05/02/2008 8:03PM

Derby Day


Derby Day Opinions:

Churchill Downs Handicap (Race 5)
Go-Go pulled off an upset with Tizdejavu, and I'll hope for one more with Carnack's Choice.  Yes, I know that he looks like a synthetic wonder, but he did break his maiden at Churchill at two, and he has a solid mud pedigree.  He's a stalker, and can take advantage of a hot pace up front.  Elite Squadron almost scored the shocker in the Commonwealth at Keeneland, and he won over the Churchill slop last year.  He's going to have to fly from the inside post, however, and Spotsgone and Hewitts may both have designs on the lead.  Junior College wouldn't be a surprise at all.  He's been extremely consistent for several months now, and his stalking style should play well here.  Noonmark likes it wet, but has been plagued by layoff lines.  It will be interesting to see how Thousand Words handles wet dirt.
Selection:  Carnack's Choice

La Troienne (Race 6):
Secret Gypsy was a tremendous debut winner at Saratoga last summer, but she has been mired on our Disabled List ever since.  She now returns stretching out a quarter-mile in a tough graded stake, and must deal with the inside post to boot.  There's no telling how good she is, and I won't let her beat me in multi-race wagers, but she's a puzzling proposition if the price is light.  Informed Decision and Alina are both certainly usable.  The former earned a triple-digit Beyer over polytrack at Keeneland, but she's proven on dirt.  Alina gave Eight Belles and Pure Clan all they could handle in the Fantasy at Oaklawn, and is capable of utilizing more patient tactics.  Game Face looked like a star in the making when blowing away the field in the Old Hat, then drifted badly in the Davona Dale.  If she brings her 'A' game to the table for Pletchazquez, she'll be very tough.  Keep the Peace may be the speed of the speed, but could be vulnerable at this distance.
Selections:  Secret Gypsy, Informed Decision, Alina

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Race 7)
I have all the respect in the world for Dreaming of Anna, but she draws outside in this race, and Bayou's Lassie may keep her company in the early stages.  I'm hoping this race sets up nicely for Ventura, who has been soooo impressive in both of her starts in North America.  She was shuffled back to last on the final turn of the Madison, but just inhaled the field once clear in upper stretch.  Bayou's Lassie has compiled an enviable win mark, and has worked well on this surface.  A prolonged battle with Dreaming of Anna would likely take its toll, however.  Sharp Susan beat next-out graded winner Criminologist in a Keeneland allowance, but she enjoyed a good trip that day, and has a tendency to get very headstrong in the early going.  Danzon received an excellent prep at Keeneland, and has run some big races.  She'll be running hard in the stretch.
Selections:  Ventura, Dreaming of Anna

Humana Distaff (Race 8)
There are some very good filly sprinters in this race, but I'm a fan of Graeme Six, and think she can handle the step up in class.  She showed glimpses last year when second in the Grade 1 Prioress behind the fleet Dream Rush, and has really come to hand this winter.  She can rate from just off the expected fast pace, but is unproven over a wet track.  Miraculous Miss has a potent stretch kick, and she finished up her 2007 with a pair of triple-digit Beyers.  Seven furlongs seems right up her alley, and she should make her presence felt with a strong stretch kick  Miss Macy Sue ran well despite trouble in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and she dominated two outclassed rivals in her prep race.  She's won 10 of 19, and is certainly capable of taking this.  Hystericalady, the defending Humana champion, draws a tough inside post, and has missed some time with minor physical problems.  She's logical, but may not offer enough value.  Sugar Swirl dominated the division at Gulfstream over the winter, and is a true seven furlong specialist.  She loves wet tracks.  This should be a barn-burner.
Selection:  Graeme Six

Turf Classic (Race 9)
You don't have to be a genius to pick Einstein, and since I'm no genius, I'm picking Einstein.  I've always believed that if he's right, he's one of the best turf horses in the country.  My only concern is that he may not really like the Churchill course (0-3 here).  Thorn Song hung in gamely in the Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland and, unlike Einstein, has always done well at Churchill Downs.  He may show the early way in a virtually paceless race.  I'm going to give War Monger a mulligan for the Makers Mark Mile as he made this huge wide move before packing it in during the stretch drive.  He's much better than that, and can rebound here at a better price.  Golden Balls may have needed his return in the Arcadia, and has shown strong stretch ability.
Selections:  Einstein, Thorn Song

Kentucky Derby (Race 10)
We may have been spoiled by last year's very good crop of three-year-olds.  Aside from Big Brown, Colonel John, and perhaps, Pyro, this group may be more ordinary than brilliant.  In years past, we've seen horses like War Emblem and Charismatic arrive on the scene late only to go on a roll in the Triple Crown races.  I believe that Recapturetheglory can follow the same route.  Perhaps he was aided by a speed bias at Hawthorne (I don't think it was that bad), but he won the Illinois Derby the right way.  He withstood pace pressure, and ran hard all the way through the wire.  True, the pace should be fast in the Derby, but I don't think he can outrun Bob Black Jack and Big Brown to the front, and may end up in a good spot stalking those two.  If the favorite doesn't fire, don't be surprised if Recapturetheglory is in front when they turn for home.  Big Brown has been utterly brilliant in his short career, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he runs off the screen despite his inexperience and poor post.  While he is a must-use for me in the exotics and multi-race wagers, I just can't play him to win at a short price.  I firmly believe that Colonel John is the real deal.  He's extremely consistent, and will get the proper pace setup.  That fast workout doesn't worry me at all.  Eoin Harty cut his teeth under Bob Baffert, and Baffert worked Real Quiet and Silver Charm fast before their Derby wins.  He'll run late and well.  Gayego has already outrun his pedigree by winning the Arkansas Derby, and he did all the running in that race.  He is another speed horse breaking from a tough post, but I believe he can rate as well.  Bob Black Jack is such a likeable horse that I can't throw him out despite his obvious flaws (distance limitations, pace scenario).  I think he has the best early speed of the group, and he has rated kindly in his two route starts.  He probably can't win this race, but at 50-1, is worth a cheap thrill for a couple of bucks. 
Selections:  Recapturetheglory, Big Brown, Colonel John, Gayego, Bob Black Jack

More importantly, who do you like tomorrow?  I'd like to know.

Best of luck,


JOHN More than 1 year ago
jockey Kent Desormeaux should be banned from racing for life for pulling big brown up after he knew he couldnt win the race,,,,, this is horseracing kent ,,, even if u couldnt win ,,, try for 2,, 3,, or 4 ,,,,,for the people betting the ex, tri, or super tri ,,,,, Kent Desormeaux SHOULD BE BANNED FOR LIFE
Sal Viola More than 1 year ago
How good is Big Brown? Well you won't get the chance to see anyway since his career will be over after the Belmont. Let's face it he really beat a bunch of grade two and three winners with the exception of a few grade one's. Most of those winners have won on artificial surface. This is what i call false breeding and people will pay millions for his offspring. Good Luck To Those Fools.
James Mc. More than 1 year ago
JohnnyZ: Well, of course I'm not saying that the Belmont won't be a 100,000+ zoo when BB (very likely) rolls in the Preakness. But after all, that's just one day. Sure, if he wins the TC, there'll be a media frenzy for a few days, but the first question that the casual fan is going to want to know in the aftermath is "When is Big Brown racing again?" Probably the connections will dissemble and delay for awhile, but, almost surely, the ultimate answer will be, 'never'. And, no way around it, that’s going to be a bummer for his newly created fans. I just don't buy the concept that a TC winner is going to cure racing's many ills. How many of the casual fans who stream into Belmont to see BB win the TC are going to suddenly take an interest in some allowance race on the following week's card? Say he blows away the Belmont, beats Denis of Cork or somebody by seven. Then he's summarily retired. Immediately the arguments start: "how good was he really?" "he's not as good as Slew was", “he’s better than Barbaro was”, "he won the TC against a weak crop of 3 yo's" etc. etc. ad infinitum. If he’s retired after June 7, none of those questions will be resolved. It may well be that the only horse in the country who can challenge him (and vice versa) is Curlin. It’d be probably the race of the decade and I’d love to see it. You’re probably right, it’ll never happen, but I think there may be a small chance if BB doesn’t win the TC. It’s not like I’m going to screaming obscenities at him in the stretch of the Belmont or something. But if I had to trade, I’d take a BB-Curlin matchup in the fall over watching BB gallop out against an overmatched field at Belmont and be certainly retired after a grand total of six races. If not, as you bring up, I’d love to see Curlin in the Arc. What a spectacle that would be.
Calvin Carter More than 1 year ago
FormBloggers, Casino Drive, Tomcito, Golden Spikes prep for the Peter Pan en route to the Belmont Stakes. http://www.nyra.com/belmont/stories/Notes05032008.shtml
C More than 1 year ago
Steve, If they ban Lasix, then we'd have to worry about trainers and vets trying to sneak it in undetected like everything else. I think it's beyond the point of no return because the change must come from within-- don't hold your breath on that one. Calvin, I agree 100% that the Derby is not a very good race to draw broader conclusions from. I pointed out those "fun facts" strictly for entertainment's sake. I would not be too surprised, however, if the Blue Grass starts losing some popularity. The Cal horses will still remain out west for the SA Derby... don't forget, if those trainers plan to send their horses east earlier, they need barn space, assistants, etc. Here are a few more myths: For years, we were told that favorites were doomed, until Fusaichi Pegasus came along. Since then, we've had Smarty Jones, Street Sense, and Big Brown. Barbaro was basically a co-favorite. We were also constantly reminded that no undefeated horse won the Derby since Seattle Slew. Smarty Jones, Barbaro and Big Brown make it 3 of the last 5 runnings. So much for those theories. ------------------------------ Right now, I think Big Brown is best compared to Barbaro. He has the same running style, has gotten the same type of trips, and really hasn't been challenged yet. Barbaro had to fend off Sharp Humor (that year's BobBlackJack) in the Fla Derby. Neither he nor Big Brown ever tasted dirt. Someone mentioned earlier that the great horses usually work out the best trips. I mostly agree, but I think it works the other way too. These 2 horses have/had a running style that is ideal for most races. Their ability to rate patiently while stalking close-up and suddenly explode when asked is a big reason for their success, especially in the Derby, IMO. To respond to James' earlier post about hypothetical match-ups... Big Brown versus Barbaro would be tough to call because they have identical running styles. Whoever got the first jump would probably win. If I was forced to bet, I'd take the one with the outermost post position. Big Brown versus Hard Spun: my monopoly money would be on Big Brown because he doesn't seem to be the headcase Hard Spun was at times. He rates and relaxes better. Big Brown versus Curlin or Street Sense: I don't know because these are different running styles. It would depend on whether Big Brown tires significantly enough to get caught. I'd guess Curlin would have the better chance at beating him than Street Sense. Of course, none of this means anything... I'm just reponding to it for fun. It's all hypothetical.
Elise More than 1 year ago
Steve T., I came across some info recently regarding Lasix that may interest you. In a human pharmacology class I am taking, our professor was discussing diuretics, such as Lasix. She mentioned that a fairly common use for them was to counteract the effects of steroid use. Apparently, when someone uses steroids (human or equine), their bodies retain large amounts of water. Lasix or other diuretics are used to get rid of that excess water. I have wondered for years why almost every horse runs on Lasix when so few of them are bleeders. When I heard that, I got my answer. People want the muscle-building effects of steroids without carrying around excess water which would slow them down. I can only assume that it is used in horses for the same reason as in people. I really do believe that if steroid use was banned, Lasix use would fall off dramatically. It is so interesting how the big excuse for not regulating/banning steroids now is that there are no established levels for naturally occuring steroids. To me, there are only two possible reasons for this: 1) Powerful, wealthy people in the industry do not want to regulate steroids for whatever reason and are making excuses. 2) Steroid use is so rampant among American racehorses that a representative sample of horses in training NOT on steroids cannot be found from which to establish parameters. Seriously, it is simple blood and urine tests to establish levels, not rocket science. If Dubai and Hong Kong can do it, why can't we? Please note that I am not blaming Eight Belles' breakdown on this in any way. I really do believe it was just one of those freak accidents, kind of like Exogenous at the Breeders Cup a few years back. I am heartbroken over it, but mostly for selfish reasons because I will never get to see that beautiful girl run again.
ClaireS More than 1 year ago
Just wanted to say: I am consistently pleasantly surprised by how just plain nice everyone here seems to be. Thanks for all the congrats, and congrats to all others who did well. Also- Thanks for being a "support group" post Saturday. cayman01 turf races? really? They all hit the wire together! What's your strategy?
Greg More than 1 year ago
Laura, it's not the drugs themselves but the reliance on the drugs. Instead of a stronger and fitter horse, we have a pretty strong and pretty fit horse, that gets some sort of boost so he doesn't miss any training time, whether that be legal steroids or something else. The drugs mask the problems in the horses, but the problems are passed down from generation to generation.
Katieattherail More than 1 year ago
Good morning, all Laura, yes I'd like your list of 2-y-o to watch, and I'll certainly keep an eye open for Man of Iron (named after the Marvel comic hero or the Triathalon in Hawaii?)at the Spa this summer. You have my email. I found the discussion of male v. female horse abilities interesting because this whole debate has already gone through the mill on the human side viz a viz long distance running (marathons) lo these 30 plus years. As a female distance runner, I've read everything about the issue: whether monthly hormone cycles contribute or hinder, the muscle mass issue vs. the fact that you're hauling it for 26.2 miles, so lighter is better, etc. etc. Remember, marathoners need plenty o' slow twitch fiber, which is why they don't favor steroids like the track racers do to build fast twitch muscle. As with horses, the humans I've seen excel in the sport had that urge to win, the fire in the belly, and gender was almost a secondary factor. One thing that has stood out over the past 30 years or so in marathoning (humans) was that the women made tremendous inroads in reducing times, percentage wise, to the relative crawl the men made in reducing times. Off the top of my head, I think the women's best time when they first started marathoning seriously was roughly 3 hours and change, then Grete Waitz came along in 1978 with her sub 2:30, and now it's below 2:20, or close to. The men held onto 2:10 - 2:09 for most of the 1980s, 90s, finally got below 2:07 - 2:06 within the last decade. It took a lot of courage for early women marathoners (Kathryn Switzer, Nina Kusick, Grete Waitz, numerous others I've had the honor to meet and speak with) to get up front with guys they knew resented their presence, not just for being a possible competitor, but some neolethic stupid-a** prejudice that "girls can't do that". So I salute our equine sister athletes who also lay it all out there, like the bonnie, brave Eight Belles. Sorry for digression, I have two topics I'm manic about: can you guess what they are? Katieattherail
cayman01 More than 1 year ago
Steve T, Wonderful poem, just be careful who sees it. PETA might claim it for their own. Claire S and Calibob, Well done.You did a great handicapping job. Head of the class for you along with Vicstu. As for my handicapping I think i just might stick to turf races as they're the only thing I hit consistently. Thank you Mr Nightlinger, Zee Zee (after first pick scratched),Tizdejavu, and Bayou's Lassie. Thorn Song, what happened to you? Thoughts on the Derby: Big Brown proved he was the real thing, but the real kudos in this case go to Tricky Dickie Dutrow. He did a great job getting the horse to the race ( although his ego needs a check), but more importantly his choice of the 20 post was brilliant. He kept his horse out of trouble, but more importantly kept his jockey from getting INTO trouble. Anyone who saw KD's ride on Golden Doc A on Friday knows what I'm talking about. He only rides well from the outside, and is completely allergic to the rail. Dutrow knew that and picked accordingly.Very smart. As for Colonel John is California compatriot Bob Black Jack pretty much took him out of the race along with a few others by veering in on the break and causing a lot of bumping and pinching in the first few hundred yards.CJ got shuffled all the way back to 16th at one point and did fairly well to finish 6th.Pyro got slammed by CJ at the break and never ran at all. BBj proved to be a good horse for a mile. I thought Recapturetheglory ran very well, much better than I expected. Tale of Ekati proved the mediocrity of this year's crop. He got a perfect trip all the way around but didn't put an ounce of pressure on the leaders the whole race. A horse to watch for in the Belmont is Dennis of Cork. Calvin Bo-rail took him straight over to the rail on the break and skimmed the rail all the way around and he came running at the end. Looked like Street Sense last year, but was too far back when he started his run. Eight Belles was tremendous in defeat. Z Fortune was a headscratcher. Perfectly positioned and no finish. Big Brown was the better horse on Saturday. He got a 109 BSF which is right at par. So no great shakes there. The fact remains that this is a very mediocre 3YO class.We'll move on to the Preakness and give some others a shot at BB. I'd like to see Colonel JOhn get a good trip against Big brown, but it doesn't look like that will happen in the Preakness, maybe Belmont. El Gato Malo and Harlem Rocker are interesting if they go. How about Lt. Ron? I'm inclined to believe that some of the better 3yo's did not run on Saturday. Is there a Bernardini out there this year? Or at least one other that can run a 100+ BSF? We'll see.