03/16/2017 7:58PM

Derby turmoil

It's safe to say that the Kentucky Derby picture is in some disarray at the moment. An argument can be made that the two best 3-year-olds in the country are MASTERY and UNIQUE BELLA, and neither are being pointed for the race. 
Mastery was sensational in winning the Grade 2 San Felipe last Saturday, but he was pulled up quickly on the gallop-out and his rider, Mike Smith, dismounted on the clubhouse turn. Mastery was vanned off with a condylar fracture to his left front leg and his racing future is in doubt. 
Meanwhile, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer seems content to send Unique Bella to Kentucky as a strong favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. She'll likely make her final prep for that prestigious race in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on April 5. If she runs in that spot, she would have accrued zero Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
That leaves a hodgepodge of 3-year-olds with varying degrees of talent and experience. The crop began to unravel somewhat when the talented NOT THIS TIME, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was retired with an injury to his right front leg.
CLASSIC EMPIRE, the deserving 2-year-old champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, disappointed when a flat third in his seasonal debut in the Holy Bull. He then emerged from the race with a foot abscess. Due to that setback, he'll only run once more before the Kentucky Derby. Even if he passes the test in Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes, we know that Classic Empire is a temperamental sort, one that could come unglued in front of a giant paddock audience at Churchill.
MO TOWN, the Remsen winner last fall at Aqueduct, fired a dud in his first start of the year in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. UNCONTESTED, the runaway Smarty Jones winner over a wet track at Oaklawn, faded tamely when challenged in his subsequent start in the Southwest. GUEST SUITE won the Lecomte before finishing an even fourth in the Risen Star. El AREEB roared through the Jerome and Withers in New York, but was cooked by a fast pace in the Gotham. IRISH WAR CRY burst onto the scene after upsetting Classic Empire in the Holy Bull, but didn't pick up his feet in the Fountain of Youth. Grade 1 winner GORMLEY couldn't step with Mastery in the San Felipe. ILIAD and PRACTICAL JOKE might have distance limitations. 
Any and all of these horses could rebound with a big effort. It's just hard to trust horses that have either missed an assignment or are coming off dull efforts.
Who's left?
MCCRAKEN is the current leader on the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll (https://www.ntra.com/ntra-top-thoroughbred-poll-march-13-2017/). It's understandable considering he's undefeated and was flattered when the horse he beat in the Sam F. Davis, TAPWRIT, returned to easily grab last Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby. The issue with McCraken is that he had an issue, a minor physical problem that forced trainer Ian Wilkes to bypass the Tampa Bay Derby and re-route to the Blue Grass. IF McCraken is 100% healthy, he's a major player in this division. 
GUNNEVERA isn't the most exciting 3-year-old in the country, but he's a blue-collar performer that just puts his head down and runs. I usually am not enamored with one-run closers that need pace help, but Gunnevera earned a great deal of respect in winning the Fountain of Youth. 
Tapwrit and ONE LINER are two dangerous horses for Todd Pletcher. The former looked good when second in the Sam F. Davis, improved in the Tampa Bay Derby, and seems on his way for Pletcher. He's a big contender. One Liner is lightly-raced, but he ran fast when winning the Southwest in his first start around two turns. I'm not sure if these two horses are true stayers in the vein of a 10-furlong runner, but they tick many of the other boxes.
J BOYS ECHO does have that strong route pedigree and he gave a breakthrough performance in the Gotham. It must be noted, however, that he received a dream trip tracking a hotly-contested pace. Perhaps J Boys Echo has figured out the game. I'll need to see it again before I'm completely convinced.
GIRVIN looks like a hard-trying sort. He's lightly-raced with upside potential, but worked out a great in-out trip in winning the Risen Star. Plus, the Fair Grounds route hasn't been the ideal road to success at Churchill Downs over the past few years. 
Maybe this week's Rebel Stakes (featuring AMERICAN ANTHEM, ROYAL MO, MALAGACY, Uncontested, PETROV and some other promising 3-year-olds) will clear this picture up a bit. If not, then it might soon be time to consider horses that must break some "Derby rules."
You all know my feeling's about EPICHARIS as I've blogged about him here for several months so there's no need to get too in-depth. In my mind, he's won half the battle as he already has a Derby slot waiting for him if the connections decide to opt for the race. He runs against real competition for the first time in next Saturday's UAE Derby. Considering the unstable nature of the division, maybe this is the year a foreign-based horse will win the roses. 
It could be that old Apollo's record is about to be challenged. You've heard it a million times..."no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old." Cloud Computing lacks juvenile experience, but he has the right trainer in Chad Brown and gave a bang-up performance after being up on that hot pace in the Gotham. 
The deck has shuffled many times this spring. Don't be surprised if there are more twists and turns on the road to Louisville.
*The FormBlog Convention is one of the higlights of my year, and I had a fantastic time meeting up with Bobc, DavidM, Laura, Dennis and Rose of Moline, Jeff "the Chalk-Eating Weasel," Annette "Mrs. Chalk-Eating Weasel," and the whole gang. Thanks to Gulfstream Park for the wonderful hospitality shown to our group. Many thanks to everyone that attended, and everyone that was rooting us on from home. Laura deserves all the credit for making these outings happen. She's a dynamo and everything seems to always go off without a hitch. It's never too early to start making plans for next year. I promise you won't be disappointed.
For free video analysis of some of the weekend's major stakes races, take a look at http://video.drf.com/
Also, DRF TV is proud to announce the debut of "Out of the Gate," a handicapping program that will preview the weekend's best races. "Out of the Gate" will be uploaded to video.drf.com and Daily Racing Form's Facebook and YouTube pages on Friday afternoon around 3pm ET. An audio podcast version will also be available on iTunes and Soundcloud. I'll be on with Mike Beer and Matt Bernier from the DRF studios in New York, and will be joined by DRF's Nicole Russo, Michael Hogan and Jonathan Kinchen as we give our thoughts and opinions on some of the weekend's best races. Please tune in!
You can check me out on Twitter @DRF_Dan Illman.
For up-to-date video releases from DRF, follow DRFTV on Twitter @DRFvideo.
Dan, Giant Oak has passed away. I know he was a favorite and source of frustration for both of us. Please post his past performances in honor of this great Illinois bred. 
Jim Tully
Giant Oak's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post. 
Luke Clowes from Twitter writes:
"when you do post could you include the pp's of All Along? Cheers."
Her lifetime past performances are at the bottom of the blog.
Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 3/1/17 - 3/7/17:
1. STILL KRZ - 108 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 4Mar17-7AQU
2. BIRD SONG - 102 - Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) - 1 Mile - 4Mar17-5GP 
2. ISABELLE - 102 - Heavenly Prize Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 4Mar17-3AQU
2. J BOYS ECHO - 102 - Gotham Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 4Mar17-8AQU
2. STORMY LIBERAL - 102 - Joe Hernandez Stakes - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 4Mar17-7SA 
6. HEART TO HEART - 100 - Canadian Turf (G3) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 4Mar17-11GP
7. WAKE FOREST (GER) - 99 - Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) - 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) - 4Mar17-12GP 
8. GUNNEVERA - 97 - Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - 4Mar17-13GP 
8. SUFFUSED (GB) - 97 - The Very One Stakes (G3) - 1 3/16 Miles (Turf) - 4Mar17-7GP 
8. UNIQUE BELLA - 97 - Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) - 1 1/16 Miles - 4Mar17-6SA 
11. CALCULATOR - 96 - OC 62k/N2X -N - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 2Mar17-7SA 
12. CELESTINE - 95 - Sand Springs Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 4Mar17-6GP
13. ROCKSHAW - 93 - Gazebo Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 4Mar17-7OP 
14. GAMBLER'S GHOST - 90 - Wcl 25000 - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 4Mar17-1AQU
14. JUNIOR GILLIAM - 90 - Alw 56345N1X - 6 Furlongs - 5Mar17-8SA 
14. PRETTY N COOL - 90 - Las Flores Stakes (G3) - 6 Furlongs - 5Mar17-3SA 
17. SALTY - 89 - Md Sp Wt 38k - 7 Furlongs - 5Mar17-6GP 
17. SOUTHSIDE WARRIOR - 89 - Alw 40000N1X - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 4Mar17-3FG 
19. LET US BE GLAD - 88 - Dixie Poker Ace Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 4Mar17-7FG 
19. SHUFFLE UP - 88 - Alw 50000s - 1 Mile 70 Yards (Inner Dirt) - 4Mar17-6AQU
21. CHAMPAGNE CHARLEY (FR) - 88 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 1 Mile (Turf) - 5Mar17-2SA 
21. CONQUEST BIGLUCK E - 88 - Clm 50000(50-45)N2Y - 1 1/16 Miles - 4Mar17-6OP 
21. MARQUEE CAL GAL - 88 - OC 50k/C -N - 6 Furlongs (Polytrack) - 4Mar17-7TP 
21. SIR SEARSUCKER - 88 - Alw 22000NC - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 5Mar17-7TUP
25. COZY LOVER - 87 - Alw 25000s - 5 1/2 Furlongs - 7Mar17-8PRX
25. ROYAL BLESSING - 87 - OC25k/SAL16k - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 5Mar17-11GP 
25. TICONDEROGA - 87 - Palm Beach Stakes (G3) - 4Mar17-9GP 
25. YES YES YES - 87 - Clm 45000(50-45) - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 4Mar17-1SA 
*Still Krz's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.
Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 3/8/17 - 3/14/17:
1. SHAMAN GHOST (G1) - 108 - Santa Anita Handicap (G1) - 11Mar17-10SA 
2. PAY ANY PRICE - 106 - Silks Run Stakes - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 11Mar17-12GP 
3. MASTERY - 105 - San Felipe Stakes (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Mar17-5SA 
4. DENMAN'S CALL - 104 - Triple Bend Stakes (G1) - 7 Furlongs - 11Mar17-8SA 
4. WHITMORE - 104 - Hot Springs Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 11Mar17-6OP 
6. RECTIFY - 103 - OC 40k/N2X - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 12Mar17-4AQU
7. BAL A BALI (BRZ) - 102 - Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 11Mar17-9SA 
7. STANFORD - 102 - Challenger Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Mar17-8TAM
9. SUNNY RIDGE - 99 - Stymie Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 12Mar17-8AQU
10. DICKINSON - 98 - Hillsborough Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 11Mar17-10TAM
10. ILLUMINANT - 98 - Wishing Well Stakes - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 10Mar17-5SA 
12. INSIDE STRAIGHT - 97 - OC 50k/C -N - 1 Mile - 10Mar17-7OP 
13. BELIEVE IN BERTIE - 96 - Red Camelia Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 11Mar17-6FG 
13. JAY GATSBY - 96 - OC 75k/C -N - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 10Mar17-9GP 
13. PROSPECT PARK - 96 - OC 75k/C -N - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 9Mar17-2SA 
13. SPARTIATIS - 96 - Tom Fool Handicap (G3) - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 11Mar17-8AQU
13. TAPWRIT - 96 - Tampa Bay Derby (G2) - 1 1/16 Miles - 11Mar17-11TAM
18. CIMPL MAN - 95 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 1 Mile (Turf) - 9Mar17-5SA 
19. FRENCH QUARTER - 94 - OC c-62k/N2X - 6 Furlongs - 10Mar17-10GP 
19. GOODYEARFORROSES (IRE) - 94 - Santa Ana Stakes (G2) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 12Mar17-7SA 
21. CAUSE FOR SURPRISE - 93 - Alw 50000s - 6 Furlongs (Inner Dirt) - 12Mar17-7AQU
21. CARRADINE - 93 - OC 80k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Dirt) - 10Mar17-8AQU
21. PRUDHOE BAY - 93 - OC c-12k/N1X - 6 Furlongs - 11Mar17-7GP 
24. PRETTY PERFECTION - 92 - Captiva Island Stakes - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 11Mar17-4GP 
25. AMERICAN PASTIME - 91 -  Md Sp Wt 56k - 6 Furlongs - 11Mar17-7SA 
25. GOLD SHIELD - 91 - OC 32k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 11Mar17-6TAM
25. HOMESPUN HERO - 91 - OC 25k/N1X -N - 7 Furlongs - 12Mar17-12GP 
*Shaman Ghost's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.
*French Quarter was claimed for $62,500 by trainer David Fawkes from John Mattine.
*Prudhoe Bay was claimed for $12,500 by trainer Michael Maker from Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Congrats to Little Deb for winning the most recent HandiGambling challenge.
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. 
Let's go with Saturday's Rebel Stakes from Oaklawn as this week's exercise.
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.
The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST. Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST SIGN YOURSELF AT THE END (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to identify who you are.
4. (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes. Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.
The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"
As an example :
HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!
GIANT OAK.pdf719.93 KB
All Along.pdf62.11 KB
STILLKRZ.pdf759.08 KB
Copy of HG 3 4 17 Fountain of Youth.xls50.5 KB
HG 3 4 17 FOY Notes.doc40.5 KB
HGREBEL.pdf196.22 KB