up hit a wall of horses while closing things up like a zipper last out, and I think he could easily take to poly with 2 wins at 1 1/16 miles so he’s not just a turf sprinter. As a fan of the saying “Don’t overlook the Speightstown,” I include Coastline, who may very well be the horse for the course and a poly specialist. Solitary Ranger I’m just a fan of and he’d be the kneejerk pick here had I not been able to analyze the race. He could stick it out in the front end.

Value Pick: Value can be had in most places. All Tied Up would be a keeper at 6-1 or better, Coastline 8-1 or better.

Contest Wager: All Tied Up

Black Onyx (Photo by Turfway Park)

Black Onyx (Photo by Turfway Park)

Racing Beat: March 24


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:


Out of all the races I research every year, I think the Spiral Stakes is the most amusing one to do.

Out of all the races I research every year, I think the Spiral Stakes is the most amusing one to do.

Uncaptured Returns in Spiral Stakes


***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 7 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.

Turfway’s Spiral Stakes (III) has quickly become one of the most intriguing Kentucky Derby preps of recent years, with eventual Derby winner Animal Kingdom taking it in 2011 and last year’s victory falling to 4th place finisher Went the Day Well. A mix of turf and dirt horses will line up for the event, which is bound to be an exercise in surface handicapping. This will be the first 9-furlong race we’re doing on the trail.

This is a tough race. Have some Brisnet PPs… but don’t pay too too much attention to the speed figures since many of those races are on turf.

Weather shouldn’t affect Turfway’s all-weather track.

$550,000 Spiral Stakes (III) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on polytrack at Turfway Park. Post Time: Saturday, March 23 at 5:50pm CST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 123 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Balance the Books - Julien Leparoux, Chad Brown - Saratoga pony! The Lemon Drop Kid colt was a standout as a juvenile on grass, but hasn’t had a start since running a good 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (I). He gets Leparoux after a string of consistent 4-furlong breezes. His G2 win gives him some class, but the rail spot and layoff will probably hurt him on his first trip on poly.

2) Channel Isle - Jon Court, D. Wayne Lukas - English Channel colts I’ve noted become a force out of nowhere, and are often tops on grass and poly. He has poly experience from running at Keeneland and doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem whatsoever. With powerhouse Lukas training, a good poly experience, and a win at 9 furlongs (on turf at Churchill), he’s an interesting bet and could win this race.

3) Uncaptured - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - One of the best two-year-olds of last year, the Lion Heart colt returns off a lengthy layoff for his three-year-old debut. He looks ready despite the time off with 5 straight, sharp-looking bullet works visible per Equibase. 6 for 7 starts with 4 being on synthetic, he’ll be a proven force on Turfway’s poly. His victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) hasn’t held up well since he took a break, but regardless, he has a proven off-the-pace running style and his form holds up well on synthetic.

4) Fear the Kitten - Rosie Napravnik, Mike Maker - With a 2nd and 3rd this year in graded dirt stakes, the Kitten’s Joy colt leaps back into the picture and onto a surface that should favor him a bit more than dirt. He broke his maiden (albeit in a maiden claimer) on poly and really hasn’t run a bad race yet, and he’s usually not too far from the front. The Napravnik-Maker double makes him a big value play.

5) My Name is Michael - Joel Rosario, Bill Mott - The Macho Uno colt gets turned out for the first time since transferring to Mott. With 4 starts out of 5 on Woodbine’s all-weather, he should take to Turfway’s track like a duck to water after closing phenomenally well— but too late— last out on dirt in the Sam F. Davis (III). The question here is if he’ll get a setup. He has some pretty good speed figures racing on synthetic already, and the Davis proved he’s in shape. Should I mention he beat Clearly Now last year?

6) For Greater Glory - Robby Albarado, Steve Hobby - Never off the board in 5 starts, the Afleet Alex colt some cool distance breeding and looks to improve on poly after a rocky, bumpy 3rd last out in the one-mile Battaglia prep race here at Turfway (won by General Election, place was Giant Finish). He should dig a stretch-out but will get a class test. Certainly worth using in exotics.

7) Mac the Man - Norberto Arroyo Jr, Jeff Greenhill - The pride of Turfway this year, the El Corredor colt is 2-for-2 this year both in Turfway stakes. Greenhill has him fresh for this race after skipping the Battaglia Memorial. Adaptable pace-wise, he is capable of powerful fractions as well as easy-breezy ones and kicks into a drive in the stretch. A miss here at his home base of Turfway would demean his overall worth. He will be competing against real horses here, but has the numbers to run big.

8) General Election - Albin Jimenez, Kellyn Gorder - The winner of the mile-long Battaglia Memorial prep, the Harlan’s Holiday colt showed he liked Turfway after making just one start there, closing to win that race dramatically and by 8-wide. That field included many in this race. Not sure how high or low to rank this one, but the WinStar stable colors certainly help persuade me to not dump on him. 

9) Black Onyx - Joe Bravo, Kelly Breen - A Rock Hard Ten on poly bodes well automatically. This jewel of a colt raced on grass, beating the likes of Crop Report (favored in the Rushaway) and Saint Vigeur. On dirt, he failed in both tries with no real kick. This will be his stakes debut, and while he doesn’t have poly experience, turf ability with decent speed figs and class conquering is a good omen.

10) Giant Finish - Jose Espinoza, Tony Dutrow - I like the first Frost Giants, but even that fact didn’t make me support West Hills Giant, who ran 2nd in the Withers at long, long odds. A few good races, he was 2nd in his poly debut in the Battaglia Memorial. He looked just about done at the end of his recent start, though I credit the bumping that was going on for that. He looks to improve in his 2nd try on poly.

11) Taken by the Storm - Alan Garcia, Ken McPeek - The latest McPeek trainee to hit the Derby preps, the Stormy Atlantic colt is bred for grassy ventures. He won his maiden at Keeneland in a rompfest over 9 furlongs on grass over Channel Isle, and looks fit as can be fresh off an allowance win on Gulfstream’s competitive grass over some strong runners. He keeps Alan Garcia for this shot at the stars. With a bullet registered at Gulfstream, he’s one of the most interesting horses that is due to be a “wiseguy” choice If he does poly just as well as grass he can win this. 

12) Capo Bastone - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - Likely to take some money, the Street Boss colt came off a sluggish two-year-old bow to win a Gulfstream dirt allowance last month after trading hands from John Sadler to Todd Pletcher. He has 2 synthetic starts from Del Mar,  including his debut victory over some ponies who won recently  That allowance race has been debated, since the Beyer figure was very low. Add to this skepticism runner-up Offlee Fast’s next race, the Tampa Bay Derby, in which he finished up the track. I don’t understand why this horse has or had a following. Seems very ordinary to me.

Top Picks in Order (plus minimal post-time odds I’d like for wagering):

1) My Name Is Michael (10-1)

2) Mac the Man (5-1)

3) Taken by the Storm (12-1)

Tough race all around with no real standouts or concrete pace. For a poly race, I like to look at the most experienced ponies on the surface as well as their current form. It’s tough to pick one solid horse here, but I did take a liking to My Name Is Michael, who looked pretty good losing with THE MAN Bill Mott training first-time. He’s bound to [hopefully] rocket back on poly 2nd start back. Mac The Man has home field advantage, but he shouldn’t be examined as just another Turfway star; he’s got speed and ability where it counts. Taken by the Storm demands to be taken seriously and looks fit to fire. I also liked Black Onyx while I was handicapping, but don’t trust the class level jump with no poly experience. At least McPeek I know has a good record of training grass-to-poly types.

Value Pick: Most money will land foolishly on Uncaptured, Capo Bastone, and Balance the Books despite their long layoffs, snorish recent performances, etc. D. Wayne Lukas’s Channel Isle will probably get pounded too after his Rebel exacta last weekend. I’ve been preaching Fear the Kitten all year as a value play and he will remain a good play at 8-1 or better with his breeding, Rosie riding, and Turfway leader Maker training. My top 3 should also be at reasonably good odds!

Spiral Jotform Now Live

Sorry for the slight delay! Derby Handicappers can start submitting their picks for the Spiral Stakes here.

I will hopefully have my picks up later this afternoon. I’m anticipating some crazy picks from everypony.

Out of all the Derby runners coming back to run in the Preakness, I’m probably going to wager some on Went the Day Well. If anything, I feel a headline coming about redemption for Johnny V and Team Valor.

Out of all the Derby runners coming back to run in the Preakness, I’m probably going to wager some on Went the Day Well. If anything, I feel a headline coming about redemption for Johnny V and Team Valor.

Animal Kingdom strides to the winner’s circle with Alan Garcia after winning the Spiral Stakes (III), going on to win the Kentucky Derby (I) afterwards. Is the same fate in the cards for similarly-connected Went the Day Well?

Animal Kingdom strides to the winner’s circle with Alan Garcia after winning the Spiral Stakes (III), going on to win the Kentucky Derby (I) afterwards. Is the same fate in the cards for similarly-connected Went the Day Well?

Sorry I had to make this

Sorry I had to make this

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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