04/05/2010 4:54PM

Duke on the Rise?


ESKENDEREYA's popular win in Saturday's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct stamps him as the Kentucky Derby favorite, but it was a previously-unheralded 4-year-old that really caught my eye the most over the holiday weekend. 

DUKE OF MISCHIEF could have been claimed for $80,000 on February 11, 2009 when he won a Gulfstream Park maiden race on grass by a scant nose, but he's blossomed for trainer David Fawkes. 

Although no match for Horse of the Year RACHEL ALEXANDRA in last year's Haskell Invitational, Duke of Mischief did win the $250,000 Iowa Derby at three before taking the off-the-turf Fort Lauderdale around a one-turn mile at Gulfstream on January 10, 2010. 

He was no match for top-class QUALITY ROAD in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on February 6, finishing 20 lengths behind that colt, but he bounced back with a sharp score in the Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday. 

Dismissed at 6-1 odds following the ugly Donn running line, Duke of Mischief tracked the pace along the inside going into the first turn before being eased to the three path by Eibar Coa on the backstretch.  Duke of Mischief boldly swept to the lead on the final turn and held off favored WIN WILLY while under a drive to the wire. 

Duke of Mischief's two greatest assets are his tactical speed and versatility.  He has won on grass and dirt, around one turn and two, over five different surfaces.  There should be another good stakes race in him before the year is out.


Here are the top 25 winning Beyer Speed Figures from last week's racing action:

Here are the lifetime past performances for last week's top Beyer earner:

Download Eskendereya


Is Al Shemali's winning mutuel in the Duty Free (just under $600 for $2) a record? I have never seen a winning price that large before.

From the 1990 American Racing Manual:

"Thanks to the marvels of electronics, a record pari-mutuel payoff was achieved at a track in Nebraska on a race run in Louisiana.  The biggest $2 win payoff ever - $2,922 - was returned to the lone winning ticket at Ak-Sar-Ben on December 8, 1989, when Power to Geaux won the 11th race at the Fair Grounds.  Ak-Sar-Ben was conducting separate-pool simulcast wagering on the complete card from the New Orleans track.  At the Fair Grounds, Power to Geaux returned $96.60 to win, but at Ak-Sar-Ben, one ticket took the entire win pool on the race.
The record on-track pari-mutuel payoff remains the return by Wishing Ring, who won at the old Latonia track on June 17, 1912 and paid $1,885,50 for $2. to win, $644.60 to place and $172.60 to show."

Here are the $2 win payoffs that returned over $600 (up until 1989):

*POWER TO GEAUX - Ak-Sar-Ben, 12/8/1989 ($2,922.00)
WISHING RING - Latonia, 6/17/1912 ($1,885.50)
AUGEAS - Agua Caliente, 2/14/1933 ($840.00)
MUZETTA W. - Lexington, 5/7/1910 ($830.70)
KING JACK - Agua Caliente, 1/8/1933 ($820.00)
TRYCOOK - Hagerstown, 5/17/1934 ($810.00)
WAVERLY STEPS - Woodbine, 6/24/1968 ($794.20)
FINCASTLE - Havana, 12/19/1923 ($702.60)
LT. WILLIAM J. MURRAY - Havana, 2/11/1923 ($696.00)
SAL'S NEEDLE - Garden State, 2/10/1989 ($693.40)
MISS FOUNTAIN - Havana, 2/9/1930 ($685.60)
PLAYMAY - Santa Anita, 2/4/1938 ($673.40)
FLEETGLOW - Green Mountain, 5/9/1968 ($658.80)
MEADOW MONEY - Lincoln Fields, 6/5/1941 ($652.40)
NANAMAY - Tanforan, 4/14/1932 ($602.20)

*Separate-pool wagering on Fair Grounds racing.


Reading your Meydan post made me think again of one of my pet peeves: Stewards comments and decisions are almost impossible to find out in North America. Do you know how I would do it, say, for Woodbine or the New York tracks?

It's very frustrating that our racetracks, for the most part, do not provide detailed comments on the subtle nuances of each race (fines, minor injuries, reprimands for rough-riding).  It's hard enough to get a decent "Vet's List" from some racing jurisdictions (none listed on the New York State Racing and Wagering Board website).  There are rulings on that site, however.  You can access them here:


For Woodbine, try this website:



Hey Dan,
Been trying to find any information on a horse last trained by Mike Harrington called Seattle Ruler. He last raced in the CashCall Futurity and finished last. Any info about him would be appreciated.
Kosmo T

SEATTLE RULER returned to the work tab on March 14.  That morning, he drilled a quarter-mile in 23.40.  Here are his other recent workouts:

March 21 - 3F - 37.60H
March 28 - 4F - 50.00H
April 3 - 4F - 49.40H

All of those workouts were at Hollywood Park.  A $57,000 RNA as a weanling, Seattle Ruler, a son of Roman Ruler out of Decades of Style (by A.P. Indy), was purchased for $27,000 as a yearling.  His third dam, Market Booster, was a Group 1 winner in Germany, and a Grade/Group 2 winner on grass in the United States.  Seattle Ruler finished third in last year's Hollywood Prevue behind American Lion, but may be worth extra consideration once he switches to turf.


I'm looking over the PP's for the Illinois Derby and it shows Backtalk breezing 6F in 1:09 and 3?  As far as we know Dan that isn't a typo!

It wasn't a typo.  I believe I read somewhere that it was the second-fastest time (works and races) for six furlongs at the Fair Grounds this year.


In honor of Uncle Don winning today in 1:08.45, would you post the PP's pf his dam SOVIET PROBLEM. This was free money!!!
Steve T.

Is there any way to get the full video of Race 5 today at Santa Anita (including the saddling and post parade)?
Is there anyway we can start collecting videos of horses pre-race? See if we can collect a whole series of pre-race look-sees where there is something obviously wrong (or right).
Steve T.

A follow up question to Steve T's, from 4-1 @ 6:32pm.
Where can one find a FULL head on replay of the Santa Anita races?
Ron Zuercher

Here are SOVIET PROBLEM's past performances:

Download Soviet Problem


Perhaps the only way to get the full video of a certain race would be to contact the racetrack.  They probably have a tape from their simulcast feed that they would be willing to share...probably for a price.  I would think that DRF would be interested in doing a "Body Language DVD," so perhaps I could convince someone around here to pick up some videos but that would likely take time.

Ron, the lack of a "true" head-on for Santa Anita on calracing and other sites is very bothersome to me.  To be honest, I don't know where, online, one could find the "full" head-on.  When I did the "Trip Handicapping" DVD, I contacted the racetrack personally, and they allowed us to use the footage.  They should put the full head-on on their website at the very least.  Anyone?


re alan garcia, here's some food for thought; as far as i know he's still up on aikenite. maybe in spite of his last two disappointing starts he still has confidence in him.

From a Dogwood Stable press release dated March 29, 2010:

Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite – a definite for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 10 – has a commitment from Garrett Gomez, arguably America’s leading jockey, for the race. “Gomez rides Lookin At Lucky, but that horse races next on April 3 rather than April 10, and thus Gomez is available for the Dogwood mount,” said Dogwood Stable President Cot Campbell. “Obviously we jumped at the opportunity.”


I have a question for you, since I'm not sure where else to ask it. I decided to play Sam Houston (for the 1st time) today, April 3rd. In the 6th race I notice a heavily favored dropper- who I considered a play against. The race is scheduled for dirt, which he has never hit the board on. If it were on turf- I would've considered him a legit fave. Anyhoo... I bet on tvg, the fave wins- I lose. Then my friend says they ran on turf??!? I look at Form again- no mention of turf. I check TVG- it says "Dirt". I go to Sam Houstons webpage- and it mentions the move to turf. What? Does this happen often? I have, of course, seen turf races moved to dirt, when the weather dictates such a change- but dirt to turf? Why would they possibly make this late change- or even be allowed to? Is this common? I only usually play the SoCal circuit...

Don't blame the track on this one.  This was an data information error.  When Equibase, our data provider, sent the original past performances, they listed the race on dirt when in fact it was always on turf.  I confirmed this when I checked the overnight from Sam Houston and the race was scheduled for "turf."


Dan.... Can you post the pp's for
Roses in May please.
thanks in advance

Here they are:

Download Roses in May


Dan, the San Juan Capistrano closes the Santa Anita meet in a couple of weeks.  The race is not even a shadow of what it once was, but I will love it forever because John Henry's gate-to-wire win in there was what brought me into this game.
Charlie Whittingham trained the winners of 5 consecutive San Juans....1983 to 1987.  Can you possibly give me the past performances of those winners....
Erin's Isle, Load The Cannons, Prince True, Dahar, and Rosedale......
Thanks for whatever you can do.

Here's what I have for the horses you requested:

Download San Juan Capistrano


I just signed up for DRF Plus.  Dan, I have no real issues with you.  Your trip handicapping DVD is OK.  But why does DRF Plus pair you up on the video analysis with Andy Serling?
Jim C

Thanks for signing up, Jim, and many thanks for the kind words regarding the DVD. Andy's style may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying he's opinionated, passionate, and extremely knowledgeable.  Handicapping analysis can be a bland exercise at times, bordering on boring.  When Andy's in the mix, he brings an opinion and a personality that can fire up just about anyone.  He's a top handicapper, there's no doubt about that, and he has that "it" factor that is perfect for video. 


With apologies to Dan, following Saturday's preps here are some "questions" of my own: (Dan and Everyone, take a shot at these if you want)
1.) Am I the only one thinking "Belamy Road" before I hand Eskenderyah a garland of roses?
2.) Will, as Watchmaker says in a column, Looking at Lucky be the clear second choice in the derby wagering? Where does next week's Arkansas Derby winner fit? (Horses that have run there have come back to be competitive on Derby Day?)
3.) Was I the only one who feels like American Lion has a legitimate shot? (Considering his, at least to me, impressive performance first time dirt at Hawthorne)
4.) Considering the comments on this blog combined with Awesome Act's troubles in the Wood in a race many expected a bounce anyway, is he a legit contender as well?
5.) Wouldn't we (or should I say me) be better off waiting until posts are drawn and PPs are published to handicap the Derby just like we would a 5K claimer on a Wednesday afternoon?

1)  I'm not thinking about BELLAMY ROAD when I consider ESKENDEREYA.  Listen, the Wood winner is obviously a good horse as well as a deserving Derby favorite, but no one should concede him the Kentucky Derby on April 6.

2)  I'm with Mr. Watchmaker on this one.  Both of LOOKIN AT LUCKY's losses came at the hooves of tough trips, he has "Derby Bob" in his corner, he's a closer in a race full of speed, he's the juvenile champion of 2009, and he's a good one to boot.  It may be close with Sidney's Candy, but I'll go with Lookin At Lucky as second wagering choice.

3)  The biggest angle in racing right now is "Dan Illman-off."  I always wanted to see what AMERICAN LION could do on dirt, but I chickened out on Saturday.  Other examples from this weekend include GIGANTICUS, VENTANA, EVENING JEWEL, and EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY.  Can American Lion factor in the Derby?  If he can sit behind horses and finish, I don't see why not.  That is a major question right now considering the possible pace scenario in the Derby.  I don't see him getting the same pacesetting trip at Churchill Downs.

4)  There are so many different feelings regarding AWESOME ACT.  I don't think he's as good as he looked in the Gotham, and I don't think he's as bad as his Wood performance.  With his pedigree, he deserves another chance.  I wouldn't disregard him, but you have to get a very generous price.

5).  We would be better off to wait.  Derby fever is cool, but it's cooler to keep a cool head until we actually see the past performances.


In a big field if he drops back of the pace how will he respond, and I'm sorry but Pletcher thought this was a TURF horse when he first got him? 

It's possible that Mr. Pletcher thought of ESKENDEREYA as a "turf" horse when he made his debut at Saratoga considering his Giant's Causeway breeding, but we also should remember that there are no two-turn main track route races for juveniles at the Spa.  The only way Eskendereya could run long (his m.o.) would be to race on the grass. 


Where can I find the official charts from last week's World Cup races with the odds/payoffs of the US wagering pools?
Lonestar Bob

There aren't any "official" charts for the Dubai races, but you can get the payoff from TVG:


If you want more information on the races, go to this website:



Handigambling 179
$16 Tri

HG 180.
Thanks for the Formulator PPs. CJ was right, these are really cool. Sorry it took so long for me to get the HG 180 race posted. Oaklawn is like Santa Anita. It takes forever to get the entries up.
Since we are going to Oaklawn, I'm choosing Wednesday's sixth race at Oaklawn.
Good luck everyone, and thanks for letting me join in the fun.

Congrats to Yogi for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling contest.  Here are the past performances for this week's exercise:

Download HG

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the races, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.  Prospective entrants may submit their plays to the blog up until post time.  One entry per person please.  I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but 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.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.