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Weekend Stake Tip: Back Up Again?

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Thanks to the dank three-year-old crop, I haven’t had a real winner in a while. Java’s War was the only legit winner I had written down here in months— I don’t count picking Flashback to win that stupid excuse of a stakes race and Freedom Child's Peter Pan win was something I only wrote on Twitter— so it was nice to see win/value pick Najjaar run a strong 3rd on Saturday at 11-1 odds then have win pick Sahara Sky sweep in for a late Met Mile victory on Monday. It does wonders for my confidence to know that Belmont is playing fairly this close to the Belmont Stakes.

The horses I like most for the Belmont are closing types, but now that it is even more obvious that speed is holding up, Freedom Child is going to demand more of my attention once again. As of now:

DO LIKE:

  • Revolutionary
  • Golden Soul
  • Freedom Child
  • Code West (if he goes)

ON THE FENCE:

  • Oxbow
  • Orb
  • Unlimited Budget

NO or UNDECIDED:

  • Overanalyze
  • Giant Finish
  • Incognito
  • Midnight Taboo
  • Always in a Tiz
  • Palace Malice
  • Will Take Charge

Obviously, the ones that have raced more are closer to being a “no.” For the record, I am 10x more excited for the two big G1 turf races on Belmont Day than I am about the actual headliner (especially if Mizdirection does indeed ship in to meet Dayatthespa). I’m just not enthusiastic about the three-year-old crop in general. There is more than enough skill and difference in setup likings in the “like” group to deter any enormous longshots from winning this year.

I will probably try to keep handicapping Belmont this week to keep a handle on how the track is playing to how I see things unfolding, but I would also like to try a little international race going on this Saturday…

Weekend Stake Tip: All My Feels

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I think it was Reinier I was talking to when I said I wouldn’t mind that much if Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby (II) because it would mean getting some awesome odds when he loses. I’m not as adamant that he’s going to flunk 10 furlongs as I am with Shanghai Bobby, but I’m still pretty sure that Verrazano has a limit. If it’s not a distance limit, it’s a time limit with Pletcher behind the wheel. Sad but true feelings of mine on the matter. His win and 103 Beyer (lol Beyers!) was nonetheless deserved and he outclassed everyone in his first stakes and two-turn trip.

Thinking something went very wrong with Purple Egg for him to suddenly stop like that as my first choice. Second choice Dynamic Sky finished third (I do not think he’ll be a serious threat in the Derby, his stretch drive just lacks maturity and focus) and third choice Java’s War made me swell with pride diving into the game in the stretch like that. THAT is a 10 furlong horse! Kenny McPeek has another live wire hiding out as an underdog!

Watching this race, Purple Egg is definitely being choked back but then just falls… Java’s War snakes his way up front (I saw him coming too and freaked!)… Verrazano plays with Falling Sky. Definitely a good race. Not as good as Believe You Can, though. I love her.

I bet on one race on Saturday— my first bet in quite a while— which just had to be the eventful Gulfstream turf race where there was a 3-jockey crash. I put a $2 WP on Boss Man, who lost rider Luis Saez along with two other horses, and unfortunately Saez sustained the most hurt from the accident. I saved face with a blind show bet on Autobahn Legend, who was 50-1 and ran 3rd ($13.80 for $2 show return). I have this thing for Live Oak Plantation silks plus Graham Motion was training so… yes! Earlier the same day I nearly bet on Jakkalberry (5-1) who won at Dubai, but didn’t because I hadn’t handicapped the race. Feels sometimes CAN cash in!

Maybe I should do an alternative experiment on “feels” betting hahaha. I’m sorry guys for going so slowly with the experiments… I am so eager to try most of them but my spring break just got bulldozed and excuses, excuses, excuses.

Weekend Stake Tip: All About Vyjack

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I didn’t bet yet again this weekend (I seem to like doing other things/homework on Saturdays and by Sunday I’m like “eh”), which I suppose was a good thing. The Gotham (III) yet again didn’t go my way as Escapefromreality got booted around, although I do not think anyone could have beaten Vyjack that day. What is with these weird Derby preps? I realize that these are the cake preps being only 1 1/16 miles but why are the super longshots getting away with making the top 3, and even winning? Now that it’s March, we’re running out time before we see any new faces that might break this cycle of speedy horses winning the point races…

Something I’ve noticed… a lot of our “class” Derby contenders have been getting really crappy races due really cruddy post positions and trips. Are the two related? Are our favorites too weak to recover from their handicaps, or perhaps do they need more running room? More time? Are we looking at the right horses?

Aside from that losery attempt at handicapping, I was bursting with pride at Game On Dude's emphatic win at 10 furlongs and Rydillic who won the Palm Beach Stakes looking like a champion. I didn’t handicap either race; I liked Rydillic best of the bunch because of his European lineage and Gary Contessa just has it goin’ on. Not really the type of analysis that would eke dollars out from me, but it’s fun knowing I was right on about SOMETHING this weekend. My virtual stable took a beating as So Many Ways had a bad first start, Went the Day Well made a shoddy return (he may have flipped his palate), Lucky Chappy [IRE] dragged despite a class drop, etc. etc. too many to list.

With Vyjack establishing a 3-for-3 4-for-4 record, Violence off the trail, and an increasingly “wide open” feeling for the Kentucky Derby, I would like to touch upon the early wager pools you can take advantage of if you’d like. I might be revealing my March Derby Top 10 soon, and you might be able to figure out some of my top choices by the odds I think are downright ridic:

  • Verrazano (9-1) is at much lower odds than Super Ninety Nine (closed at 17-1). Really? REALLY?
  • Code West was a steal at 28-1. He’s an improving Baffert trainee who almost won the Risen Star (II) with the potential to keep on going.
  • If Reinier is right about Titletown Five, he’s another one at a shocking 61-1
  • Treasury Bill, a closer with some impressive classic pedigree and a nice late kick, closed at 28-1
  • Stakes winner who will be forwardly placed should all go well, Lion Heart colt Falling Sky is at 79-1

Early spoiler alert: Vyjack probably still won’t make the Top 10 list and probably won’t be at acceptable odds should he go to the Derby gate.

Weekend Stake Tip: Go Go Graydar

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I almost never agreed with his picks when I first came across his blog, but Reinier has improved to the point where I will actually read his considerations. It wasn’t so much that he’s been winning a good bit lately (though that certainly helped), but he hasn’t been driving me nuts like he used to sounding too much like the DRF. I hate the DRF experts’ methods of handicapping… it feels like all they use to handicap are speed figures and statistics in trying to beat the favorite.

For a while I thought I was giving the surface at Gulfstream too much credit in my handicapping, so when it came to the Donn (I), naturally I eased back and looked at it realistically. With that much speed, a speedball miler type like Graydar would get cooked and be caught late. Even more ridiculous, it was his first stakes attempt, but alas, he went wire-to-wire with my first choice Bourbon Courage coming in for second, overrated Take Charge Indy third. I’m not sure what or who to give credit to with this weird victory other than the weirdness of the whole day. Gulfstream has been so odd this season that a lot of really skilled handicappers have abandoned it. The track has been so unreadable, I don’t bother to play it much now, and I believe the Rainbow 10-cent Pick 6 has been carrying over since Nikki’s Sandcastle won the El Prado. Saturday’s stakes results just really bugged me except for maybe Fort Loudon's win in the Sprint, but really… the whole day… killed…

[Gulfstream being the typical, Floridian backwards mindset won’t let me embed to share, so head to YouTube to view the race]

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Big post-race question: how good is Graydar versus the field? As Reinier would like to point out, the field is scattered at the end, which means hell yes he’s good. As I mentioned back in my original handicapping post, while this was a pretty balanced field with no clear favorite, a lot of the G1 winners had some vices that would cause them to be vulnerable. I knew Flat Out would finish well, but was unlikely to win because this isn’t New York. Bourbon Courage had the most upside and pace setup and came running at Graydar at the end. Pool Play could not catch up, Csaba decided to be closer than I’d like early. Graydar the winner set speedy fractions and had the superior trip on the fast rail and looked like he was still full of run at the end. I think he’s a worthy horse of the big win, but now that’s 3-for-3 at Gulfstream I might venture that he just likes the track a lot. Sending him to a deeper surface that tires him out over a distance like this will work against him. Knowing Pletcher horses, I feel Graydar is a good horse (HEY, he WAS in my top 10 to watch this year post!) but one that could just be on a hot streak. On the plus side, Pletcher is strong in New York and places like Saratoga are kinder to horses that stay towards the front!

How this race could have been won in handicapping:

  • Favoring the speed horse, who just missed the mile record at Gulfstream which is known to be a fast track
  • Favoring the hot Pletcher connections
  • Noting the vulnerable class horses in this field
  • Picking the gray? Hahaha, no but really people do this
  • Listening to Emily, who favored Graydar in her post

I’ll be making my alternative handicapping post(s) later when I can!

Weekend Stake Tip: Saturday’s Goods

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Robert B. Lewis results: Unsurprising, but Flashback kind of had it easy. Big deal, he was spurred in the stretch by Leparoux and beat three horses. He didn’t open up quite as impressively as he could have, BUT, he looked very happy the entire race which says a lot.

Withers results: A great turn-of-foot and an exciting win by Revolutionary, but I will go into detail in a post later this week why this gorgeous hunk of colt will not be my #1 on my updated Derby Top 10 just for that. I do have a new horse for the #1 spot though.

Hutcheson results: Not feeling like we have any amazing sprinter types like we did last year with Trinniberg and Currency Swap. I was glad to see a Tapit win it though!

Sam F. Davis: Interesting race, but I’m not that excited about Falling Sky or Dynamic Sky, who had no excuse to really lose in a field that wasn’t that good. I wouldn’t put away Speak Logistics yet though. Watch race replay below

Tiffany Lass results: AS IF ANYONE COULD ADVISE ME AGAINST ROOTING FOR BELIEVE YOU CAN! I really hope we have some good distaff competition again this year to challenge her Royal Deltaness.

Strub results: After watching him fly late last time out, it was great to see Guilt Trip get a G2 win over Fed Biz and Tritap. We see a lot of speed horses nowadays, so it’s refreshing to get a new dynamite closer and another of my Saratoga ponies get a turn in the limelight.

Dynamic Sky engaged Falling Sky in the stretch and had plenty of time to get clear of him but didn’t. Greenness? Maybe. Either way I don’t think I hear about too many legitimately good offspring of Sky Mesa, as much as I hate to admit I judge them just by their sire. Speak Logistics looks like he’s come a long way since racing at 2 at Calder and got stuck in there and couldn’t move. His connections were very upbeat talking about him before the race, and unlike in his two prior wins he was rated here. His pedigree is also interesting with High Cotton as his sire, who also sired Currency Swap, and is out of a Summer Squall x Miswaki cross. Or ya know, maybe I’m talking out of my butt considering Speak Logistics…

February is kind of a slow month for Triple Crown contenders, and trainers who have loads of great hopefuls are frequent winners. I glazed over the 369 early Triple Crown nominations and didn’t see much from the Zayat family, who I believe had 4 or 5 horses entered last year, and usually has a horse I really, really like for this big races.

As I mentioned in the Racing Beat yesterday, because it’s a quiet week for the Triple Crown preps I would like to try a couple different experiments. One will involve me just picking horses based on how they look in the paddock, which is often what I won’t do and will instead research the f—k out of them and pick at their past races. It’s not that I’m bad at it or think it’s irrelevant, but I am fearful I will fall victim to my tendency to pick the prettiest pony sometimes!

My other experiment is more an exercise of creativity. A lot of times a horse that I didn’t expect to make a case at all wins a race (like I’ll Have Another for sure!) and I wonder where I went wrong in immediately tossing them out. At what point do I throw them out? The experiment here is to random select three top finishers in a given race and argue how they might win. Except for maybe a few out there (GENNADI DOROCHENKO!), trainers will never put a horse in a race if they think they’re totally outclassed and will be humiliated. It should be fun.

Weekend Stake Tip: The What of the Year

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My face when watching the Holy Bull (III) where everything I loved went wide and died:

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And regarding the title, it wasn’t the upset of Shanghai Bobby by Itsmyluckyday… it was Joshua’s Comprise (132-1 or something ridiculous like that) somehow catching up and running 4th. What. You cannot explain this with any logical handicapping strategy. Gulfstream was running ridiculously fast on Saturday, operating as a conveyor belt to move Itsmyluckyday, who ran 3rd most of the way, right in front of Shanghai Bobby as they turned for home. According to Trakus figures, the Lawyer Ron colt not only clearly bested Bobby and set a new track record, but traveled more than 1 MPH faster and covered 3.5 lengths’ worth more of ground. Now THAT is a solid defeat, but a respectful one in regards to the champ. Third went to another bomber in Clearly Now (40-1), and overall, I’m not sure what to make of the race. Itsmyluckyday is a force on fast Florida ground, but can he go 10 furlongs?

It all boiled down to a two-horse race that was exciting on its own, but fizzled when it came to other good contenders getting involved. Ken McPeek commented that Frac Daddy grabbed a quarter and was extremely green, so he’ll be getting blinkers when he heals up. Dewey Square, my win pick, got brushed wide and nearly clipped heels and began running too late. 4 out of 10 horses did not start well and subsequently did not finish well: Bern Identity, Sr. Quisqueyano, Fredericksburg, and Tulira Castle with the latter two getting caught wide very early. I know these are better horses, so whether or not I have to wait for a better day or just a luckier one is still up in the air. I’m determined!

My grudge with Lawyer Rons has likely ended. I liked Drill last year and he kept failing me, and while Itsmyluckyday failed me in the Delta Jackpot (III), he has redeemed himself with back-to-back thrills. When I first posted here about Itsmyluckyday, it was when he won in the slop after a turf stakes at Calder went off-the-grass. I didn’t think he’d explode like this from there! Next!

Three more things I want to mention about the Holy Bull since I will soon be making a Derby Top 10 that updates monthly:

  • Not totally sold YET on Itsmyluckyday. He ran a tremendous race, but he is bred like a miler. Lawyer Ron was a fantastic racehorse in his day, but could not get 10 furlongs. His dam is by Doneraile Court, who is a sprinter. He has the speed, but I will need to see stamina as well as we get closer to 9 furlongs— which I presume we will only see him do once before the first Saturday in May.
  • Psychology likely played into this race. These are still fresh three-year-olds, most of whom are technically still two-year-olds and have a green mentality. They are learning. Try running against a bunch more people than you’re typically around and see how you feel when they get too far ahead early… you’ll feel heartbroken and hopelessly beaten… all the more reason that I find Joshua’s Comprise intriguing! Meanwhile, Shanghai Bobby again felt the intimidating pressure of being just a nod in front of a fast horse who was pushing him the whole way… only Itsmyluckyday was better than He’s Had Enough.
  • I’m not quite done with Dewey Square yet. I’m hoping he can clean up from that race and come back with even better odds next time around excel. Rough and tough race for a third start, and his Trakus figures are still pretty good. I’ll give him another chance. Fredericksburg I’m not sure of; at Saratoga he was also very temperamental so I wonder if he’s mentally mature enough. Bern Identity got a bad race.

Weekend Stake Tip: Derby Handicapping Tips

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When I saw that it was raining in Florida, any temptation I had of entering into the Pick 4 was null. Wet grass and a sloppy going on the main can really mess with your picks when they are made with fast and firm surfaces in mind. But, at least Ron the Greek did win the Sunshine Millions Classic like I wanted. I considered Sprint winner Off the Jak a mild threat, with my second and third choices coming in right behind him. The Turf was of course off with the yielding grass, but I was glad to see Teaks North get the win as I’ve liked him in the past. As I’ve mentioned in past Weekend Stake Tips, the best horse on a yielding course is an able pacesetter; Teaks North wired this race while runner-up Doubles Partner struggled with the soft going to gain on him. The maiden claimer went to a decent horse Milwaukee Brew with most of my picks doing poorly.

I didn’t publish my Lecomte choices due to lack of time (thanks to newly-begun spring semester), but I favored the winner Oxbow, who was my #10 choice on my Derby Top Ten article, although favored Avie’s Quality got a bad trip. I also liked runner-up Golden Soul mainly because of his pedigree (by Perfect Soul [IRE], who I think combines the best of Europe and America together), and I’ll keep him on my watch list down the road. Oxbow won the 1 mile and 70 yard prep by a whopping 11 1/4 lengths in a wire-to-wire romp, looking like a top steed just like his full brother Paynter. D. Wayne Lukas is back… or is it too soon to say it? Lest we forget the long list of Lecomte winners who didn’t do a damn thing in the big Derby. The track at Fair Grounds was fast for the race, now let’s see Oxbow get some Derby points!

Heading into the Derby Handicap Contest later this week with the exciting Holy Bull Stakes (III), I want to just touch upon a few points I learned last year, which was my first year of really investigating all the prep races. It will be easier this year with the Derby points system (though not necessarily a fair process), and I hope to embellish upon a few good pointers as we continue down Derby road.

1) Don’t fall in love with anyone too early - Horses like Sky Kingdom didn’t fare too well and disappeared early on and possibly blinded me from potentially good horses.

2) History is made to be rewritten - Yes, we’ve been without a Derby winner that never ran as a two-year-old for quite some time, but as you can see, Bodemeister nearly did it and ran off with some incredible performances. I wouldn’t use the history angle ever.

3) Talent vs. experience - The two big factors in determining the ability of a three-year-old, particularly through mid-March. One matters more than the other, but be wary to not give one more importance than the other. A horse needs talent to win big races, but experience is indispensable.

4) THROW OUT THE TWO-YEAR-OLD YEAR - It doesn’t mean diddly outside of getting the horse some experience. If you were a good student in high school, does that mean you will be a good college student? Nope. Same thing applies to racehorses.

5) Losses can mean nothing - In my book, a horse needs to learn about losing, which is why I dislike undefeated horses that dodge challenging fields that would actually test them (Alpha, Gemologist). A loss can also indicate a horse’s strengths and weaknesses from a trainer’s perspective and allow for a better strategy next time. Additionally, if a horse loses because of a poor trip— by how much did he lose and how did the horse react? Did it give up in the stretch or did it try to finish fast? Look at these losing races hard.

6) Speed ability - The Derby is a long race, but the winner needs to have some potential to turn foot quickly when asked so the opponents they pass will have little to no time to react if they’re able to. I’ll Have Another had great speed he was taught to carry over a good distance in his workouts, as did many of the top finishers from last year.

7) Staying power - Now that I mentioned speed, a horse needs to also be able to stay running those extra furlongs. The addition of one furlong makes more of a difference than you think, with many horses who romped at 8 or 9 furlongs failing when stretched any further.

8) Pedigree matters - The ancestry of a horse comes to view in the stretch of the Derby. Breeders say it’s 50-50 between the sire and the dam, others say it’s 60% the mare that matters. Either way, look at both parents. At least one of them should hint at 10 furlongs— and no, I don’t think a win at 9 furlongs cuts it, it must be 10. With so many breeders concentrating on early talent and speed, I am quick to dismiss a lot of horses after a certain point with sprinter sires or who do not have bloodlines that spawn distance-getters… I’m looking at YOU, Indian Charlie.

9) Track conditions - Not all poly is created equal, and not all dirt is the same. A horse that raced in New York’s deep furrows may or may not be better equipped on a souped-up surface at Gulfstream. A horse that wins on dry, fast goings will likely struggle in mud. Even the shape of a track can matter. I’d like to discuss this further, but it’s a point that needs reminding.

10) Equipment changes - Usually noted in the entry book, these can be things like blinkers, Lasix, and the ultimate “equipment change”— the gelding of a colt. Whether or not these things actually will help the horse are up to your judgment, but they’re important to note in many cases.

Weekend Stake Tip: Pick 6

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My picks for the Gulfstream Saturday Pick 6 went okay— landed 3 of 6 winners— but not good enough to make me enter the Sunday carryover. Ironically enough, all the races I felt pretty good about I lost while the ones I was uneasy about came through. Nobody holding a surviving Pick 6 ticket had any of my top 3 choices for the last claiming race on the card, and two of them ran first and second! Still, not terrible; I honestly feel I would have gotten two of those losing races— I do love Speightstowns with maiden winner Calistoga and then I dismissed Jack Milton mainly because of my Pletcher bias— and well, Mucho Mas Macho, I will admit I overlooked. Maybe I’m ready for a Pick 4. GULFSTREAM MILLIONS WEEKEND?

For the featured race of the week, the San Fernando (II) at Santa Anita, things got a little tough. For my first bet of the year, I wagered a $1 exacta box on Tribal Jewel/Mile High Magic. THEN TRIBAL JEWEL HAD TO GO AND BE A DICK IN THE POST PARADE AND MILE HIGH MAGIC BROKE SLOW.

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Of course I was not disappointed by the final results; my two “Saratoga sightings” of the race, Tritap and Guilt Trip, ran an awesome 2-3 behind pacesetter Fed Biz. Again, I reread my own analysis and went ugh! I felt Fed Biz would be able to win, but I had lost confidence over time in this colt who was once among my top choices last year for the Derby. And Guilt Trip I knew I would improve, but holy cow, he was good enough to win! Mike Smith: still a sharp pace rider, but I’m still not 100% sold that Fed Biz is a reformed horse. Meanwhile, Tribal Jewel finished 6th, Mile High Magic 9th and last, and Battle Force was a good 4th. (And who da hell made Handsome Mike the favorite? Hmm? I still don’t get that.)

As we get closer to the Derby Handicap, I thought it wise to go over some points to consider when you’re critiquing these growing three-year-olds running. I haven’t been handicapping for that long, so you can imagine how much I learned just from reviewing races last year. So yes! Soon I will be covering some good things to know about handicapping our Derby contenders… even starting the process in this post would make it a wee bit too long… and then I will be trying a Pick 4 or two this week, probably at Gulfstream.

Weekend Stake Tip: Notadirthorsebutnope

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I renewed my domain name yesterday, so I guess Galloping Hat Rack is going to be around another year. Yay?!

Weekend races were predictably meh, as January prep races for the Derby and such are kind of not important. Really. For the race of the week, the Jerome (II) at Aqueduct, I took a chance and decided to give another one to Notacatbutallama (a ridiculously 10-1 morning line bet down to 9-2), who is either off his form or is just a turf horse at heart as he hung in the stretch again after making a mild move on the turn. Speed played a part, as longshot Siete de Oros (41-1) nearly pulled off the upset on my second choice Vyjack (1-1), who sat right behind him the whole time and just barely bobbed him out for the win. Not too far behind but well out of his element was third pick Long River (5-2) in fourth with third place going to another longshot in Amerigo Vespucci (39-1). Overall I’m not impressed with the Sham Stakes (III) either, and still think Den’s Legacy is an interesting kind of horse, who managed to run second. Goldencents was terrible value winning, and I can’t wait to go against him later on when the races start getting too long for him.

I have to admit something though— when I found out the two races’ favorites were both by freshman sire Into Mischief, I remembered last year’s Sham winner Out of Bounds being by Discreet Cat, who at the time was also a freshman sire. Discreet Cat experienced 2 graded winners the same day as last year’s Sham with Out of Bounds and I believe a filly on the east coast. The whole thing felt terribly ironic but I stubbornly stuck to my guns! AND EVEN MORE IRONIC, DISCREET CAT WAS A JEROME WINNER! Worth mentioning: Out of Bounds is back in training in Dubai!

If I had to pick one of the two as posed by horseracingchick, I’d take Vyjack. He was going two turns for the first time, was game in a good finish time, and all while being less experienced. I think he could probably be the better horse. Not by much though. Here’s the Jerome replay if you missed it… I will talk about the speed bias and turf-to-dirt excuses for Notacatbutallama below.

It’s kind of tough to determine what horses will transfer their form from one surface onto another well enough to compete. After two unexcusable misses on dirt both fast and sloppy, it’s evident that Notacatbutallama likely won’t be going to the Downs in May despite dirt pedigree. From this experience, I guess we can draw a few notes for the future about transferring good form from surface to surface:

  • Works don’t matter as much - Recalling earlier efforts to handicap say, the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, a lot of turf horses were running on the dirt with good works on the surface. How much did this mean in the real race? Not much. Maybe it had to do with the dirt getting kicked up in their faces, or maybe they just didn’t like it much. Perhaps I can make an exception at times when they seem valid, however, such as Animal Kingdom’s impressive work on dirt in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby (his first start on dirt).
  • Speed succeeds - Or at least I think it does. A turf horse that likes to be closer to the front on the grass possibly has more ability to do so on dirt, giving them a better chance at success. A turf closing type has to dig in hard at the end, and on dirt this is even harder to do for obvious reasons. Of course, this ultimately depends on how fast the track is playing that day.

Again, this is more me trying to think of an explanation that might not have a real explanation. The track was not in Notacatbutallama’s favor for several reasons: 1) He’s probably not a dirt horse, 2) He’s a mid-pack closer, a “grinder” who could not compete with the speed bias at Aqueduct. The inner track, despite some hearsay, appears to still favor speed players… I’m sure everyone remembers how Calibrachoa somehow beat Caleb’s Posse's closing rush last year (Calibra sat just off two dueling frontrunners then assumed the lead and held it)! Recalling all these I feel kind of dumb for not going with the speedier horse.

With a nice carryover Rainbow Pick Six for Wednesday, I hope to share picks for that day’s Gulfstream Park card, which has been full of nice value plays and is one of my preferred tracks. Perhaps I will even wager something.

Weekend Stake Tip: Recapping Some Caps (I’m Boring)

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I didn’t handicap any weekend races due to the holiday— instead I went with the mid-week Malibu (I) at Santa Anita. The race was not horrible, and is actually a nod in my favor that I am headed in the right direction. While The Lumber Guy had been formidable all year, I knew he did not look right and threw him out of the top spot. He went off at around even-money but finished a dead-tired 7th, beaten some 6 lengths. Top pick Unbridled’s Note rallied three-wide but missed the win by 3 lengths while the victor took advantage of the fast track and pace. Jimmy Creed wound up being the horse who took the strategy I had in mind for Unbridled’s Note. Runner-up Private Zone lasted up front against The Lumber Guy, but he wasn’t ready for a G1 win just yet. My third pick Politicallycorrect never got going and finished 9th. Jimmy Creed was a good pick all-around— he really just got unlucky in a lot of good races!— but got ignored as did Private Zone which kind of surprised me. I didn’t look at the filly race much at all in the La Brea (I), but figured My Miss Aurelia needed more space than 7 furlongs. She’s just too big a horse and everyone was going to try to wear her down at a distance much too short for her big body.

Weekend races were generally pretty cruddy; Daytona was rained off the turf, Gulfstream’s Mr. Prospector had yet another small and uninteresting field. I don’t know if I would regard Jimmy Creed as a top sprinter just yet, but he’s a future wiseguy pick.

I would also like to mention in another nod to smart show betting, the failure to make the top 3 for The Lumber Guy and allowance runner Super Ninety Nine in each of their respective races resulted in excellent show pool returns. The allowance winner Distinctiv Passion, who went off at 3-1, returned more for the show than for the place with $6.60 ($5.40 place). It would be wise to keep this “Breeders’ Cup bounce” in mind for next year.

I was going to handicap today’s card at Gulfstream, but after the scratch of two horses including Purple Egg in the Gulfstream Park Derby, I will look for a more interesting card later in the week to do. I only handicapped the first race… a $12.5 claimer… and to my astonishment, I did pretty well! I picked the winner Don’tgetmestarted and my third choice Beltram improved to be third like I thought he would! I had Simon’s a Winner pegged for second— the Exchange Rate line spawns early risers!— but he got 5th for his debut race. NOT BAD, I literally haven’t done a single claimer for about a year now.

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


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