10/22/2008 1:35PM

Choosing Your Battles



1:35 pm: Cluck. Meow. Whatever. I'm not getting seriously involved in today's gargantuan pick-6 pool at Belmont despite the $1.019 million carryover. Go ahead and call me a big chicken, but I'm putting in $500 or less instead of my personal-maximum $5,000 that a playable carryover of this size might seem to warrant.

It's not just the four turf sprints, the two maiden claimers, or the 17 first-time starters. If I had some good ideas -- even one or two -- I'd be in there swinging. These opportunities are rare. A $1 million carryover means $1 million in free money. If there are 10 winners, each will get $100,000 more than he otherwise would. If it's easy enough that there are 100 winners, each ticket will pay $10,000 extra.

But it's a card where I could make out $100,000 worth of tickets and still feel like I was a heavy favorite to go under 4 1/2. With fields of 12x10x10x9x11x12, there are over 1.4 million possible combos. At least nobody can buy the thing unless he's got a spare $2,851,200 burning a hole in his pocket.

You almost have to always deal with a big and messy field somewhere in a pick-6. That's usually the race where I'll use almost everyone, splitting nine horses into three A's, three B's and three C's, hoping I'm smart enough elsewhere to pick up 6 or 9 of them by the time that race rolls around. I can deal with one or two of those races on a card. Today it feels like there are six of them. I just don't know where to start.

So I'm planning on a small sacrificial offering, a caveman ticket of 2 or 3 per race just in case it's My Lucky Day. Today I am chum, a guppie, an amateur, a tourist, a sucker, dead money. I'll kibbitz the sequence here as it unfolds, rooting to stay alive as long as that lasts and then rooting for bombs so implausible that we just might get a $3 million carryover into tomorrow's far more manageable card.

I don't mean to dissuade anybody else from diving in. Some people love these kinds of cards, excel at turf sprints, and like handicapping races where a majority of the horses have never raced at today's distance and surface -- a little bit like this year's Breeders' Cup.

--Our apologies for the technical difficulties with the two DRF blogs the last few days. Typepad, the  software Dan Illman and I both use to post our entries and your comments, sprung an update on us that has wreaked different types of havoc with our blogs. The damage here has been limited to the archive, which calls up an ancient post about the timing difficulties from last February's Fountain of Youth no matter where you click. Spooky. Dan's been hit harder, unable to post any readers' comments. I'm told we're "working on it."

2:30 pm: Here we go. I kept it to $240 $360:

The board for the first leg opened with McLaughlin third-timer Winthrop House 6-5, two others with experience 6-1, and all six first-timers seemingly icy at double-digit prices ranging from 14-1 to 66-1. The pick-3 willpays into the race also showed no support for the firsters, so I went with the two faves on my sad little ticket.

One possibly useful new tool for dealing with the increase of leg-2 races with firsters, as today's 5th is, are the rolling-doubles pools. This proved helpful to me Sunday, when I saw that Rosie's Run, the Kathleen DeMasi firster in leg 2 who figured 15-1 or better on paper, was the fourth or fifth choice in the double pool; she won like a good thing at 9-1. The problem is that you're dealing with pretty small pools by the time you have to put in your tickets, and most bettors seem to be ignoring these pools. But for what it's worth, with $14k in the pool at this writing,the only firster taking money in race 5 is Kaleidoscope Sky, third choice in most of the doubles and half the price of the three other firsters. So I used him and the favored Contessa entry as my two in the 5th.

2:34 pm: Mott firster Cross the Divide bet down from 14-1 to 10-1, so I added him to the first leg, increasing the investment from $240 to $360.

2:40 pm: Winthrop House got the job done at $5.80 with Master third and Cross the Divide nowhere. What an easy game.  Lots of happy guppies who singled the chalk. Lots of scowling whales who bought the race. 

3:15 pm: Knocked out in the second round but feeling strangely relieved and vindicated for doing the Chicken Dance. I'd have had to go at least 6 deep or more to come up with Staywaystella ($31.40), first-time turf with nothing wonderfully appealing on pedigree and dropping from MSW to MC after two double-digit defeats on the dirt. First three finishers, 14-1/10-1/70-1, combined for a $7882 triple. First two pick-six winners combined for a $142 double.

Wasn't planning to do any more Belmont betting today but Shine On Me, one of my two choices in the upcoming 6th, just opened at 19-1 and is the 8th choice in the double and pick-3 willpays. First time for tag, Prado named, owns field's second-best turf-sprint fig...time to get into some trouble.

3:50 pm: Tempest Storm a runaway box-to-wire winner as part of a Contessa entry that ran 1-3 on  seemingly speed-favoring turf that's so hard these conditioned claimers and maidens have hung up times of 1:21.49, 1:09.66 and 1:21.42 so far. Pick-3 comprising first half of pick-6 came back $407.50 for $2 despite two post-time favorites. Shine On Me...didn't.

4:25 pm: The Shaughraun ($19.00) outfinished T Harry, heaviest favorite in the sequence card, to win leg 4 and increase the parlay to $2,638.46 and counting.

5:00 pm: Sky Mesa ($11.40) in the 8th set up the following willpays. There will be from 4 to 14 winners with the 1,2,3,4,7,9 and 10; one winner at $2.3 million with the 5 or 6; and a five-day, $2.3 million carryover with the 8,11 or 12:

1-$196,855 (12 winners)

2-$472,453 (5 winners)

3-$346,882 (7 winners)

4-$171,054 (14 winners)

5-$2,362,267 (1 winner)

6-$2,362,267 (1 winner)

7-$214,751 (11 winners)


9-$590,566 (4 winners)

10-$168,733 (14 winners)



The three carryover possibilities are all first-time starters, trained by Roy Lerman, Jeff Odintz and Gary Gullo, who are a combined 1-for-55 with firsters in 2007-2008, and who have opened at 99-1, 31-1 and 25-1.

5:25 pm: George Weaver firster Kiss and Fly ($30.60) completed four winning tickets at $590,566 apiece by making up about eight lengths down the stretch to win the nightcap. She was the 7th choice in a field of 12 but the third most heavily-backed of the seven firsters in the race.

Okay, back to those Breeders' Cup pp's.....

woodridgephil More than 1 year ago
steve, breeders cup fri. dont like it feels like any other day witha few big races. to relegate zenyatta to a side show is a joke. one big day 12 races.
rick More than 1 year ago
watching "blinkers off" on friday morning, and i'm wondering whether watchmaker thinks he's ed bradley. what's with the pirate earring? guessing he likes arrrrr tomorrow at finger lakes!!!!!!!!!!
Flipper Dawson More than 1 year ago
Once the dust clears this weekend, I have a true story that will keep you all chuckling for days. Best of luck to all. Here is a teaser for you. The trainer has a last name pronounced FOB. Get on for the ride!!!
Prozac Jack More than 1 year ago
Steve, or anyone out there. What is the best "deal" out there for watching replays ? and what is the best betting hub, I'm tired of U- bet. To all my east coast friends it's HOT as h-ll in Calif, so BEWARE when betting stone cold closers on this track a horse that can race mid-pack and can quicken is the horse preferred. Santa Anita waits for NO one.....
Walt More than 1 year ago
These are picks from the method that I am a part of for SATURDAY's BC card at Santa Anita: Race 1 (BC Marathon): 2-5/4-3/8-9 Race 2 (BC Turf Sprint): 3/14-10-7-8-2/5 Race 3 (BC Dirt Mile): 11-6-3-5-9/8-10 Race 4 (BC Mile): 4-7-3-8/10/2-11 Race 5 (BC Juvenile): 12/11/4-1-6-13/9 Race 6 (BC Juvenile Turf): 12-10-4-3-7/11 Race 7 (BC Sprint): 6-9/3/2-1-5-8 Race 8 (BC Turf): 5-11/4-3-9/10 Race 9 (BC Classic): 9-11/4-5-8/6-7 Race 10 (Damascus Stakes): 1/7-12/11/6-14 Race 11 (Oak Tree Derby): 6-2-3-11/10-1-13-14 There are a few races that look very interesting from a playing standpoint on Saturday. The first is the Turf Sprint (Race 2), where the value play is TUNE TO TRADITION (#3), who has been a different horse for Scott Lake since adding blinkers four starts ago for Scott Lake. He is a nose short of being unbeaten since adding blinkers, and scored his biggest win so far last out in the Grade 2 Nearctic over a downhill course (that aside from the dirt crossing Santa Anita has is) similar to this one at Woodbine. Before that, he easily took the Turf Monster (a race likely to receive Graded status in 2009) at Philadelphia Park and has many times over proven to have been worth the $35,000 Lake took him for in August 2007 at Saratoga. He can come from just off the pace, and that may be enough to take this. He is worth a play as a 9-2/15-1 (9-2 value line/15-1 morning line) horse. MR. NIGHTLINER (#14) will be one of those setting the pace, along with CALIFORNIA FLAG (#10), who are next in line on the value line in this race. ROUSE THE CAT (#7) just missed to the pick in the Nearctic and follows in the value plays. DIABOLICAL (#8) was actually the top sprinter in the country for part of 2007 and returns to the US for the first time since taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (Grade 2) at Saratoga last year. He has been respectful on turf in Europe since and should be a factor. The remaining value play in this race is FLEETING SPIRIT (#2), who is first lasix and has been running with the best sprinters in Europe. The next value play is in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Race 5), and that is BUSHRANGER (#12), who is 3-1 on the value line and 6-1 on the morning line. He has been solid on turf in Europe with two Group 1 wins, and it may simply be a question of whether or not he is able to handle the switch to a synthetic surface and one of getting the distance facing what appears to be a subpar field of two year olds. MIDSHIPMAN (#11, 3-1/5-1) is the next best value line. He took the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity two back and then was second to Street Hero (#8) in the Grade 1 Norfolk last time. He will be a serious threat regardless. The third pick is more of a probability horse, SQUARE EDDIE (#4). He probably will be overbet off his romp in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last out, but he definitely will be in the mix, headline a bunch of horses who's value lines equal or exceed their morning line odds. The next value plays are in the Sprint (Race 7), where BLACK SEVENTEEN (#6, 6-1/15-1) and FATAL BULLET (#9, 7-2/6-1) are both value plays. Black Seventeen appeared to return to his old form in taking the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park last out, and does have back numbers from his three year old campaign that say he can advance further. He also came from slightly off the pace last time, and a repeat trip may suffice. Fatal Bullet is 7-for-8 on synthetic tracks, including taking most recently the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park. He doesn't necessairly need the lead either, and if he can handle this acid test will be a serious threat. FABULOUS STRIKE (#3) set a pressured pace in the Vosburgh and could not quite hold on against Black Seventeen. He has the top probability numbers and will be a serious factor. The next value plays are in the Turf (Race 8), where we have a similar value line setup with the top two picks to the Sprint. WINCHESTER (#5, 6-1/15-1) romped in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington when first time lasix in his US debut two months ago. He is bred to handle this distance, and he likely has been trained up to this race back across the pond, shipping back over for this event. EAGLE MOUNTAIN (#11, 7-2/6-1) has to also go into any top tier picks, especially in multi-race wagers. He took his only start of 2008 so far and has the back class to take this himself. SOLIDER OF FOURTUNE (#4) was third in the Arc last out and while the morning line favorite is the next best value play, followed by GRAND COUTURIER (#3) and CONDUIT (#9), who took the St. Ledger (Group 1) at Doncaster last out and has shown he can handle the distance. The Classic (Race 9) actually has CURLIN (#9, 4-5/7-5) as a value play. The obvious question with him is if he can handle the synthetic surface, but if he can, he will join Tiznow (2000-'01) as the only two time winner of the Classic. COLONEL JOHN (#11, 12-1/20-1) is the other value play here. The Travers winner is 4-for-7 overall on synthetics and will be a serious threat. The three Euro imports, DUKE OF MARMALDE (#4, 8-1/10-1), HENRYTHENAVIGATOR (#5, 8-1, 10-1) and RAVEN'S PASS (8-1/6-1, but listed as a Class 1 so he is a value play) round out the value plays in the Classic. What may be the best bet of Breeders' Cup Saturday to me is actually the race following the Classic, the Damascus Stakes (Race 10). DANCING IN SILKS (#1, 3-1/15-1) is a MAJOR value play in that race. He won for the first time while coming from off the pace and likely will be a serious overlay in a race loaded with horses returning from lengthy layoffs. VICTOR'S CRY (#7, 15-1/20-1) is technically the only other price play in this race. He moves back to the synthetics after a fourth on turf last time and will be closing late. GEORGIE BOY (#12, 5-2/2-1) is the probability horse. He looked like a serious Derby contended early this year before being sidelined by a pulled muscle after his win in the Grade 2 San Felipe in March over the previous version of the synthetic track here. He has solid works for his return and will be a factor. This should be a great second day of the Breeders' Cup!! Hope you have a great one!
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
Not that I used it but Stayawaystella had the best fig in the face, albeit on dirt. Had I used SAS I would have had three, same as Steve. What a debacle, congrats to the whales. And of course, best to The Chief.
jeff More than 1 year ago
Friday.....Pure Clan Saturday...Skipadate Go to the bank !!!
Nick Briglia More than 1 year ago
A horse going from 14-1 to 10-1 is worth throwing away an extra 120 dollars??? You would have been better off throwing 20 to win on him. You would have saved 100 bucks and if he won you would have covered your pick 6 bet..... Horses makes moves like that in the odds all the time. Almost completely meaningless...
jim More than 1 year ago
Steve, My thoughts are that Zenyatta is the most vulnerable favorite tomorrow. I did't review pps yet but with all the buzz i've learned to go the other way plus i'm not sure she has wandered too far from california in her career. she may blow them away but i think we have all seen a fair share of blowups in the distaff.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize that unigold was entered into a dirt race....a little surprised by it, actually, given how strong he ran today on the dirt, but the dirt was a huge factor in his win chances; he ran a decent enough third behind a strong pace. Why would you waste a good effort like that on the dirt? Oh well. I'm sure there's a reason for everything, and I think the trainer - Jacobson - is underrated, so benefit of the doubt granted, I guess. Can't really endorse going forward, but I hope he does well, I love old warriors who can still win. *** Speaking of benefit of the doubt, I have to give that to Forever Together. She's done everything asked of her, she's still got that electrifying kick, if the barn says she can do this over this course, I'm going to go along for the ride, assuming she's not crushed.