Friday, April 30, 2010

Kentucky Derby Racing Roundup

Now that my two favorites – Eskendereya and Endorsement – are no longer in the race, the Kentucky Derby (G1) has lost some of its luster. Eskendereya was my favorite since January and Endorsement was my longshot pick to win the Sunland Derby (G3). However, with those two out of the race, it allows me to be more liberal with my longshots: Mission Impazible (20-1), Super Saver (15-1) and Ice Box (10-1).

Mission Impazible was my longshot pick to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) and I like him to win the Kentucky Derby.

Mission Impazible is a descendent of the Fappiano sire which has produced nine winners of Triple Crown races since 1990: Unbridled (1990 Kentucky Derby), Grindstone (1996 Kentucky Derby), Real Quiet (1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness), Victory Gallop (1998 Belmont), Red Bullet (2000 Preakness), Empire Maker (2003 Belmont), Birdstone (2004 Belmont), Mine That Bird (2009 Kentucky Derby), Summer Bird (2009 Belmont).

With Unbridled’s Song as his sire and Hold Your Peace as his damsire, Mission Impazible has similar breeding to Old Fashioned, winner of the 2008 Remsen Stakes (G2). Hold Your Peace was also the damsire of Peace Rules, winner of the 2003 Louisiana Derby and third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.

Unbridled’s Song was a fast racehorse and the 3.50-1 favorite to win the 1996 Kentucky Derby. But Unbridled’s Song developed a quarter-crack after his victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) and he raced with two bar shoes in the Kentucky Derby. Unbridled’s Song finished fifth, losing by only 3 ½ lengths to Derby winner Grindstone – another descendent of Fappiano.

Hold Your Peace was the second betting choice in the 1972 Kentucky Derby but finished third, beaten 6 ¾ -lengths by Riva Ridge.

Mission Impazible is lightly-raced and, as such, he’s not getting much respect. But I really like the way he has been moving forward since his 3-year-old debut in January and he’s been working out good at Churchill Downs. He has the pedigree and with some racing luck, Mission Impazible is the best longshot pick that could end up in the winners circle at a nice price.

Super Saver, along with Eskendereya and Winslow Homer were three key horses on my watch last January because I really liked their pedigrees.

Although Super Saver has not fully lived up to my expectations, he has shown me that he is all heart and has the “will to win” in the way he was almost headed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) but dug down deep to pull away and win by five lengths.

And, in the Arkansas Derby (G1), Super Saver ran a gut-busting race chasing a fast Line Of David – narrowly losing by a neck. Super Saver has speed and stamina and that moves him way up on my list.

Calvin Borel was the jockey in both of those races and I believe that he will drop Super Saver back off the lead to a comfortable cruising spot and try to sprint home to victory. It’s worked for Borel before with Street Sense and Mine That Bird and, if possible, I believe he will try it again.

Super Saver has the “will to win” and so does Borel – that’s a good combination.

Ice Box was my longhsot pick to win the Fountain of Youth (G2) but he finished fifth – 12 lengths behind Eskendereya. Ice Box followed up that performance with win in the Florida Derby (G1), posting a 101 Brisnet Speed Figure for that effort.

The big difference between the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby was jockey Jose Lezcano who waited until the three-quarter pole to make his move with Ice Box. Lezcano retains the mount on Ice Box who has been working out good at Churchill and he fired a bullet in the slop on April 23.

Ice Box is a descendent of the Bold Ruler line and I would love to see him win. However, since 1990, the Bold Ruler line has only produced three winners of Triple Crown races: A. P. Indy (1992 Belmont), Bernardini (2006 Preakness) and Rags To Riches (2007 Belmont).

A win is not out of the question, but Ice Box will need some racing luck to pull that off. If he repeats his Florida Derby performance, I look for Ice Box to finish in the top four.

No doubt about it, Lookin At Lucky is a first-class racehorse and the deserved 3-1 morning line favorite. With a 6-1-1 record in eight starts, Lookin At Lucky is the most decorated colt in the Derby field with two G2 wins, three G1 wins and a second and third-place finish in G1 competition.

Much has been commented on how Lookin At Lucky may be “unlucky” in that he has a nack for getting into trouble. But, in my opinion, Lookin At Lucky also has the “will to win” and despite the ride that Garret Gomez gives him, he always manages to find a way to the winners circle.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffet knows how to prepare racehorses for the rigors of the Kentucky Derby. He’s won the Derby three times and several of his horses have finished in the money. Lookin At Lucky has been working out good at Churchill and a bullet work out April 26 in the mud has Lucky ready to run another good race.

Sidney’s Candy is Mike Battaglia's pick as the 5-1 morning line second-choice in the Kentucky Derby. No doubt, Sidney’s Candy is a very good horse with a 4-1-0 record in six starts. But, overall, Sidney’s Candy has had an easy campaign, winning most of his races going wire-to-wire, setting soft fractions, and after much study I still have a lot of unanswered questions as to how competitive he will be in the Derby.

I don’t believe Sidney’s Candy can win the Derby going wire-to-wire and much of the commentary I’ve heard and read is that Sidney’s Candy could be competitive rating off the lead. But I’m not so sure. I don’t know if Sidney’s Candy has the fire in the belly to sprint to victory and if he drops off the lead he might be content to be one of the herd and follow the leader.

In the only race Sidney’s Candy did not have the lead (an allowance race December 30), it appeared to me that he really did not have any excuse for not winning that race. He hopped off a bit slow at the start but was within easy striking distance the entire race until the stretch and eventually lost by seven lengths to Tiny Woods who led the entire way going wire-to-wire.

It appears that Tiny Woods also may have had a herd mentality as two months later in the San Vicente Stakes, Sidney’s Candy took the early lead, going wire-to-wire, and cruised to a 4 ¼ -length win over Tiny Woods who tracked in second the entire race but had previously beaten Sidney’s Candy – setting faster fractions in the December 30 allowance race.

If Sidney’s Candy has the lead, he is fine but I’m not so sure if he runs off the lead that he has the “will to win” and be the leader of the herd.

Like I previously said, Sidney’s Candy is a very good horse and if he won I would not be surprised. Like Mission Impazible, Sidney’s Candy is a descendent of the Fappiano sire line and his sire, Candy Ride, was an exceptional racehorse. I lot of handicappers I respect like Sidney’s Candy but I don’t have the same confidence level they have and of the most likely to do well in the Derby, he’s the one I have the most questions about.

Stately Victor is quickly becoming the “buzz” horse and several sportswriters are picking him to win the Kentucky Derby. Stately Victor definitely has the pedigree and he could be this year’s version of Charismatic – who I picked to win the 1999 Kentucky Derby. If Stately Victor won, I would not be surprised, but I don’t have the same vibe for Victor that I had for Charismatic.


Mission Impazible will be my win play and I will use him with Super Saver, Ice Box and Lookin At Lucky in most of the exotic wagers. I will also use Sidney’s Candy in a few exotics. If Stately Victor remains at high odds, I may put a small win, place saver bet on him.

Win/Place – 14

Exacta Box – 1-2-4-14
Exacta – 1-2-4-14/1-2-4-14-20

Trifecta Box – 1-2-4-14
Trifecta – 1-2-4-14/1-2-4-14-20/20

Superfecta Box – 1-2-4-14

Win/Place – 6

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Key Classic Sire Lines

The following story I wrote was recently published in the May/June issue of the Horseplayer Magazine.

Horseracing fans have a variety of methods they use to pick the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner. Some like to use silk colors or quirky names while others rely on the trainer or jockey as their method of selection. Still others study past performances and memorize the Dosage Index of each horse. But perhaps the most important way of picking the Derby (G1) winner is knowing the horse’s pedigree.

For the rest of this story please click on this link:

Monday, April 19, 2010

THT Founder To Visit The Blue Grass

April in the Blue Grass is always a special, fun time of year for friends to get together and enjoy the festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my friend Kerry M. Thomas – founder of the Thomas Herding Technique.

Kerry sent me an email last week, noting that he will be traveling to Kentucky tomorrow for a two-week stay in Frankfort. Kerry has a full schedule meeting with clients and April 27 he will be visiting with students at Midway College.

But, Kerry always has time to meet with fans of The Thomas Herding Technique and most mornings you can find him at the Starbucks on Frankfort Road. After a busy day, Kerry likes to dine at Malone’s near Keeneland and Miguel's is his favorite restaurant in Frankfort. On Apil 23, you can find Kerry at Keeneland for a full day of racing fun and he’ll be at Johnny E’s Restaurant in Louisville for the annual pre-derby bash April 26.

Since we met last May at Churchill Downs, Kerry and the Thomas Herding Technique has gone global, generating a lot of interest in the worldwide equine community. Kerry recently received an endorsement from Richman’s Racing which will promote the Thomas Herding Technique to its clients in China.

Kerry and his Thomas Herding Technique was the subject of a feature story in the February issue of The Arabian Magazine – a worldwide publication for the Arabian horse enthusiast – and the magazine will feature articles from Kerry in future issues. Kerry also has an article about Emotional Conformation that will appear in the innaugural issue of Brian Zipse’s online magazine that is scheduled to debut on Oaks Day.

Kerry’s website is a favorite among those in the equine community. His latest essay, Behavior On The Move, highlights Kerry’s theory of Relative Motion and it is favored most by visitors to his website.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Arkansas Derby Racing Roundup

It’s been a long time since Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had a legitimate contender for the Kentucky Derby but Lukas is hoping to end that Saturday when he sends the 7-2 morning line third-choice Dublin to the starting gate of the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.

A win by Dublin would suit me fine. I remember when Lukas was the hottest trainer on the Kentucky Derby trail and it would be good to see him back in race for the roses.

Actually, it appears that the Arkansas Derby is shaping up to a three-horse race between Dublin, Super Saver (9-5) and Noble’s Promise (2-1). A win by either of those horses would be okay too, because all of them have been on my watch list since before the beginning of the year and my Derby favorite is Eskendereya.

After recovering from throat surgery last fall, Dublin is a new horse and he’s been working out great since January.

In February, Dublin narrowly lost his 3-year-old debut by three-quarters of a length to Conveyance in the Southwest Stakes (G3). In March, an early move in the Rebel Stakes (G2) eventually took Dublin out of contention late in the race and he finished third to Lookin At Lucky - beaten by three lengths.

I look for Dublin to improve in his third start for the year and an exceptional bullet workout March 27 shows me that he may be ready to run his best race yet.

I love the pedigree of Super Saver with its multiple influences of La Troienne but, so far, Super Saver has not lived up to expectations. Super Saver picks up Calvin Borel for the mount who guided him to a brilliant victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last November.

Super Saver’s 3-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) was disappointing but he has since followed that up with a bullet workout March 28 and I look for him to be competitive.

Noble’s Promise was my long shot pick to win the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last November at Keeneland and since then I’ve backed him in all of my Derby Trail Stakes Racing Roundups he competed in. It’s easy to love a horse like Noble’s Promise who gives his all for each race to the very end.

I do have some questions about Noble’s Promise to get 10-furlongs but I’ll be anxiously watching to see how he runs Saturday to see if I can use him in my Derby exotics.

Overall, the Arkansas Derby should be an exciting race.

Blue Grass Stakes Racing Roundup

Ken and Sarah Ramsey already have Dean’s Kitten going to the Kentucky Derby and this Saturday they will send Pleasant Prince, the 3-1 morning line favorite, to the starting gate of the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland where the dash for cash – the all important graded stakes earnings needed to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate – will be run in earnest.

Only the top 20 horses with the most graded stakes earnings will qualify to enter the Derby starting gate and all of the nine horses entered in the Blue Grass, with the possible exception of Interactif who currently is in 15th - place with $270,450 in graded earnings, need the money.

This will be the first race on an artificial surface for Pleasant Prince who finished second, losing by a nose, to Ice Box in the Florida Derby (G1). But a bullet work out April 4 indicates that Pleasant Prince likes the surface and that he may be ready for another good race.

The horse that interests me most in this race is 10-1 long shot Paddy O’Prado. However, there is a possibility that his odds may be bet down as it appears he is generating a lot of interest. But that does not surprise me.

A couple weeks ago, I touted Dean’s Kitten as a good long shot to win the Lane’s End Stakes (G2) which he won by 2 ½ lengths. The thing that intrigued me about Dean’s Kitten is that he was coming into the Lane’s End off of a good second-place finish in the 9-furlong Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on the turf which was run in an amazingly fast time of 1:45.40 by – you guessed it – Paddy O’Prado.

You never know if a horse will be able to transfer their turf form to artificial or dirt but if Paddy O’Prado runs anywhere near that Palm Beach Stakes number he is the most likely winner of the Blue Grass.

Paddy O’Prado has been in the money in four of his five previous starts. He really appears to be improving at the right time of year and I like his pedigree. Paddy O’Prado made his 3-year-old debut with a third-place finish in a maiden race in February and a month later he finally broke his maiden, after four previous attempts, in the Palm Beach Stakes.

It appears that Paddy O’Prado likes the Keeneland Surface and with two recent very nice works, one of them a bullet, he may be ready to run another good race.

Trainer Todd Pletcher looks to add a couple more horses to his lineup of Kentucky Derby starters when he sends Interactif (4-1) and Aikenite (4-1) to the starting gate of the Blue Grass. Of those two, I like Interactif the most. He finished a fast-closing second to Sidney’s Candy in the 8 ½ - furlong San Felipe Stakes (G2), only losing by a half length, and I believe that the stretch out to 9-furlongs will be more to his liking.

In keeping with his namesake, Odysseus comes into the Blue Grass with a win of epic proportions in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) where he managed to somehow come from out of contention to get the nose bob in a photo-finish with Schoolyard Dreams.

The worst Odysseus has ever finished in four starts is second in his maiden debut last October and I really like his pedigree. I expect Odysseus to be competitive in the Blue Grass but I will probably only use him in the bottom of the exotics.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wood Memorial Racing Roundup

Todd Pletcher is one of the most talented and successful trainers of 2- and 3-year-old Thoroughbreds there is. Pletcher has won a lot of races, but two of the big ones that he’s never won are the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Pletcher hopes to add one of those races to his resume today when he sends Eskendereya, the 4-5 morning line favorite, to the starting gate of the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct.

Eskendereya established himself as the top 3-year-old on the Kentucky Derby Trail with his dominating 8 ½ - length win in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and he is the deserving favorite for the Wood Memorial. Eskendereya already was my favorite, since early January, and I would like to see him win.

A win in the Wood will guarantee Eskendereya a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate and with some racing luck he will be wearing the Garland of Roses on the first Saturday in May.

Another horse I like is Awesome Act (9-2). He showed his talent for winning when he returned to racing, after a four-month layoff, and won the Gotham Stakes (G3). Awesome Act barely has enough graded earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate and a win today would secure him that spot.

Trainer Derek Ryan has been Kentucky Derby dreamin for some time now with his talented colt Schoolyard Dreams (5-1). Last year Ryan had Derby dreams on his mind when he sent the talented Musket Man to the Derby starting gate and he’s hoping to get Schoolyard Dreams there too.

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito already stamped his ticket to the Kentucky Derby when Ice Box won the Florida Derby and he would like to add Jackson Bend (4-1) to that starting lineup with a win in the Wood Memorial.

For me, today’s race will most likely be a spectator sport as the short field and low odds will make wagering an unprofitable affair.

But that’s okay.

I’ll still be rooting for Eskendereya.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Illinois Derby Racing Roundup

There’s a lot of the contagion going around this time of year, and if he has not already been bitten by the bug, trainer Rick Dutrow may contract a severe case of Kentucky Derby fever Saturday if his Yonaguska colt Yawanna Twist (4-1) wins the $500,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne Racetrack.

Yawanna Twist is a descendent of the Cherokee Run sire line and the Illinois Derby has proven to be a very good springboard the past couple of years to catapult runners from that line into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

In 2009, Musket Man won the Illinois Derby en route to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Recapturetheglory won the Derby in 2008 and finished a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

If Dutrow does not have Derby fever, evidently the owners, Steel Your Face Stables, do as they recently paid the $6,000 late nomination fee to nominate Yawanna Twist to the Triple Crown Trail.

As I was preparing to write about the Illinois Derby, I noticed that a friend of mine, vicstu, at the Daily Racing Form FormBlog, hosted by Dan Illman, made a post about the race and his thoughts were similar to mine. So, I asked vicstu if I could share his race analysis and he said that would be okay:

“I agree with Steve T that American Lion [7-2] should be pretty tough in the Illinois Derby, and should give Cal. good representation, I have to wonder why Backtalk [3-1] is the favorite.

“He is a nice horse, certainly speedy with heart, but his Brisnet speed figs have gone from 103 downwards ever since he broke his maiden at 6f and began to slowly stretch out. His last out was 89, and while I am not exactly a speed figs guy, but is that a good trend?

“I like Yawanna Twist here to win, and not exactly sure what to make of Turf Melody [6-1].

“A nice longshot is the 8 horse Game Ball [12-1]. He won his first two races back on off turf sloppy dirt track at TBD [Tampa Bay Downs]. Made up about 12 lengths in the last 2-furlongs and won by over 8. His next time out against last out winners in an allowance he won again, on a dry track, with a powerful late move around the 2nd turn and stretch. He absolutely flies late despite no pace in his two races.

“[Game Ball] has been doing this on that deep track, and with absolutely ZERO pace to close into. Given the longer stretch at Hawthorne, the tighter track surface, as long as the jockey does not lose touch with the field, the son of Sky Mesa out of a Saint Ballado mare should be coming hard, late.

“Do NOT dismiss this lightly run colt trained by Mark Casse. …You will get at least 10-1 to 12-1 at post (IMHO).”

Posted by: vicstu on March 31, 2010 at 09:09 AM

vicstu, I agree 100 percent.

I like Yawanna Twist and long shot Game Ball for my win, place and exacta wagers. I also like Backtalk and American Lion to round out the exotics.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Santa Anita Derby Racing Roundup

This Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will send Lookin At Lucky, the 4-5 morning line favorite, to the starting gate for the 73rd running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1). But in a recent Daily Racing Form news story, Baffert seemed to downplay the importance of Lookin At Lucky’s favored status.

“It’s not a do-or-die race for me,” said Baffert. “If I can keep him fit and healthy, he can carry me the rest of the way [to the Kentucky Derby].”

The Silver Fox has been in this spot before.

Baffert has won the Santa Anita Derby a record five times and three of those horses – Pioneerof The Nile, Point Given and Indian Charlie - were the betting favorite at post time.

None of Baffert’s five previous Santa Anita Derby winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby. However, several were favored in the Kentucky Derby: Pioneerof The Nile finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby; Point Given finished fifth in 2001; co-favored General Challenge finished in 11th place in 1999 and Indian Charlie finished third in 1998. Cavonnier, the 5-1 Kentucky Derby betting choice, finished second in 1996.

Although Baffert has never won the Kentucky Derby with a Santa Anita Derby winner, he did win the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm who finished second in the 1997 Santa Anita Derby and Real Quiet who also finished second in the 1998 Santa Anita Derby.

So, we’ll see what happens Saturday.

Baffert definitely knows how to get his horses ready for the big race and I’m sure he is hoping that Lookin At Lucky gets an easy trip in the Santa Anita Derby. But at 4-5 odds, I’ll be looking for a couple of long shots for a small win, place wager and use them with Lookin At Lucky in the exotics.

That lands me on Skipshot (15-1) and Setsuko (20-1) who I believe have a decent chance to finish in the money or, with some luck, eek out a win.

Since transferring to the stable of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Skipshot has won three in row and he looks to be improving at the right time of year. Skipshot makes a big jump in class but his Brisnet Speed Figures make him more than competitive and a bullet work out March 28 indicates that he may be ready to run a good race.

With Skip Away as his sire and Sunny’s Halo as the damsire, the stretch out to 9-furlongs should not be a problem and I look for Skipshot to be competitive.

Richard Mandella also knows how to get his horses ready, too, and when Setsuko enters the gate he’s always ready to run. Setsuko comes into the Derby with a third-place finish in the Sham Stakes (G3) and he’s only missed hitting the board once in his seven previous starts. Setsuko has been working out better than he ever has and two back-to-back bullet work outs indicates that Setsuko may be ready to run a good race.