Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Today marks the one-year anniversary of when I made my first blog post and I thought it would be a good opportunity to review this past year and look forward to the upcoming year.

This blog is dedicated to all topics of interest about the Classic Champion Thoroughbred and the primary focus has been following 2- and 3-year-old thoroughbreds on the Triple Crown trail.

However, as often as possible, I endeavor to write about a wide variety of topics related to the Classic Champion Thoroughbred. I especially liked the blog about Burchard Von Oettingen, and his views about horse care. Oettingen was a world-renowned expert on Thorougbreds and breeding and Director of the Royal Stud of Trakehnen Germany.

Thomas Herding Technique founder Kerry M. Thomas has also been the subject of several blogs. Thomas is an investigator and researcher who studies the psychology and emergent properties of the horse. His views on breeding, Emotional Conformation and Behavorial Overcompensation are cutting edge and could have a big impact on the horse racing industy.

Sea The Stars and the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triompe is also one of my favorite blogs but the one I like most was the article I wrote for Horseplayer Magazine profiling the key Classic sire lines that have had an impact on the Triple Crown trail.

Writing those blogs is a lot of fun but the focus is always on the juveniles on the Triple Crown trail. In the future, I'd also like to write some blogs about breeding and European racing.

The pedigree is the most important piece of information available for racing fans and handicappers following the juveniles and a good understanding of pedigrees is especially important if you like to pick the next Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

Eskendereya, Winslow Homer and Super Saver were the top three horses on my watch list last January as I especially liked their pedigrees. Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby but, unfortunately, my top pick, Eskendereya, was retired after a career-ending injury and Winslow Homer was sidelined with an injury.

However, Winslow Homer is returning to racing this Saturday in the $250,000 Iowa Derby (G3) at Prairie Meadows. If Winslow Homer runs well, trainer Tony Dutrow said he could be considered for the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers Stakes (G1).

Summer Bird was my 2009 Kentucky Derby favorite. He finished a respectable sixth, and he later won the Belmont (G1), Travers (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) en route to earning an Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male.

On the whole, this was a pretty decent year for my first attempt at following the juveniles. From the handicapping perspective, unless you wagered a lot of money on the races I wrote about, you would not have become rich but you potentially could have pocketed $5,048.80 if you used the horses in profiled. That's not too bad for a few hours of weekend work.

All in all, I profiled 60 stakes races and I usually profile three to four horses to cover all of the wagering possibilities. If you wagered on all of the races I profiled, you would have cashed in on 27 exactas, 10 trifectas and three superfectas. Of the horses I profiled, there were 41 winners, 36 place finishers and 23 show horses.

The Summer Stakes (G3) was the best overall race. The $2 Exactor paid $77.40. $2 Triactor paid $321.30 and $2 Superfecta paid $1,907.90 for a total of $2,306.60.

The best exacta payoff was $161.50 in the Whirlaway Stakes.

And there were several long shots: Noble's Promise (Dixiana Breeders' Futurity); Laus Deo (Count Fleet Stakes); A Little Warm (Spectacular Bid Stakes); Deputy Daney i(Jimmy Winkfield Stakes); Peppi Knows (Whirlaway Stakes); Mission Impazible (Louisiana Derby G2); Dean's Kitten (Lane's End Stakes G2); Endorsement (Sunland Derby); Setsuko (Santa Anita Derby G1); Super Saver (Kentucky Derby G1); Drosselmeyer (Belmont Stakes G1).

My favorite angle of all is to try to find the potential long shot that will win. Of course, I did not make anywhere near the previouly mentioned sums of money but hopefully that will change this year.

Some things I learned: I do better at route races than sprints; California racing is not my best venue; it's always nice to pick the exact order of finish but the best way to cash tickets is play a three-horse exacta and trifecta box.

I hope, dear reader, that you have enjoyed the blogs and maybe made some money as well. Here's hoping that this next year will be even better.

Here's a look at the races I profiled:

Bashford Manor Stakes (G3): 1st – Backtalk. 2nd – Flatter Than Me. 3rd – Brassy Boy. 4th – Grand Slam Andre.

Colin Stakes: 3rd – Always Wildcatin’.

Graduation Stakes at Del Mar: 3rd – Daylight Storm.

Sanford Stakes (G2): 1st – Backtalk.

Best Pal Stakes (G2): 1st – Lookin at Lucky. 3rd – Smiling Tiger.

Vandal Stakes: 1st – Ghost Fleet. 2nd – Takiddin.

Saratoga Special (G2): 2nd – Zip Quick.

Sapling Stakes: 1st – Western Smoke.

Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3): 1st – Dixie Band. 3rd – Piscitelli.

Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (G1): 1st – Dublin.

Del Mar Futurity (G1): 1st – Lookin At Lucky. 2nd – Make Music For Me.

Belmont Futurity (G2): 1st – D’Funnybone. 2nd Discreetly Mine.

Summer Stakes (G3): 1st – Bridgetown. 2nd – Becky’s Kitten. 3rd – Fantastico Roberto. 4th – Mobil Unit.

Norfolk Stakes (G1): 1st – Lookin At Lucky.

Pilgrim Stakes: The race was taken off the turf and three of my profile horses scratched. 1st – Eskendereya.

Dixiana Breeders Futurity (G1): 1st – Noble’s Promise.

Champagne Stakes (G1): 2nd – Discreetly Mine, 3rd – Aspire, 4th – Super Saver, 5th – Dublin.

Bourbon Stakes (G3): 1st – Interactif. 2nd – Codoy.

Grey Stakes (G3): 1st – Bear Tough Guy. 4th – Ghost Fleet.

Iroquois Stakes (G3): 2nd – Uh Oh Bango. 3rd – Soaring Empire.

Hollywood Prevue Stakes (G3): 1st – American Lion. 4th – Macias.

The holidays put me behind and I did not profile any races in December.

Tropical Park Derby (G3): 2nd – Lost Aptitude. 4th – Our Champion.

Count Fleet Stakes: 1st – Laus Deo. 3rd – Turbo Speed . 4th – Ibboyee.

Turfway Prevue: 2nd – Fish. 4th – Lucky Chuck.

Spectacular Bid Stakes: 1st – A Little Warm. 2nd – Wildcat Frankie. 3rd – Westover Wildcat. 4th – Discreetly Mine.

San Rafael Stakes (G3): 1st – Conveyance.

Pasco Stakes: 1st – Uptowncharlybrown. 2nd – Big Looie. 4th – Silver Craft.

California Derby: 1st – Ranger Heartley. 2nd – Connemara . 3rd – Thomas Baines.

Smarty Jones Stakes: 1st – Dryfly. 2nd – Pleasant Storm. 4th – Crider.

Jimmy Winkfield Stakes: 1st – Deputy Daney. 2nd – Red Bengal.

Holy Bull Stakes (G3): 1st – Winslow Homer. 2nd – Jackson Bend.

Lecomte Stakes (G3): 2nd – Maximus Ruler.

WEBN Stakes: All my selections finished out of the money.

Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2): 1st – Caracacortado. 3rd – American Lion. 4th – Tiz Chrome.

Whirlaway Stakes:
1st – Peppi Knows. 2nd Afleet Again. 4th – Papa’s Nice Cat.

Sam F. Davis: 1st – Rule. 2nd – Schoolyard Dreams. Uptowncharlybrown.

San Vicente Stakes (G2): All of my selections finished out of the money.

Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2): 1st – Eskendereya.

Southwest Stakes (G3): 1st – Conveyance. 2nd – Dublin. 4th – Mission Impazible.

Risen Star Stakes (G2): 2nd – Tempted to Tapit.

El Camino Real Derby (G3): 1st – Connemara. 2nd - Haimish Hy. 3rd – Posse Power.

Hutcheson Stakes (G2): 1st – D’Funnybone. 2nd – A Little Warm.

Sham Stakes (G3): 2nd – Setsuko. 4th – Outlaw Man.

Borderland Derby: 1st – Storming Saint. 2nd – Raise The Bridle.

Gotham Stakes (G3): 1st – Awesome Act. 2nd – Yawanna Twist.

Rebel Stakes (G2): 1st – Lookin At Lucky. 2nd – Noble’s Promise. 3rd – Dublin.

San Felipe Stakes (G2): 2nd – Interactif. 3rd – Caracortado. 4th – American Lion.

Tampa Bay Derby: 1st – Odysseus. 2nd – Schoolyard Dreams. 3rd – Super Saver.

Florida Derby (G1): 3rd – Rule. 4th – Lentenor.

Louisiana Derby (G2): 1st – Mission Impazible. 3rd – Drosselmeyer.

Lane’s End Stakes (G2): 1st – Dean’s Kitten. 2nd – Northern Giant.

Sunland Derby (G3): 1st – Endorsement. 2nd – Conveyance. 3rd – Tempted To Tapit.

Wood Memorial Stakes (G1): 1st – Eskendereya. 2nd – Jackson Bend. 3rd – Awesome Act. 4th – Schoolyard Dreams.

Santa Anita Derby (G1): 2nd – Setsuko. 3rd – Lookin At Lucky.

Illinois Derby (G1): 1st – American Lion. 2nd – Yawanna Twist. 3rd – Backtalk.

Bluegrass Stakes (G1): 2nd – Paddy O’Prado. 4th – Interactif.

Arkansas Derby (G1): 2nd Super Saver. 3rd – Dublin.

Kentucky Derby (G1): 1st – Super Saver. 2nd – Ice Box..

Preakness Stakes (G1): 1st – Lookin At Lucky.

Belmont Stakes (G1): 1st – Drosselmeyer. 2nd – Fly Down.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rachel Overcomes Behavioral Restrictions

In his latest article, Behavioral Overcompensation: The Greatest Hurdle for Efficiency-of-Motion, Thomas Herding Technique founder Kerry M. Thomas outlines one of the main causes preventing Thoroughbreds from becoming successful equine athletes.

The article debuted in Brian Zipse’s “Technical” blog which he posted at 6:42 a.m. on Saturday, June 12 and later that day, a perfect example of what Thomas wrote about was demonstrated by 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra when she crushed a field of four by 10 ½ lengths in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Not only did Rachel win in magnificent style but she covered the 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:48.78 which was the fastest time recorded for that distance at Churchill Downs’ current meet.

Here’s an excerpt from the Thomas article:

“Like its cousins running free in the wild, the horse was born to run – swift and magnificent. But one of the greatest obstacles preventing it from becoming a successful equine athlete is Behavioral Overcompensation.

What is Behavioral Overcompensation?

“It is when the equine athlete alters its natural running style, due to a physical or an emotionally-perceived restriction, resulting in a loss of the athlete’s efficiency of motion.”

Thomas went on to say in the article that “Footing surface and condition, blinkers, shadow rolls and even the tack a horse wears are a few examples of physical restrictions that can cause the horse to alter its natural running style.”

Many racing fans had wondered why the brilliant Rachel Alexandra had been so dull in her previous two starts this year. A clue to that lackluster performance may come from Sid Fernando who in his recent blog notes that Rachel did not wear the figure-8 noseband in the Fleur de Lis and she had worn it in her previous two starts this year. Rachel also did not wear the figure-8 noseband in all of 2009 en route to claiming Horse of the Year honors.

Thomas continued in the article: “The horse has to feel comfortable and have confidence in order to perform at peak levels. …The most important factor for the equine athlete is to perform with peak efficiency of motion. If your horse does not transition well, or swiftly, he/she is not being efficient, and you are not getting the most from their ability.”

Rachel definitely appeared to be “comfortable” yesterday as she cruised to victory amidst the exuberant cheers of racing fans.

It appears that Rachel is back to her previous racing form and in addition to conditioning, an equipment change may have been just what the doctor ordered to cure Rachel’s 2010 racing blues and overcome her Behavioral Overcompensation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Belmont Racing Roundup

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has already won the Belmont Stakes (G1) – twice with long shots – but this time he has a chance to win with the 3-1 morning line favorite Ice Box who heads a field of 12 entered in the $1 million Belmont Stakes.

Ice Box was my long shot pick to win the Fountain of Youth. Ice Box finished fifth in that contest, beaten 12 lengths by Eskendereya, but he came back a month later and won the Florida Derby (G1). I had an exacta with Ice Box and Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

With Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky skipping the Belmont, Ice Box is the only horse left that I like on the Triple Crown trail and he is the only horse that I am confident about in the Belmont. I don’t know if he will win but I believe that he will finish first or second and that is how I will plan my wagering strategy.

At 12 furlongs, the Belmont is the most grueling of the Triple Crown races. Ice Box definitely has the breeding to get the distance and other horses I believe that has the best potential to do well in the Belmont are Spangled Star (30-1), Fly Down (9-2), Drosselmeyer (12-1) and Stately Victor (15-1).

Last time out, Spangled Star ran a 101 Brisnet Speed Figure – his best yet – in the Withers Stakes (G3). I believe that Spangled Star has room to improve off that effort and I like his breeding. His sire, Distorted Humor, sired the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Funny Cide. On the distaff portion of Spangled Star’s pedigree, he gets plenty of stamina influence from his damsire Kris S. and the Classic Champion thoroughbreds Roberto and Alysheba.

In addition to a speed figure progression, I also like to see good work outs just before a race and a bullet work on May 21 tells me that Spangled Star may be ready to run another good race.

If you throw out the Louisiana Derby (G2), Fly Down is undefeated for the year with a first-place finish in an allowance race in February and he cruised to a 6-length victory in the Dwyer Stakes (G2) last month. In the Dwyer, Fly Down ran a 101 speed figure – his best yet – and I believe he should improve off of that effort.

Fly Down was sired by Mineshaft and gets plenty of stamina influence from A. P. Indy and Seattle Slew. His damsire, Fly So Free also imparts stamina and has produced several route winners – most notably, Dubai World Cup winner Captain Steve.

The speed figure progression and recent bullet work out indicates to me that Zito has Fly Down ready to run another good race.

Drosselmeyer has been in the money in seven of eight starts and I look for him to run a good race in the Belmont. Distorted Humor is also the sire of Drosselmeyer and on the distaff side he gets plenty of stamina influence from Moscow Ballet, Nijinsky and Slew o Gold.

Drosselmeyer’s speed figures have been good and Steve Haskin, Senior Correspondent of The Blood-Horse, noted that his recent bullet work out was the best of all the Belmont entrants.

Stately Victor has the pedigree to win the Belmont and if he takes to the surface he could be very tough. Stately Victor gets plenty of stamina from his sire Ghostzapper and Awesome Again. On the bottom of the pedigree, Dynaformer and Roberto add plenty of stamina influence.

Well there you have it. Those are the horses I believe have the best potential to do well in the Belmont.

If you have never checked out the Daily Racing Form FormBlog hosted by Dan Illman you may want to give it a look. Every week, usually on Wednesday, they have a Handigambling contest where posters can make wagers with a fictional bankroll of $100 dollars on a pre-selected race. The Belmont is this week's race and the poster that makes the most money with the fictional $100 wager will get a free Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan from the DRF.

Here are my Handgambling picks:

Handigambling – Belmont Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has already won the Belmont Stakes, twice, but this time he has a chance to win the Belmont with a favorite – Ice Box (6). This year’s Belmont appears to be wide open and I like several long shots that should have the ability to get 12 furlongs: Spangled Star (2), Fly Down (5), Drosselmeyer (7) and Stately Victor (9).

$2 Win/Place – 2 = $4

$3 Exacta – 6 /2-5-7-9 = $12
$3 Exacta – 2-5-7-9/ 6 = $12

$2 Trifecta – 6 /2-5-7-9/2-5-7-9 = $24
$2 Trifecta – 2-5-7-9/ 6 /2-5-7-9 = $24

.50 Superfecta – 6 /2-5-7-9/2-5-7-9/2-5-7-9 = $12
.50 Superfecta – 2-5-7-9/ 6 /2-5-7-9/2-5-7-9 = $12

Total = $100