04/18/2014 4:14PM

Grounding the Hawk?


MIDNIGHT HAWK is the fastest and classiest horse in Saturday's Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and may have a strong pace advantage to boot.

Each of his last four Beyer Speed Figures is faster than ANY number his rivals have EVER earned. Not only is he the lone stakes-winner in the field, but he's a graded stakes winner with three other graded placings. He's assured a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby with 52 points (currently 14th on the list) and looks like the most naturally talented runner in the Illinois Derby.

He's also exactly the kind of odds-on favorite that I want to bet against.

Midnight Hawk is a brilliant colt, but one that might be stretched to the limit at the Illinois Derby's nine-furlong distance. In his most recent start, the Grade 3 Sunland Derby at 1 1/8 miles, Midnight Hawk cruised up alongside stablemate Chitu with five-sixteenths of a mile to race. He poked a head in front and appeared on his way to victory. Then, he just packed it in, and started going up and down after changing leads late. He lost almost two lengths to Chitu from the stretch call to the wire, finished his final three-eighths in 38.67 seconds, and ran his last furlong in 13.60 seconds.

Midnight Hawk was an exhausted bird.

If you're like me and think that the distance will help get Midnight Hawk beat on Saturday, you might want to key in on horses like DYNAMIC IMPACT and IRISH YOU WELL. The former will get a distance test at Hawthorne after racing twice in short-stretch mile events at Oaklawn to kick off his sophomore campaign. But, he's by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow and was a game winner most recently over Knock Em Flat, a colt that returned to graduate with a 91 Beyer before finishing a close second as the favorite in the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes last week. Dynamic Impact should save valuable ground from the inside post and has the tactical speed to track Midnight Hawk.

Irish You Well is more of a stab as he's still a maiden. Although second behind CLASS LEADER in a maiden special on dirt at Fair Grounds two back, Irish You Well did plenty of racing. He was looped from the outside on the first turn and forced to track a loose pacesetter. He was the first to commit to go after that horse and finished well despite attempting to drift in slightly during the drive. Irish You Well shows a bullet workout over the Hawthorne surface and is a sleeper at 20-1 on the morning line.

Class Leader should see this trip out without much fuss as he's a son of Smart Strike out of a mare that won two graded races on turf at nine furlongs. He is slowly improving and looks like Midnight Hawk's main competition on paper despite still being a bit green.

Can Midnight Hawk win the Illinois Derby?  Of course he can for all the reasons listed above. But, there are distance questions that he'll have to address at 4-5 or shorter. Use him in the multiple race wagers, but try to beat him in the win pool. 

I'll attempt to do so with Dynamic Impact.

*This week's HandiGambling race will likely feature two scratches in Dynamic Impact and GLOBAL STRIKE as both seem headed to the Illinois Derby. I won't try and get too clever. Mr. Speaker and Divine Oath appear to be the best horses, but neither has ever raced over a synthetic surface and they won't offer enough value for me to get interested in the win pool. I'll use both of them in multiple race wagers and hope to move on. Divine Oath is slightly preferred. SOLITARY RANGER's early speed should be respected. Perhaps he's the right value play if you believe he can shake clear and relax on the backstretch.

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.


*Just want to thank everyone for sticking with me as I begin to blog more often. The links to the previous blogs (and blog comments) are listed below.












You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman

All of the weekend stakes videos should be available at the following link by the end of tomorrow.



Congrats to Jack_Straw21 for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling race.

Rick M's scoresheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

On tab 2 you will see each HG Race we've held and they are color coded to denote if the race was run on Turf, Dirt or Poly.

Let's go with Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland for this week's HandiGambling event.


SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

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 if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.


-  Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE 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 recognize you .

- (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.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-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 "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
50$ Ex box 1-6
total $100

Thanks Dan!




Copy of Formblog Blue Grass 4-12-14.xls72 KB
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great to hear that Steve Crist has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. Larry Jones went home, too, the other day. A couple of tough guys. :) Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MKB UPDATE: There are three MKBs entered in the Derby Trial on Sat.: VICSTU'S Bayern ALFREDO'S Chitu BODINE'S Laddie Boy Baffert said he doesn't know if he will run either of his two right now, but they are entered. BODINE'S Laddie Boy scratched out of that 5F turf race the other day to enter here. Good luck to any of you that run!!! Annie
Ned Daly More than 1 year ago
Pat Gavin If you really do come to Suffolk this summer, PLEASE get in touch. Bring your bathing suit. It is about ten minutes away from the beach.
Rosemary Blanton More than 1 year ago
ROTD R4 Keenland #1 Laser Cat won impressively going shorter last at Tam. gets davis today and five lbs. will be coming strong at the finish and must be played in this sprint from the inside. #7 Liz Pendens going short today after many routes and having worked good at this track tells me she may like the cut back to a sprint and is undefeated at this track. robby rides her and is batting 25% with stidham and will be a longshot today. #10 Spun Silky made her debut at GP at 5 Furlongs being no threat but gets rosie today and must be considered for her second start for the year as rosie has won on her before. #12 Crookedpathtoglory cant seem to find the winners circle lately but does have the desire to run always seems to be a contender gets back to the grass today may be the diference. Just my picks for today what do you like? MH01
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Vicstu - I take that guy Mark for a Nantuckett sleigh ride every so often . He's some kind of a Pletcherite . He runs roughshod over those other boards. I give him a taste of the medicine when it strikes my fancy :) Hot'N'Nasty sticks a needle in him now and again herself :) JJ
pat gavin More than 1 year ago
Yes Ron, I have my own scribble that means nothing to anyone but me. I make more notes(on my program) on the races I lose and will give more care and watch replays of the races where things do not go as planned. Why watch something that I already figured out and was correct?. My ego is large enough that I don't need to give myself a pat on the back. When I get home I transfer the pertinent notes to my computer. I skip transcribing some notes because I just will remember them. Like the day that Hard Rock Candy came into the paddock and whinnied the other horses into submission, I t was so evident that she was saying "No Chance for You, the head b**** is here." To my way of thinking(and since I limit myself to LIVE RACING) the big notes are the paddock views. I have only been doing it this way for about 2 years. I used to be a maniac and play all of the races.... but I guess I grew up. Lots of winners have come the difference from how horses have looked from race to race and that counts for negative views as well. I just get giddy when I see a horse getting pounded on the tote and I am one of about 20 people(on a cold day at Laurel when they limit the post parade to 3 minutes) who see a logical favorite who cannot possibly win because he looks horrible. Eliminating horses(by the PP's and paddock) is by far my best attribute. Crafting wagers on what is left(the contenders) is my weakness. I have been a winning player since I have switched to this method....but often feel that I am not maximizing my opportunities. I have decided to "skip" the contest. The second day(only Pimlico) is in my wheel house...but not sure that I could get out of day one without LUCK being the biggest component. I am also having an itch to visit Atlantic City Race course this weekend as I think that the end might be near. We have seen Beulah, Lebanon(Harness), Colonial Downs in the past two years(live) and might want to get a last sight of AC. I guess I like funerals(of racetracks). I am planning a trip to Suffolk this summer. I want to get to 100 racetracks(58 so far) and time might be running out for some.
Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
Now that Dick W is safely at the track, I will throw out Sweet Nkosi in the 4th at Kee. Angle race. Lepareaux riding and "owns" Keeneland. Jamaican Smoke, never tried turf. Liz Pendens coming off of miles Dick's Misszippity big chance RonZ
Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
Hey rahn e moe 2123 I was looking through some past blog entries looking for something else and I saw an exchange between us. Something like vicstu: 90%, RonZ 95%. For the life of me, I have no clue what I was trying to say in that fictitious example, nor could I twist it around and get it to work. My point then and always is about facts always need to be qualified. My bad. I apologize for the confusion on my end. RonZ
Penguin ymous More than 1 year ago
pat gavin Some questions. When I used to visit the track regularly, I too used to take notes like you. Back then, I used to just scribble in the program with what sometimes used to look like penguin footprints. What do you use to keep your notes? Have you developed your own shorthand like: "RALL, rall, NEI, nei, FOI, and many others"? All caps means something a bit different than small letters in my shorthand. I agree with you about the looks of the horses in the paddock can play a huge role in wagering. Also, have you entered the handicapping contest you mentioned? Best RonZ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David M, LOL!! I remember ESPN's shenanigans too. I did a lot of cursing at ESPN. Doesn't seem to be a problem with NBC Sports (formerly Versus). Can you imagine my excitement when it was announced that NBC and NBC Sports will televise 18 BC prep races (21 races in all) beginning June 7th this year? It was like finding a trunk with 21 gold pieces inside. :) Annie