09/05/2009 11:50AM

Big Star vs. Big Boys


We're fast and firm on closing Saturday at Saratoga, and the countdown has begun for Rachel Alexandra's march into yet another uncharted territory.  This time it's the older males that may end up weak at the knees if The Lady has her way.  Let's take a look at some of this weekend's major stakes races.  For a fun look at today's late Pick 4 at Saratoga with the great Harvey Pack, please head on over to this link:


Forego (Saratoga):
I really like KODIAK KOWBOY to kick off the Guaranteed Pick 4 despite his inside post position.  Last week, we saw a long-term plan come together when Ian Wilkes took down the King's Bishop with Capt. Candyman Can.  I think the goal for Kodiak Kowboy since winning the Carter Handicap in early April was this race.  His first start of the form cycle saw him overwhelm much weaker foes at Philadelphia Park, and we can treat his third-place finish in the Vanderbilt on August 9 at the Spa as a good, hard prep run.  The track seemed to be favoring speed that afternoon, and Kodiak Kowboy's normal running style may have been compromised by the bias.  He still ran on to be third behind the two pacesetters, and now stretches out to a very comfortable seven furlongs.  Kodiak Kowboy will attempt to win a graded race at Saratoga for the third straight season.  He won the Saratoga Special here at two, and the Amsterdam last year.  There should be pace to setup his late kick as the two horses that dueled themselves into defeat in the Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont (DRIVEN FOR SUCCESS, RILEY TUCKER) are both scheduled to compete.
Selection:  Kodiak Kowboy

Pat O'Brien (Sunday, Del Mar):
I'm a huge fan of ZENSATIONAL.  He's like a wild mustang, freewheeling on the lead with no care given to the early fractions.  It's "come and catch me if you can," and that's a very exciting style to watch.  The gray has been like a streak of lightning in his last two races against older sprinters, capturing both the Grade 1 Triple Bend at Hollywood, and the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar in gate-to-wire fashion.  He looks loose once again in the Pat O'Brien on Sunday, and will certainly be tough to down at a short price, but value players may take a small stand with TALKIN TO MOM ROO, a former $40,000 claim that chased Zensational in vain in the Bing.  Talkin to Mom Roo has really come into his own this form cycle, switches to Tyler Baze, and may be a bit more effective at this seven-furlong distance.  
Selections:  Talkin to Mom Roo, Zensational

Pacific Classic (Sunday, Del Mar):
Well, RAIL TRIP certainly made a believer out of me in the Hollywood Gold Cup.  I thought he was strictly a miler, but he looked the part going 10 furlongs, rating comfortably off the speed of TRES BORRACHOS, taking over at will turning for home, and keeping on to his task in fast time.  He's always had the potential to take over the mantle as top handicap horse on the West Coast, and the performance finally equaled the potential in the Gold Cup.  The Pacific Classic is no walkover with a quality field that includes the likes of Travers winner COLONEL JOHN, and the classy EINSTEIN, but Rail Trip may get the jump on them from just off the pace.
Selection:  Rail Trip

Quick and dirty opinions:

*Woodward:  RACHEL ALEXANDRA should be used as the 'A' on 90% of Pick 4 tickets, but just in case the ghosts at the "Graveyard of Favorites" decide to claim Rachel as one of their own, I'll throw in COOL COAL MAN...just in case.
Selections:  Cool Coal Man, Rachel Alexandra

*Darley Debutante:  Mi Sueno, Blind Luck, Repo

*Spinaway (Sunday):  Hot Dixie Chick, Beautician, Sassy Image

*Del Mar Derby (Sunday):  Papa Clem, Midnight Mischief, Battle of Hastings

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.


Congrats to Hairy for finishing first in this week's HandiGambling exercise.  He gets to select next week's race


Enjoy the great racing!


easygoer More than 1 year ago
HandiG2gambling: I like the 3. She's won the most money this year, second off a layoff, 4-for-4 at the distance on turf. Of course, I could be wrong. $26 WP 3 $1 TB 3,6,8,10 $1 SB 3,6,8,10
americashorse More than 1 year ago
Dude, You are so 2-5 and such a horrendous handicapper. Stop publishing your picks, you're just costing people money in a time they most likely need it most. Left you a psimilar comment about a month ago which you didnt post. But seiously, you need to give up on the public handicapping. Like i stated before you are conssitently off with your picks and you typically chalk it up to no avail. Anyways would still love the pp's for left bank. Serious monster of a horse.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
This is 3yo curlin I'm using, let's remember. He got better at 4. 4yo Curlin probably would have won the Woodward this year. I think that's fair to say, and in my mind, at least, it doesn't diminish RA. She'll be 4, herself, next year, of course, and if she makes natural improvement just as Curlin did, then she would compete well with him, theoretically. But that's total conjecture. It just postulates that they both undergo the same improvement from 3 to 4. Don't forget that Curlin chose the Travers as a 3yo, a perfectly reasonable choice, I don't remember the cast from the Woodward that year, so who knows if anyone ever broached the subject? I can't remember if anyone suggested he run in the Woodward at 3 here on Dan's blog? My guess is, that he would have been in steep in the Woodward as a 3yo, but that's a guess, I have no idea who was running, and won, etc.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
RA: 1-1 Z: 7-5 C: 6-1 SS: 8-1 HS: 15-1 AG: 60-1 I would consider this to be a natural line, which reflects, somewhat the earlier # of wins per 100 races. However, Z is the component for which I have the least confidence, but if she's as good as I think she may be, this feels right to me. Plus, the race sets up so well for her, right distance and pace dynamics. The dirt question is the feature that causes my doubt and ultimately has me believing that RA would win the majority of races. As a gambler, the only thing I need to consider is the real odds in relationship to my natural line. If SS, for example, consistently went off in such a race at 12-1, he'd probably represent the "value" in the series, since that would produce a profit if he indeed is capable of winning 11 of the 100. I can honestly say that as much as I think of RA and Z, 12-1 means more to me, I get antsy, and sweaty, it's almost as bad as being in love. Degenerate horseplayer present and accounted for.
Steve T. More than 1 year ago
C, I wasn't using the times per se, I was comparing the pace that the races were run at to show that synthetic races are not run differently. Slew, I don't think any of the synthetics favor one style or another - the studies I have done on them say they all have identical ratios of frontrunners to stalkers to closers. To successfully bet synthetics you have to drop the notions of the track favoring one style or the other; just handicap it as if it was a neutral surface. Here is an interesting observation about Del Mar (but could apply to any Poly track) - older horses behave like maidens in their first races over the surface. What I mean is that you get a first run "flash and fade" with a 54 Beyer, and then in the next race they win going away with an 88 Beyer. They have that same progression thing going on. It also seems to extend out to the third run, but usually there has been a previous progression and the betting public is on to them. It would seem that the change in tracks and surfaces may have more impact than we think, although the flurry of breakdowns at any track in the first weeks was screaming that.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I see I forgot about SS. RA: 37 wins Z: 32 wins C: 13 wins SS: 11 wins HS: 6 wins AG: 1 win
johnnyz More than 1 year ago
Tinky, Your are a bright person and, obviously educated in the racing world. Although, IMO you perceive yourself to have all the right answers on all subjects. “In RA's case, it really is very obvious that she is a top-class miler, and that she stays up to around nine furlongs. Her two meaningful performances at 9 and 9.5f. (i.e. the Woodward and Preakness) both suggested that she was at the end of her tether. Winning a race, contrary to what you suggest above, has never been proof that a horse stays, or is best suited to a particular distance. Horses win races at distances beyond their best fairly frequently, either because they have some tactical advantage, or because they are so superior to their opposition that they win in spite of the disadvantage.” Your comment that Rachel “is very obvious that she is a top-class miler” just wants to make me throw up! First she has never ran 10F, her bloodlines no way suggest that she can’t get 10F, and more importantly her class would indicate to me that if ridden correctly that 10F would be a piece of cake and 12F wouldn’t be out of the question. Bottom line with me is, Rachel has handled every challenge thrown her way this year. Also, her biggest challenge; Zenyatta and connections while stating that HOY is on their agenda have no intention of ever making a true attempt to run against her! For the life of me, I really question why some can’t see and state the obvious in how great a race horse Rachel is.
Blue Horseshoe More than 1 year ago
vicstu, Why do you keep trying to support your arguments by comparing fractions and times from different races run on different days over different circumstances??? Nearly every serious handicapper understands this obvious flaw and it's hard to take your passioned arguments seriously... If you must do this then at least take Rachel's Mother Goose fractions and final time...
Hillbilly More than 1 year ago
Rachel's Critics: 8 for 8 in 09 6 states: 5 Grade 1's 2 Twenty length scores in Gr1 1 The only horse to ever win the Preakness from 13 hole. 1 Beat older Gr1 horses as 3 year old filly. And she's overrated? Are you kidding me? You guys are simply nuts! I mean seriously nuts!
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
pensign, Count me in on hating to see either lose this year.