04/22/2009 10:34PM

Early Pickin's


123b I don't have to make my 1-2-3 picks for the Derby Day newspaper until a week from tonight, but I'm already pretty sure who the three horses will be: Dunkirk, I Want Revenge and Quality Road, though not necessarily in that order.

Go ahead, call me a chalk-eating weasel. I know they're three of the five favorites, but I just think they're not only the best horses out there but also good enough that they've separated themselves from the rest. My feeling 10 days out is that all three would have to misfire for someone else to wear the roses.

If I were making out a Derby Day pick-6 or pick-4 ticket, they'd be my three A's. At the moment I'm not loving anyone else enough to have any B's. My C's would be Friesan Fire and Pioneerofthenile, out of slightly grudging respect for their records and their handlers; I'll probably talk myself into one more backup, some crazy longshot, if only because it seems you're obliged to like one crazy longshot in the Derby.

While I feel obliged to use Friesan Fire and Pioneerof the Nile defensively as win candidates, I'm also willing to play against both of them in the intrarace exotics.  While both of them are obviously talented and admirably consistent, Friesan Fire's only fast race was on a sloppy track, and Pioneerof the Nile has never raced on dirt. I have no quarrel with the opinion of clockers that POTN is training superbly on dirt at Churchill, but I seem to recall that's what everyone was saying about Curlin before he tried a synthetic track for the first time in last year's BC Classic. You just don't know until they race on it. To speculate that Pioneerof the Nile will not only handle dirt as well as synth, but also improve several lengths, I'd want at least double his likely odds of around 8-1.

Some may say it's folly to be coming to conclusions this far out: What about final workouts, and the post-position draw, and listening to other people's opinions, and watching more replays and studying more charts? We'll all do all that, and enjoy it, but I'd be surprised if my opinion changes radically. I have no longstanding loyalties to anyone in the race, no future wagers, no weekly Top 10 Picks List to justify my selections against. May the best horse win, and here's hoping that turns out to be one of my three -- preferably, whichever one I end up putting on top.

--Hollywood Park opened its spring/summer meeting today amid uncertainty about the track's future, and there's a worrisome item for California horseplayers on the agenda for the California Horse Racing Board's monthly meeting on Friday. Item #6 is:

"6. Discussion and action by the Board regarding an increase in the take-out on conventional and exotic wagers on races conducted by thoroughbred racing associations as permitted by Business and Professions Code section 19601.01 and the modification of California advance deposit wagering (ADW) distributions on thoroughbred races as permitted under Business and Professions Code section 19604(f) (5)(E)."


--It felt like we should have been playing a three-day $382,110 carryover at Aqueduct today, but there was one winning ticket at that price on Sunday despite a trio of tough winners: RedyFormycloseup ($37.40), Hawkinsville ($39.00) and Sonic Sound ($29.40). The lone winning ticket, sold in Florida, was alive to only two horses in the finale -- the 13-1 winner and the 9-2 third choice, who finished ninth. You could have made a small case for any of them, but putting them all on the same ticket was quite a feat. I'm not suggesting anything sinister, just excellent handicapping and strategy on the part of the winner, who also collected 11 of only 15 winning 5-of-6 consos, worth $6680 apiece.

It was a little surprising that the Pick-6 was hit again today at Aqueduct, where a no-carryover sequence included victories by Successful Affair ($19.40), Joe Corrigan ($25.60) and Slevin ($21.60). The payoff of $40,355 seemed high for a rainy, no-carryover Wednesday, but it appears the lone winner played in Canada and received less than that announced payoff via discounted currency, since the announced pool was only $45,628.

Louis Mazzarelli More than 1 year ago
The silence at Churchill was truly deafening as Mine that Bird sprinted past the finish line. As a relatively novice horse player with a strong interest in the study of the sport, the result of this year's Derby fortified any lingering delusions I retained at any degree of success in the sport. Clearly, Andy Beyer, Len Ragozin and Tom Ansile for that matter couldn't have predicted this performance based on current predictive parameters. In restrospect, the basics of a stong two year old campaign in conjunction with distance pedigree won the day. No reasonable handicapper would have reliably placed Mine that Bird in a stratosphere with Dunkirk, Pioneer of the Nile, or Fresian Fire, nonetheless my pick Musket Man, who performed admirably( and continued to far outperform his pedigree). While I am sorely disappointed in the result , I sincerely applaud the connections. Perhaps the unpredictability of the sport is what makes it so enticing and why I'll be back next year with the same zeal I approached this year.
mikeyp More than 1 year ago
I, for one, become Mister Guilt for playing chalk in almost any race, let alone the Derby. Your comment about "...call me a chalk-eating weasel" says a lot to me. If you can do it, so can I, so I will not apologize (or feel guilty) for keying IWR over. And, as much as I use Derby history and trends in my capping, I just have a feeling about Dunkirk. I've got to believe that he is being worked big-time by his people to run straight up the track.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
The odds pattern among the first 5 or 6 horses in the derby is still in flux (obviously), but there are a few possibilities. We might have a single-file type odds pattern, with the favorite clearly favored, the 2nd choice clearly 2nd choice and so on. More likely than that, I think, is that IWR and QR will be within a click of eachother (around 7-2, say), with POTN another point/point and a half higher (5-1), and so on. Another one I can still see is the "three-way" (ahem), IWR, QR, POTN, all within a click of 4-1 or 9-2. That's what I'm seeing right now, anyway.
Zero2 More than 1 year ago
The problem with the cigar analogy is that no one questioned his low turf beyers, screaming they were wrong or the general nature of his turf talent (not great). Cigar wasn't notching win after win, while churning out low beyer after low beyer. He was a turf loser. Are POTN (in particular) and CC and MHS losers in the Cigar sense? Of course not. The argument in POTN's case is that he's already fast enough, already good enough, but the beyer numbers are not capturing his true speed, plain and simple... There are some handicappers who believe that POTN came to hand without the slightest ripple in the water, or flutter in the wind because of the flat-lining nature of the synthetic speed figure. And if a handicapper believes that, CC's last race versus POTN puts him squarely on the radar, also. And to a lesser degree, perhaps, MHS.
The Red Mosquito More than 1 year ago
Steve... those three are the same three I have on top, and it's funny but I think ONLY four horses can win this race. Friesan Fire being the fourth. A four horse exacta box, coupled with a four horse trifecta box with any of those horses will reap a decent payout. I notice you did not even MENTION the Dubai horses!!
C More than 1 year ago
"Yes I like Musket Man a little but I am sure 20-1 or higher will be the payoff on him." ... and the problem with that is ______??? Are you saying you're afraid to take a little chance in a race like the Derby because the horse is 20-1?
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Nothing was written on the nameplate of Invisible Ink's bridle...it was written in Invisible Ink!....maybe West Side Bernie for exotics ya'll?
beerbelly More than 1 year ago
What a cruel sport! QR has another quarter crack.
beerbelly More than 1 year ago
The Commonwealth of Virginia has bred Riva Ridge, Secretariat, Pleasant Colony & two other Derby winners. Virginia's 2009 representative to the Derby stands 17 hands; combines a powerful engine & a long, effortless stride with tractable speed and the rare ability to shrug off competition with disdain. "Not extended" is a common refrain among clockers after every race. Translation: There's more in the tank.
mike laz More than 1 year ago
NO NEED TO WORRY, from everything i have read on this site QUALITY ROAD will still win with only two good feet. wonder if that rock hard track in florida has something to do with his foot problems??