Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tracking the Pick 4

I've been trackin my Pick 4 bets since the Preakness and my record isn't too good, this weekend we took a chance at the Iowa Festival of Racing and went 3 for 4 in those bets including a Pick 4 that paid almost $9K for 50 cents... that being said there always seems to be one horse that even in hindsight there is no way you would ever consider including...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Squatters!

So to make a long story short, for a reason I've yet to figure out, my account did not renew with the domain company and someone purchased the web address out from under me, apparently choosing to mock-up a bad copy of my blog to post some really bad advertising.

So here we are, back where we started... although still trying to figure out what I'm going to do, I do still get a fair amoutn of hits through this since this is the initial web domain that I created the website through.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Charitable Man An Attractive Play

While I'd certainly like to see Calvin Borel win the jockey triple crown aboard Mine That Bird, at the current even-money odds it's hard to bet the horse outside of a Pick 3 or 4. My Pick Four Partner and I are using him, along with Charitable Man, Dunkirk and Chocolate Candy in multi-race bets (Pick Four and Grand Slam).

At current odds of 5-1, Charitable Man, a son of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, looks to be the straight play. I also really like the Zambezi Sun/Champs Elysees entry in the Manhattan, a race that we're going deep to find our value in Grand Slam and Pick 4 plays. In those wagers we are using:

Just a Game (GII): Forever Together, My Princess Jess
Woody Stephens (GII): Hull, Everyday Heroes
Acorn (GI): Justwhistle Dixie, Four Gifts
Manhattan (GI): Court Vision*, Zambezi Sun*, Gio Ponti, Cosmonaut, Cowboy Cal

We've also got a late Pick 4 bet at Churchill (we went 3 of 4 on the early P4), it's hard to stay away from those wagers for 50 cents.


*The half of the entry I like.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Slots likely to be part of debate in Ky Special Session

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is calling the legislature back for a special 60-day session to address the state's near $1 billion budget shortfall (according to Beshear's estimate), and expanded race-track gaming will be on the table.

Much like the last year, expect the state House to be in favor of the issue, with an uphill battle in the Senate, with Senate President David Williams leading the opposition for race-track slots.

I'll expand on this more later today, until then, check out The Courier-Journal for more on slots (the first two of these were published in Sunday's paper).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rachel Alexandra at 8-5 or better? That's a deal breaker ladies...

While Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra is my pick to win today in the Preakness, she's by no means a stone-cold lock and I can't bet her at 8-5 outside of multi-race bets (that being said, I think she'll go off at even shorter odds closer to post time).

In addition to using her in our Pick Four, my Pick Four-partner and I are including Friesan Fire (6-1), Papa Clem (12-1), and Pioneerof the Nile (5-1), with zero plans to use Derby winner Mine that Bird (6-1).

I keep hearing the TVG and HRTV guys mention that no one has ever won the Preakness from further outside of Post 12, but does anyone know how many time the Preakness has had 13 or more starters? I don't have that info handy...

Singles
In the Preakness undercard, I think the horses worth considering as a single are Affirmatif (3-5) in the Woodlawn and Ravelo (3-1) in the Maryland Spring (GIII), which are both part of the late Pick 4.

Value
The long-shot special of the day is Out to Please (20-1) in the 6th race, a part of the early Pick Four.

ESPN Bumps Racing Coverage For A Replay of Poker?

When news broke in April that ESPN would be cutting it's coverage of the Preakness undercard, I wondered what the worldwide leader would be showing instead... as it turns out, instead of showing live racing from Pimlico, they are showing a rerun of the 2008 World Series of Poker on ESPN and NCAA Lacrosse Quarterfinals on ESPN2.

Bumping the post position draw coverage makes sense, as those "events" never belonged on TV in the first place, and I even agree with cutting the Derby-day coverage to start at noon, but a replay of poker in place of any live racing on a Triple Crown undercard is a joke.

When ESPN took over the Breeders' Cup telecast, there was an expectation (and I think some early promises) that they would attempt to draw new fans to the sport.... I noted in 2006 my dismay with the fact that there were little-to-no promotions leading up to that year's Breeders' Cup broadcast... at the very least we can hope this is a decision based on the current economy, instead of a look at ESPN's long-term plans about not covering Triple Crown undercards.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Derby Winner Departs Churchill Today, Preakness Draw Tomorrow

Trainer Chip Woolley loaded Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird onto a trailer this morning, and will behind the wheel of the Ford F-150 during the drive to Baltimore.

“I have about 115 gallons and hauling the trailer I get about 8 ½ miles a gallon,” Woolley said today from Churchill before departing. “This will be about like our first day coming here when we went from El Paso to Lone Star Park (in suburban Dallas ). We won’t need to stop for gas. When we stop to eat, I’ll open the top of the window and let him look out and take things in. He’s a good shipper. Nothing bothers him.”

According to the Churchill Press Release, the drive to Baltimore is expected to take Woolley 10-hours. I've made the drive from Louisville to Washington, D.C. many times, and it's just barely a 10 hour drive in a Honda Civic Hybrid that is NOT hauling a loaded horse trailer through the mountains of West Virginia and the Maryland.... good luck with the fog when you get to Frostburg.

Regardless, I wouldn't recommend asking Woolley about the drive, considering the way he reacted to NBC's Kenny Rice in his post-race interview.

I expect that we won't find out about if Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra will go in the Preakness until just before the post draw tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kentucky Derby 2009: Can we try that again?

When I was able to catch up with my Pick Four Partner on Sunday afternoon, we agreed that after today the 2009 Kentucky Derby should never be mentioned again... I think that's a rule for this blog too, with minimal mentions until the Preakness.

Today trainer Chip Woolley was noncommittal when asked about Mine That Bird going in the Preakness, saying a decision would come today or tomorrow. Just a note about history: we haven't had a Derby winner skip the Preakness since 1996, when Grindstone was injured.

“Me and the owners will meet and have a little discussion. It really wasn’t something that was on our radar, so we’ll decide on it. We were looking to run the horse farther anyway, so we’ll just have to see what it brings today," Woolley said.

Considering how Woolley acted in the post-race interview with NBC's Kenny Rice, I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to skip the rest of the Triple Crown to avoid the spotlight. This guy was such an ass that he makes Steve Asmussen and Barclay Tagg look affable in comparison.

Either way, I'm okay no matter what Woolley and the rest of the connections decide about Mine That Bird's future. Is he destined to be remembered as one of the greats or is this just a dud Derby year? At least it's harder to forget Derby winners... quick, what was the name of the horse that beat Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes last year?

Several to skip the Preakness
Rumors from the Larry Jones barn are that they are crossing thier fingers that post-time favorite Friesan Fire (18th) will be able to go to the Preakness, as the horses was scratched up a bit on Saturday. No news on the plans for I Want Revenge, who scratched from the race due to a drug test with an injury, the early word was that trainer Jeff Mullins was leaning toward skipping the Preakness.

Also, Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra is probably going to target the Acorn and will not go in either the Preakness or Belmont. She is not nominated to the Triple Crown, which means it would cost a $100,000 to supplement her entry.

Trainers Bob Baffert (Pioneer of the Nile) and Derek Ryan (Musket Man) both said they would give their horses a couple of days before a decision was made on the Preakness. Of the top finishers on Saturday, only trainer Gary Stute would commit fourth place finisher Papa Clem to the race in Baltimore in two weeks.

"With a little luck, I think he could have been second,” Stute said. “We will probably stay here a few days but we will go to Baltimore when there is a flight. He may go back to the track here, but I want to get him to Pimlico and have a work over the track before the Preakness.”

Trainers that have indicated they will skip the Preakness include: Chocolate Candy (5th), Summer Bird (6th), Regal Ransom (8th), West Side Bernie (9th), General Quarters (10th), Hold Me Back (12th), Desert Party (14th), and Atomic Rain (16th).

Trainer Todd Pletcher was noncommittal about Join in the Dance (7th), Dunkirk (11th), and Advice (13th), although said he will send Take the Points, who skipped the Derby in favor of a Preakness start.

I figured that with a long-shot Derby winner coming from an off-track that there would be more Derby horses pointing to the Preakness, I still expect a full field, I guess most of those horses will come from races like the Withers, Lexington, and Derby Trial.

Race Callers
While I'm not going to beat up on Tom Durkin, but I can't go without mentioning his missed call in yesterday's race. With 19 horses to keep track of I think the guy gets a pass, I'm sure he mentally eliminated Mine The Bird after the horse fell to the back of the pack and was too busy focusing on the cavalry drive at the front of the pack as the eventual winner skirted through on the rail.

You can watch a replay on Churchill's website to hear new track announcer Mark Johnson's first Derby call -- he caught the winner a little earlier than Durkin (I like the way he says Papa Clem).

No Accidental Winnings This Year
In 1999, I placed an alcohol-induced $5 across the board on Charismatic from the Churchill Downs infield, and in 2005 a Laurel Park clerk made a mistake that left me holding a ticket for Giacomo (luckily I didn't realize the mistake until I was on my way out in the parking lot and was too lazy to go back to refund the bet). Too bad I didn't make any mistakes this year...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Breaking News: Scratch I Want Revenge

News from Louisville is that the connections of I Want Revenge are going scratch the horse from the Derby during a news conference at 9 a.m.

No other information was available at this time. I hope the horse just have a fever and it's nothing to do with an injury. (Update 8:47 a.m.: Looks like it might be an injury).

I'm going to be on the road during the press conference, so check out The Courier-Journal for more information.

Speaking of the C-J, here is a story I wrote on Thursday about how to bet the Derby with just $25.

Kentucky Derby Day Selections

In the Derby, it seems to me that if you liked Hard Spun two years ago (I did), after the way Friesan Fire has been training, you have to like this colt too. Of both of Sheikh Mo's horses, I like Regal Ransom after Desert Party drew gate 19. Horses to use in multi-race bets include Dunkirk, Papa Clem, General Quarters, and (sigh) I Want Revenge. I also like Summer Bird (50-1) to round out the superfecta. I want to like Pioneerof the Nile, but I think Colonel John soured me from last year.

Picking up the card during the second Pick Four:

Race 4: 1 1/16 Miles 3yo+ $50K Allowance
I don't mind Northern Prince (2-1) coming off of the short layoff, and like the trainer wins 23% of the time in those conditions, however at these odds I only like him to include in Pick 3s and 4s, not to bet to win. Glenwood Canyon (5-2) seems like a logical second choice as he has raced well at this distance and over the Churchill dirt, but lackluster workouts leave me scratching my head. If you think that Magenta Light (AUS) (20-1) can transfer from synthetic-to-dirt then he offers great value at this price, at the very least he's worth including in exotics.

Race 5: 1 Mile Turf, 3yo+ 80K Optional Claimer
I think pulling back to eight panels is just what Why Tonto (7-2) needs and like him to end up on top here, would have expected him to be the top choice. Woodbourne (20-1) could be there in the end considering how well he ran at The Fair Grounds, the jockey/trainer numbers certainly made me look twice. Hold the Salt (10-1) has raced well at this distance, but the layoff could be a concern, nevermind that he's running for a tag -- even still, I like him to get a piece of the pie, but don't see him on top.

Race 6: The Churchill Downs (GII), 7 furlongs, 4yo+ $250,000
With the likes of Kodiak Kowboy (8-5) and The Roundhouse (12-1) this race is kind of like a look back at the colts from 2008 that didn't quite pan out as expected, all snark aside I like both of them coming off wins, although Kowboy certainly did see a much tougher field. Love the connections on Accredit (8-1) taking a recent $75K claim to Graded Stakes, trainer is 0 for 14 in graded stakes this year, is he due? Love the trainer/jockey percentages.

Race 7: The Eight Belles (GIII), 7 1/2 furlongs, 3yo $100,000
No matter what you think about the competition in this race, the Derby gods will make sure that Larry Jones wins this race, which means that Just Jenda (4-1) or Warrior Maid (10-1) are your plays -- I actually like the former anyway, considering her previous 6 furlong and mile efforts. I like Lady's Laughter (15-1) to improve second off the layoff and expect her to be able to move back to dirt easily.

Race 8: Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII), 1 mile turf, 3yo+, $200,000
I always have good luck with the Lemon Drop Kid mares on the grass and Lemon Chiffon (6-1) has won second off a layoff in two tries -- love this horse to click today. Visit (GB) (7-2) obviously improved last out after the layoff, perhaps the shorter distance today is exactly what she needs. Stealin' Kisses (20-1) managed to easily make it around the track after Mena fell off coming out of the gate, but how much did that race around the track take out of her last week? I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with her... there are many others to like here and would consider almost all in multi-race bets, with a nod toward Elusive Lady and Zee Zee

Race 9: Humana Distaff (GI), 7 furlongs, Fillies and Mares, 4yo+ $300,000
When you first see Informed Decision (9-5), who is 3 for 3 at this distance in her last 3 tries, including a win in the GI Madison, it is hard to go against her... And then you notice that Secret Gypsy (7-2) and Game Face (2-1) have had similar recent success, and it really looks like a toss up between these three.

Race 10: Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), 1 1/8 miles turf, 3yo+ $500,000
Playing to beat the favorite (who should still be used in exotics and multi-race bets), I'll go for the Poudinsky (GER) (6-1) and El Caballo (12-1) duo who have both had recent success at this distance. Thorn Song (12-1) is worth a second look considering his success over the Churchill grass, too bad that on that second look you notice that he finished 6th in this race last year and looks to be on a downward spiral.

Race 11: The Kentucky Derby (GI), 1 1/4 miles, 3 yo, $2 million
Friesan Fire (5-1), Regal Ransom (30-1), and Papa Clem (20-1).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Will I Want Revenge Deliver?

I'm not on the I Want Revenge bandwagon, and unfortunately don't think the favorite will deliver on Saturday. The horse ran an impressive race in his Wood Memorial win, but a hard run like that is a lot to ask a colt to come back from so early in the year.

Unfortunately, trainer Jeff Mullins' history doesn't help much either. After Mullins was caught milkshaking horses in California in 2005, his stable was placed in a 24 hour detention barn during which time he saw his win rate drop from 30 percent to about half of that. Will the same thing happen when his horse is under the drug testing scrutiny of the Kentucky Derby? I think so.

But it was 2005 when one of his horses tested positive for what a Santa Anita veterinarian said was the equivalent of feeding a horse a half a box of baking soda, so surely this guy has turned over a new leaf by now right? Wrong.

The day after the Kentucky Derby (convenient, no?) Mullins begins a seven-day suspension for giving a horse in the security barn over-the-counter drugs, a violation in New York state.

Race-day medication other than Lasix administered by a veterinarian is prohibited by New York state, never mind that giving horses any medication is prohibited in the security barn. However, always playing the role of the innocent guy, Mullins claims that he didn't break the rules and at the very least, someone should have warned him...

From the Washington Post:

"Trainers who wish to participate in New York racing are responsible for knowing our race day rules and our medication rules," Racing and Wagering Board chairman John D. Sabini said. "These sanctions should send a clear message that ignorance will never wash as an excuse."

Mullins said he was not questioned by NYRA security personnel while inside the detention barn. He didn't use it as an excuse but felt he should have been given a "heads up" by security if they felt he was committing a violation.

What? That's almost as bad has his claims that the 2005 positive Milkshake tests were due to a "feed" program...

Mullins from 2005: "There were a few of us caught with high TCO2 levels in their horses, but there was no one caught with a tube in their hand," Mullins said. "You've got to do everything you can to get your horse to perform. That's what people hire you for. Like a mechanic: He's going to take everything in his knowledge to get his car to run the best. We're going to do what we can to make these horses run without breaking any rules or getting anyone in trouble."

..."or getting anyone in trouble" doesn't mean following the rules, it just means not getting caught. If recent years are any indication, one can expect all Derby horses to be tested and only an idiot would have anything in a horses system that would result in a positive test... or a guy who thinks he can't get caught.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pletcher Starts Three on Derby Day

While not quite the five horses trainer Todd Pletcher started in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, the three horses he will start this year still gives him the most horses of any trainer with Advice, Dunkirk and Join in the Dance.

His fourth horse that was a possible option, Take the Points, will target the Preakness.

"That race gives him two extra weeks, a shorter distance to work with and a track where we think his tactical style will work to best advantage," Pletcher said. "In the end, we just thought it was the right choice.”

Jockey assignments for the Pletcher trio include Edgar Prado on Dunkirk, Rene Douglas on Advice and Chris DeCarlo on Join in the Dance.

John Velazquez, who is a usual rider for Pletcher, will ride trainer Eoin Harty's long-shot Mr. Hot Stuff. That colt is a full brother Colonel John, Harty's Derby starter from last year.

Tuesday's Kentucky Derby Notes: Square Eddie Out, I Want Revenge Works

Considering the problems that Quality Road has been having with his hooves since the Florida Derby, it was no suprise when trainer Jimmy Jerkins declared the horse out of the Derby, but the loss today of Square Eddie was somewhat unexpected.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said that he thought the colt came out of his work in good shape on Sunday, but ordered x-rays after heat was felt on the colt's left shin on Monday.

"The X-rays didn’t show anything, but that heat is there and Dr. (Mark) Cheney said it might be best not to take any chances; that we were probably looking at a sign of possible problems."

O'Neill said in the the end that he and owner Paul Reddam decided to err on the side of caution.

"Mr. (Paul) Reddam said ‘Do what’s in the best interests of Eddie,’ and that’s what we’ve done," O'Neill said.

Square Eddie suffered a small fracture in his left front leg following a workout in February in California. The colt will be shipped back to California next week, although there are no plans yet for a next race to target.

Dry Work for Probable Favorite
Although it was pretty wet in Louisville today, likely favorite I Want Revenge was able to get a workout in over a dry and fast Churchill track, working minutes before the heavy rain began to fall.

The Wood Memorial (GI) winner worked a four furlong bullet in :47.20 under jockey Joe Talamo with fractions of :11.40, :23.20 and :35.40.

“We got a great race track today, and we got to let him do what he normally does. I think we accomplished what we wanted to do today,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “We just wanted to see him moving forward and into the work and happy. He worked this morning like he normally does.”

“From the Gotham and even before that, we knew he was a pretty good horse. Obviously, in the Wood, that answered a lot of questions for everyone. To overcome a trip like that is just incredible,” Talamo said. “He’s so mature for his age. It’s hard to explain. He does everything so easily."

The statements about mature for his age are funny considering that they're from the also mature for his age Talamo, who is 19 and is preparing for his first Derby.

I'm no fan of I Want Revenge for several reasons (mostly because of Mullin's milkshake history), but more on that later in the week.

Kentucky Oaks Notes from Churchill Downs and (Odd) Kentucky Derby Odds

While we wait for Derby odds, the Kentucky Oaks odds and post positions came out today and after drawing post position six, Rachel Alexandra was officially set as the 3-5 heavy favorite in the field of eight (it was no surprise). Expect more updates like this as the week progresses.

Rachel Alexandra is on a four-race win streak with jockey Calvin Borel having been aboard for all four wins. It looks like thunderstorms are expected on Oaks day (it always rains on Oaks Day), however, one of the wins for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro came in the slop on March 14 in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), she won that race by 1 3/4 lengths even after being eased in the stretch.

“It rained all day there that day; it never stopped,” trainer Hal Wiggins said from Churchill Downs. “They kept the track in good shape and stayed on top of it. It wasn’t a deep slop that day.”

Wiggins seems to be comfortable with his filly's standing as the one to beat. During workouts this morning the trainer was standing at the gap by the clockers’ stand and trainer D. Wayne Lukas rode up on his pony to give Wiggins some grief.

“Hey Hal, your filly got a ‘2’ on the ‘Rag’ sheet yesterday,” Lukas said, referring to the :46.40 half-mile work put in by Rachel Alexandra on Monday.

“But I didn’t get a dollar for it,” Wiggins said with a laugh. “She’s got to do it in the afternoon.”

Justwhistledixie
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's Justwhitledixie was set as the second choice on the morning line at 5-2, she will break from post five under jockey Julien Leparoux. The daughter of Dixie Union is in a five-race winning streak, this is her first race against favorite Rachel Alexandra. Her two most recent wins were at Gulfstream Park in the Davona Dale (GII) and Bonnie Miss (GII).

McLaughlin expects the pace to be solid in the Oaks, and he also expects favorite Rachel Alexandra to be doubly tough after watching her workout on Monday morning.

“She’s an amazing filly. You hear a lot about fillies taking on the boys in the Derby. This filly is probably that caliber,” he said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us, but if we have our best day and she doesn’t, who knows? If we both have our best days, we might be in trouble. But we’ve won five in a row, so we’re happy with her.”

Odd Derby Odds
After the Derby post position draw mid-day tomorrow, we will get the official morning line odds set by Churchill Downs' Mike Battaglia... in the meantime, there are various Kentucky Derby betting options available, including some interesting bets that go further than the betting options for the race participants. Favorites include a series of bets about LeAnn Rimes, including betting on what color hat she will wear and an over/under on how long it will take her to sing the National Anthem.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Florida Polo Tragedy: 21 Horses Dead, Test Results Expected by Friday

Here is an update on the strange case in which 21 horses died before a polo match in South Florida yesterday.

From CNN:

"At this time, there is no evidence that these horses were affected with an infectious or contagious disease, as there are no other horses affected at this time," according to Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Terence McElroy.

According to a report I heard on NPR the horses have been sent to two state facilities in Florida for necropsies -- results are expected by the end of the week. Hopefully the results will shed some light on what happened. It's good news that there is no urgent outbreak, lets hope the results are due to an unfortunate feed or medicinal mistake instead of something nefarious.