Sunday, October 31, 2010
I’ve always like this son of Sunday Break who got off to a good start early in his career, breaking his maiden by six lengths in his second start at Churchill Downs last July. Maybesomaybenot came back 22 days after that victory to win the Sanford Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. However, his last two efforts have been dull with a fourth-place finish in the Sapling Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park and an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.
Despite his recent efforts, I’m willing to give Maybesomaybenot another shot. He has the breeding to be a factor in the Iroquois and trainer Michael Maker adds blinkers for today’s race.
Maybesomaybenot is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990 there have been six horses from that line to win the Iroquois Stakes: Capt. Candyman Can (2008), Court Vision (2007), The Cliff’s Edge (2003), Ide (1995), Peruvian (1994) and Portroe (1991).
Maybesomaybenot’s sire, Sunday Break, won races from 7-furlongs to 8 ½-furlongs and was a pretty good middle-distance runner. His grandsire, Forty Niner, also was a good middle-distance runner and he sired the Iroquois winner Ide. Sunday Break’s 2-year-old runners have six wins from 18 starts for 33 percent.
Astrology is the 3-1 morning line second-choice but I would not be surprised to see him become the favorite. Astrology comes into the race with a third-place finish to a couple of nice juveniles (Sweet Ducky and Curlinello) in the Garden State Stakes at Monmouth.
Astrology is a descendant of the Bold Ruler sire line and since 1990 there have been three horses from that line to win the Iroquois: Thiskyhasnolimit (2009), Champali (2002) and Tarzan’s Blade (1993). A. P. Indy, the sire of Astrology, has two juvenile winners from 17 starts for 12 percent.
A long shot I like in this race is the 10-1 Halo’s Thunder, ridden by Jockey Julien Leparoux – winner of the Iroquois in 2008 and 2007. Trained by Ken McPeek, Halo’s Thunder is stepping up in class but has a lot of room for improvement coming into today’s race off an 8-furlong maiden debut win at Turfway Park earlier this month.
Halo’s Thunder is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and his sire is the Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch. Gulch, the grandsire of Halo’s Thunder, sired the Iroquois winners Court Vision and The Cliff’s Edge. Thunder Gulch’s juvenile runners have 14 wins from 36 starts for 39 percent.
The damsire of Halo’s Thunder is the graded-stakes winner Saint Ballado whose notable offspring include 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Ashado and Florida Derby (G1) winner Captain Bodgit who finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and third in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Storm In The Lake (4-1) comes into the Iroquois with three first-place finishes and one second-place finish in five starts. Storm In The Lake has never run in a route race and he finished off the board in his only stakes race but he has the breeding to be a potential factor in the Iroquois.
Storm In The Lake is a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line and sine 1990 there have been five horses from that line to win the Iroquois: Catcominatcha (2005), Straight Line (2004), Harlan’s Holiday (2001), Exploit (1998) and Keene Dancer (1997).
Storm In The Lake’s grandsire, Storm Cat, sired the Iroquois winner Exploit and he is also the grandsire of the Iroquois winners Harlan’s Holiday and Catcominatcha.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Using the Physical and Emotional Conformation of the Horse to Complement Your Handicapping Strategies
By Kerry M. Thomas and Calvin L. Carter
Editor’s Note: HorsePlayer Magazine publisher Tom Quigley has long been a proponent of paddock inspection when selecting horses. For the last two years, he has been “Tweeting” his live paddock reports from the three major Southern California racetracks to his 700 + Twitter followers at Quigleys Corner on Twitter.com. If you can’t be at the racetrack, Quigley’s Tweets are a great source of information on which horses look good or bad before going out onto the track.
If you play other circuits, however, this kind of up-to-the-minute observation is lacking. If you want to be a complete handicapper – and get an edge over your competition – you’ll need to do your own visual handicapping.
Visual handicapping is one of the last great frontiers in the handicapping game, and if you can become good at it, you’ll have a differential advantage over players who are just using numbers to suss out a horse’s current form.
In this article, conformation expert Kerry M. Thomas and frequent HorsePlayer contributor Calvin L. Carter help explain what you should be looking for when watching a horse in the paddock and/or post parade.
Pedigree and past performances are two of the most important tools handicappers have in their wagering arsenal – they can show if a horse has the potential to be a rising star and a stakes winner. But sometimes a horse does not live up to its breeding and performs poorly on the racetrack – and, of course, past performances are of no use when handicapping first-time starters.
A visual inspection of a horse in the paddock and post parade can be very revealing and give the handicapper a clue as to how well it will perform on the racetrack. How a horse looks physically and how it behaves can reveal if a horse is physically fit and emotionally prepared to compete in a race.
When visually inspecting a horse it is important to remember to have a checklist of things to look for. The physical things are somewhat obvious:
What does the horse’s overall physical appearance look like? A healthy horse will appear to be alert and aware of everything in its surroundings. Its ears will be pricked forward and its coat will appear dappled. An unhealthy horse will have a dull appearance and be lethargic. It will be less aware of its surroundings and its focus will be turned more inward.
Is the horse sweating or is it washed out? Sweating is a natural way to cool off but if the horse appears lathered on the neck and/or between the rear legs, it could be sign that the horse is overly nervous or that it is not in top physical condition.
Is the horse wearing leg bandages? Some trainers wrap the front and rear legs in bandages for protection, but bandages can be a sign that the horse has some fitness issues or is in pain – and that could greatly hamper its performance.
Is the horse wearing normal or special horseshoes? Bar shoes could indicate that the horse has tender feet or is experiencing hoof problems. Toe grabs on the horse shoe could mean that the horse does not have good footing or, in a matter of speaking, spins out on the racing surface. The toe grabs (which are illegal in some states) are for extra traction.
What kind of tack is the horse wearing? Some horses are loaded down with gear that may or may not improve its performance. A good example of this is Rachel Alexandra whose two losses after claiming the 2009 Horse of the Year honors came when she was fitted with a figure-eight nose band. Less gear is better.
Is the horse wearing a shadow roll, blinkers, or ear muffs? Anytime a horse wears this gear it is a good indicator that horse has some focus and concentration issues. That equipment change may or may not improve the horse’s performance.
The behavior and Emotional Conformation of a horse is just as important as the physical conformation, and it can have a tremendous impact on a horse’s performance. Behavioral issues can also be obvious, but most of the time, they are more subtle and require a closer inspection.
How does the horse behave in the paddock? How the horse reacts to noise, large crowds of people, and other horses is vitally important. It is a good indicator of that horse’s mental soundness and how it will perform on the racetrack.
A confident, mentally sound horse will be focused and almost casual in appearance. Its ears may be pricked forward. An unfocused horse that lacks confidence may be ill-mannered and agitated in the paddock. It may appear to be anxious, and its ears may be pricked backward or rapidly moving about as if expecting something.
Does the horse show any signs of nervousness? A certain amount of nervousness is okay. Some great horses had what the late, world-renowned breeder and trainer Federico Tesio referred to as “nervous energy.” But if the horse continuously acts up and lathers up, that is a sign of an unfocused horse that is not mentally prepared to run in a race.
Some nervousness and rambunctious behavior can be expected from the colts, but nervousness in fillies and mares can be a sign of an unfocused horse that lacks confidence. Of course, there are some exceptions. Zenyatta is a notable example of a mare that possesses nervous energy.
Does the horse show any signs of herding mentality? By nature, horses are herding animals, and that dynamic can be present in the paddock as well as on the racetrack. If a horse appears to be overly aggressive, but not anxious, that behavior can indicate that the horse is trying to assert its authority over other horses in the paddock. If a horse appears to be timid or unsure, that behavior indicates the horse most likely would be content to follow the lead of the other horses.
Is the horse aware of everything in its surroundings or is its focus of attention solely fixated on one horse? A horse that demonstrates this type of aggressive, targeting behavior has a very narrow range of focus, and it will actually target and “buddy-up” with another during a race.
How does the horse behave when it is saddled and prepped for the race? A confident, focused horse will freely accept its tack and bridle while an unconfident horse will resist and struggle with its handler. A horse has to feel comfortable in order to perform at its best. The equipment it wears can become a source of discomfort, resulting in behavioral overcompensations, which is when a horse alters its natural running style due to a physical or an emotionally perceived restriction.
How does the horse behave when led by the groom? The groom should be able to lead the horse with a loose hold on the lead line while the horse comfortably follows a few feet behind the groom. If the groom has to have a tight grip on the lead line and take aggressive action to control the horse, that is a sign that the horse is not focused to the task at hand, and it is an indicator as to how the horse will perform on the racetrack.
If the groom has to continually reassure the horse by contact or if the horse bunches up next to the groom while being led, that is a sign that the horse has some herding mentality issues and is also an indicator of how that horse will run on the racetrack – in the middle of the herd where it has a feeling of safety and security.
How does the horse behave in the post parade or at the starting gate? Anytime a horse acts up, especially at the starting gate, it can be a sign of an immature, unfocused horse; an ill-tempered, hard-to-handle horse that has space issues; or a horse with deep-seated emotional issues that can only be evaluated after much study. A horse that demonstrates this type of behavior is a classic example of a horse with low focus ability.
However, the opposite can be true as horses from the Hasting sire line which include Man O’War, War Admiral and Hard Tack were hard to handle and well known for their pre-race antics. The great War Admiral delayed the start of all three 1937 Triple Crown races.
Does the horse have a lot of ear movement? One of the key indicators that show a great aptitude for mental fitness and a high level of focus agility is the ability of the horse to constantly, but not anxiously, move its ears back-and-forth and side-to-side while moving about in the paddock, post parade, and even during a race. The ability of a horse to interpret stimulus in smooth transitions during a race is a sign of a high level of focus agility and a key to maintaining pace.
Visual handicapping is truly a study of herd dynamics at the racetrack. The horse that is the most focused and mentally sound is usually the winner of the race. Knowing what to visually look for in the physical and emotional conformation of the horse can reveal what is not readily apparent from the pedigree and past performances and reward the handicapper with a nice payday.
KERRY M. THOMAS is the founder of the Thomas Herding Technique and a researcher who studies the psychology and Emotional Conformation of horses. For more information about Emotional Conformation and Thomas’ research, you can visit his website at http://www.thomasherdingtechnique.com/
CALVIN L. CARTER writes about juvenile thoroughbreds on his blog at http://classicchampionthoroughbreds.blogspot.com/.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Stormy Rush and the also eligible entry of Banned are the lukewarm 4-1 morning line co-favorites.
I like Stormy Rush who ships in from Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield. In his last outing, Stormy Rush closed from fifth place at the top of the stretch to finish third in the Summer Stakes (G3) at Woodbine.
Stormy Rush is a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line and since 1990 there have been seven horses from that line to win the Bourbon: Bittel Road (2008), Gio Ponti (2007), Gateman (1999), Pineaff (1998), Red Shadow (1995), Star of Manila (1993) and The Real Vaslav (1992).
Stormy Rush’s sire, Stormy Atlantic, sired the Bourbon winner Bittel Road. Stormy Atlantic’s juvenile runners have 16 wins in 43 starts for 37 percent.
I like the pedigree of long shot Voodoo Storm (8-1) and he’s my favorite in the Bourbon. Voodoo Storm comes into the race off of a gate-to-wire maiden win in an 8 ½ - furlong turf race at Saratoga.
Voodoo Storm is also a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line. His sire, Storm Cat, is the grandsire of Bourbon winners Bittel Road and Gio Ponti. Voodoo Storm's damsire, Kingmambo, sired the Bourbon winners Rey de Café (2004) and Overview (2000).
Another long shot I like is Cozy Kitten (9-2) who comes into the race with a win in his maiden debut – an 8-furlong turf race at Monmouth Park on September 4. Cozy Kitten is stepping way up in class but if he lives up to his breeding, I believe he has the potential to pull off the upset at a nice price.
Cozy Kitten is also a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line. His sire is the 2004 Eclipse Champion Male Turf Horse Kitten’s Joy and his damsire, Cozzene, won the same award in 1985. Theatrical, the sire of Cozy Kitten’s second dam Jodie Faster, won the turf award in 1987.
The juvenile runners of Kitten’s Joy have 15 wins in 32 starts for 47 percent.
Rogue Romance (5-1) comes into the Bourbon off of a maiden win in an 8 ½ - furlong turf race at Saratoga. Rogue Romance raced the same day that Voodoo Storm ran and covered the same route of ground a few ticks faster so I look for him to be competitive in the Bourbon.
Rogue Romance is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990 there have been four horses from that line that have won the Bourbon: Interactif (2009), Twilight Meteor, Rey de Café and Overview.
Rogue Romance’s sire is the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones – his juvenile runners have 6 wins in 36 starts for 17 percent.
Friday, October 8, 2010
The coupled entry of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty head the field of seven as the 1-4 morning line favorite in the $300,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. Todd Pletcher trains both horses and he previously won the Champagne with Scat Daddy (2006) and Proud Accolade (2004).
Uncle Mo, coming off of an impressive 14 ¼ - length win in his maiden debut, looms large as the horse to beat. Uncle Mo earned a 110 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort and he has been working out good at Belmont. If he repeats that performance, he will be tough to beat.
Uncle Mo is a descendant of the Nasrullah sire line and since 1990 there have been two horses from that line to win the Champagne Stakes: War Pass (2007) and The Groom Is Red (1998).
His sire, Indian Charlie, is known for getting good, speedy middle-distance runners and his damsire, Arch, won the 10-furlong Super Derby.
Indian Charlie’s 2-year-old runners have seven wins in 20 starts for 35 percent.
Stay Thirsty comes into the Champagne with a second-place finish to Boys At Tosconova in the 7-furlong Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Stay Thirsty has two seconds and one first-place finish in three starts. I look for him to continue to move forward off of his Hopeful Stakes effort.
I really like the pedigree of Stay Thirsty and if he lives up to his breeding, he should get better as the races get longer.
Stay Thirsty is a descendant of the Bold Ruler sire line and since 1990 two horses from that line have won the Champagne: Proud Accolade and A. P. Valentine (2000). His sire, Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Bernardini gives Stay Thirsty plenty of stamina. In addition, his damsire Storm Bird gives Stay Thirsty plenty of stamia as well as Roberto, and Arts And Letters, the sires of the second and third dam.
Bernardini’s juvenile runners have six wins in 27 starts for 22 percent.
A long shot I like is Meridian Magic (20-1) who comes into the race off of a maiden win in a one mile, 70-yard route race at Delaware on September 18. Meridain Magic is also a descendant of the Bold Ruler Sire line. The juvenile runners of his sire, Mineshaft, have five wins in 16 starts for 31 percent.
Meridian Magic is trained by Nick Zito who has won the Champagne five times.
Inaugurated in 1867, the Champagne is one of the oldest thoroughbred races in America. Notable winners of the Champagne that went on to become Classic Champion Thoroughbreds include: Birdstone, Sea Hero, Easy Goer, Spectacular Bid, Seattle Slew, Foolish Pleasure, Riva Ridge, Count Fleet, Grey Lag and Colin. Secretariat won the Champagne in 1972 but was disqualified and placed second.
Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity
J. B.’s Thunder heads a field of 11 juveniles as the lukewarm 4-1 favorite in the 97th running of the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
J. B.’s Thunder comes into the Dixiana off of a gate-to-wire win in his maiden debut on August 21 at Saratoga. J. B.’s Thunder is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990, three horses from that line have won the Dixiana: Noble’s Promise (2009), Square Eddie (2008) and Eurosilver (2003).
I like J. B.’s Thunder in this race but two horses that I like better are Maybesomaybenot (5-1) and Rough Sailing (8-1).
Maybesomaybenot was the morning line favorite in his last race, the 6-furlong Sapling Stakes (G3), but finished fourth to winner Madman Diaries, beaten by only 1 ¾ - lengths. Prior to that effort, Maybesomaybenot posted two straight victories including the 6-furlong Sanford Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. I’m willing to toss his last race and I believe that Maybesomaybenot should improve with the added distance of the Dixiana.
Maybesomaybenot is also a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line. His sire, Sunday Break, won races from 7-furlongs to 8 ½-furlongs and was a pretty good middle-distance runner. His grandsire, Forty Niner, also was a good middle-distance runner and he won several graded-stakes races including the Travers Stakes (G1), Haskel Invitational Handicap (G1), Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Sunday Break’s juvenile runners have six wins in 16 starts for 38 percent.
Rough Sailing comes into the race with a second-place finish to Major Gain in the Arlington-Washington Futurity Stakes (G3) at Arlington Park. Major Gain out kicked Rough Sailing in that race but if Jockey Michael Baze keeps Rough Sailing closer to the pace, I believe that he will be a factor.
Rough Sailing is a descendent of the Nasrullah sire line. With Mizzen Mast as his sire and Woodman as the damsire, Rough Sailing has the breeding to easily get the distance of the Dixiana. Epsom Derby winner The Minstrel is the sire of the second dam, Music Zone.
Mizzen Mast’s juvenile runners have seven wins in 15 starts for 47 percent.
Major Gain (5-1) recorded a sharp work out at Keeneland on October 2 and looks tough in this race. Major Gain is a descendant of the Royal Charger sire line and the last horse from that line to win the futurity was Sir Bordeaux (1990).
The juvenile runners of Major Gain’s sire, More Than Ready have 15 wins in 45 starts for 33 percent.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Looking to extend J P’s Gusto’s winning streak to five in a row, trainer David Hofman’s sends him to the starting gate Saturday as the 7-5 morning-line favorite of the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (G1) at Hollywood Park.
In his last outing, J P’s Gusto posted an impressive 4 ½ - length victory over runner-up Jaycito in the Del Mar Futurity (G1).
J P’s Gusto has never run in a route race but I believe he has the speed and stamina to handle the extra distance. His sire, Successful Appeal, sired Appealing Zophie, winner of the 8 ½ - furlong Silverbulletday Stakes (G3), Dawn After Dawn, winner of the 9-furlong La Cañada Stakes (G2) and Closing Argument, second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Successful Appeal’s 2-year-old runners have nine wins 20 starts for 45 percent. A sharp six-furlong work out at Hollywood on September 26 and it appears that J P’s Gusto may be ready to run another good race.
J P’s Gusto is a descendant of the Man O' War sire line and since 1990 there have been three horses from that line to win the Norfolk Stakes: Buck Trout (1998), Future Quest (1995) and Bertrando (1991).
Jaycito is also entered in the Norfolk as the 3-1 morning line third-choice for trainer Mike Mitchell and starts from post seven.
In the Del Mar Futurity, Jaycito moved from last place in an eleven-horse field to ninth going into the stretch but closed ground nicely to finish second. He gets a jockey switch to Mike Smith and if he can stay closer to the pace, Jaycito could be a factor in the Norfolk.
I also really like his pedigree. His sire, Victory Gallop, won the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) en route to a win in the 1998 Belmont Stakes (G1) and his grandsire, Cryptoclearance, ran second to Bet Twice in the Belmont Stakes (G1). His damsire, Ascot Knight, competed in numerous 10-furlong races in England and won the 10-furlong Mecca Bookmakers’ Scottish Derby by five lengths.
Jaycito is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990 there have been five horses from that line to win the Norfolk: Lookin at Lucky (2009), Street Hero (2008), Roman Ruler (2004), Souvenir Copy (1997) and Supremo (1994).
Boxeur Des Rues comes into the Norfolk off of a mile maiden stakes win at Kempton Park, England and he is one of the best bred horses in the field. If he lives up to his breeding, Boxeur Des Rues could pull off the upset at a nice price.
Boxeur Des Rues is also a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and his sire, Smart Strike, sired such notable runners as Curlin, Lookin At Lucky, Soaring Free and English Channel to name just a few.
His damsire is the Prix du Jockey Club winner Caerleon who sired such notables as Generous (Epsom and Irish Derby), Grape Tree Road (Grand Prix de Paris), Marienbard (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe) and Moonax (English St. Leger).
Lucky Mr. K has been running in California-bred stakes races and steps up into graded-stakes races for the first time. In his last outing, he finished third in the I’m Smokin Stakes – beaten by only a half length.
Benchmark’s 2-year-old runners have 8 wins in 16 starts for 50 percent.
Lucky Mr. K has been working out good at Hollywood Park and on September 25, he posted a better work than Jaycito. A jockey switch to Joseph Talamo could help Lucky Mr. K to be a factor in the Norfolk.