05/01/2009 2:29PM

HandiGambling 131


This week's HandiGambling 131 exercise is the Kentucky Derby.  Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race (including Kentucky Oaks - Kentucky Derby Daily Doubles), 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. 

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 process about wagering, it would be appreciated.

I landed on several win candidates.  In order of preference:

DESERT PARTY (#19) is professional and tactical, and had to rally over a speed-favoring track in the UAE Derby while under an overly-confident ride by Frankie Dettori.  He has enough speed to secure a stalking trip while in the second or third flight.  There may not be a ton of pace in this Derby, and Desert Party can get the jump on the stone closers from 5-7 lengths off the early leaders. 

REGAL RANSOM (#10) was flattered by the bias in the UAE Derby, and 1 1/4 miles may be just outside his range, but he could be aided by the possible moderate splits.  I'm projecting Regal Ransom to sit just off overmatched pacesetter JOIN IN THE DANCE only to take over with three furlongs to run.  I'm hoping he'll be in front when they hit the "wall of sound."  After that, we'll see how good he is. 

DUNKIRK (#15) may have the most upside potential of any horse in the field.  Yes, he's inexperienced, but he's also very talented.  He ran against the bias in the Florida Derby when rallying five wide on the far turn only to be turned away by an excellent three-year-old in the now-injured Quality Road.  Dunkirk will likely need some pace to properly setup his late kick, but expect to see the gray streak makes his presence felt at some point of the running.

I WANT REVENGE (#13) is a favorite without many holes.  He ran fast in the Gotham when pressuring a quick and quality three-year-old in Mr. Fantasy, then asserted his class by overcoming a horror trip to win the Wood Memorial under only hands and heels urging.  He has enough speed to find a good spot going into the first turn...if he breaks well from the gate.  Hopefully, his abysmal start in the Wood Memorial was an aberration instead of the beginning of a bad habit.

FRIESAN FIRE (#6) has Funny Cide-eque tactical speed, and may work out a similar trip as the plucky New York-bred gelding.  He can track the pace while saving ground, is proven over a wet surface and, according to the Beyers, has run some races fast enough to compete with these. 

#1 WEST SIDE BERNIE isn't impossible in the gimmicks although he was no match for I Want Revenge in the Wood, and that one had a much more difficult journey.  West Side Bernie also suffered from a minor bout of colic since the Wood, and must avoid being shuffled all the way back after breaking from the rail.

#2 MUSKET MAN looked a tired horse when switching back to his wrong lead in the waning strides of the Illinois Derby.  That should have been expected as he's bred to excel at shorter distances, but Musket Man has already outrun his pedigree.  He's a likeable colt, but probably a cut below the top contenders.

#3 MR. HOT STUFF has some long-term potential, but this horse is as green as the Grinch when compared to his older brother, Colonel John, at this point last year.  A one-run closer, Mr. Hot Stuff needs pace and race luck.

#4 ADVICE was aided by a wonderful ride from Garrett Gomez when winning the Lexington at Keeneland.  He's another late-kicker that needs racing luck, and is probably better at shorter distances over synthetic surfaces.

I think #5 HOLD ME BACK is coming into this race wonderfully for Bill Mott.  He showed a lot of class in winning the Lane's End in his first start off a four-month break, and I don't think he was fully cranked when second to GENERAL QUARTERS in the Blue Grass.  He's probably sitting on 'go' for the Derby, but has yet to win on dirt, and needs a trip from the rear of the field.

#7 PAPA CLEM showed a new dimension when stalking-and-pouncing to victory in the Arkansas Derby, and he was game to hold the place in the Louisiana Derby.  He can be close to the expected moderate pace under the aggressive Rafael Bejarano, and looms an exotics chance at the very least.

#8 MINE THAT BIRD is simply too slow with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 81.  He has never won on dirt, and is overmatched in this spot.

#9 JOIN IN THE DANCE is the probable pacesetter, but he stopped in the Blue Grass, and couldn't hold back Musket Man's determined late surge in the Sam F. Davis.  Know him early, but he probably starts backing out of this race at the three-eighths pole.

#11 CHOCOLATE CANDY has never raced on dirt so that's the major x-factor with him.  He's bred to handle this distance, and also acts like the additional furlong won't be a problem.  Another late-runner that will need luck.

#12 GENERAL QUARTERS has won graded stakes races on both dirt and polytrack, and he kept on trucking to win the Blue Grass last time out.  He's a professional sort with some tactical speed, and is the only horse in the race with a previous victory at Churchill Downs.  I'm just not sure if he's as good as the top ones, however.

#14 ATOMIC RAIN's best race came when no match for I WANT REVENGE in the Wood.  He's eligible for a 'n2L' race somewhere, and looks in over his head in the Derby.

#16 PIONEEROF THE NILE is consistent and hearty, and if he duplicates his synthetic form, he's going to be very, very tough in the Derby.  Of course, not one person in this world knows if he's going to be as effective on dirt until he actually races on it.  If he goes off at a decent price, and you like Pioneerof the Nile, you owe it to yourself to load up. But, if he goes off as an underlay, you have to try and beat him as you're not supposed to play horses trying something new at short prices.

#17 SUMMER BIRD may have been helped by the hot pace when a rallying third in the Arkansas Derby.  He's an interesting colt by Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone, but his lack of speed will put him behind the eight ball on the backstretch.

#18 NOWHERE TO HIDE has been exposed at the graded level, and he didn't do much behind Musket Man in the weak Illinois Derby.  He has an outside chance to hit the board with an even performance if some of the others falter.

#20 FLYING PRIVATE is also eligible for an entry-level allowance race, and his best speed figure came over a synthetic track.  He'd be a surprise.

Here's my HandiGambling play:

$25 WIN-PLACE Desert Party (#19) - $50
$8 EXACTA BOX Regal Ransom, Dunkirk, Desert Party (#10, #13, #19) - $48

$2 for half of a mint julep


For what they're worth, here are some other opinions for the weekend:

Crown Royal American Turf (Race 10 - Friday)

STORMALORY and BATTLE OF HASTINGS look set to put on a good East-West matchup in this three-year-old heat on the grass, but both will take a solid amount of money.  Instead, I'll focus on a price horse.  BRUCE N AUTUMN won his maiden over wet turf at Churchill last year, then was taken out of his element on dirt in his subsequent two outings.  Last time out, in the Lane's End on polytrack, Bruce N Autumn made a premature wide move down the backstretch before steadying a bit entering the turn.  He returns to his preferred surface, and is worth a shot at a big mutuel.

Churchill Downs Stakes (Race 6 - Saturday)

Don't think there's a lot of pace in this race, and that may work against likely favorite KODIAK KOWBOY.  The Jones-trained sprinter gave a gut-busting effort to win the Carter Handicap last month, and may regress off that hard race.  SOK SOK looks logical from closer to the pace, but I'll go with a better price in SPOTSGONE.  The six-year-old battled every step of the way in the Fifth Season at Oaklawn last time out only to come up a neck shy.  He sandwiched himself between a pair of next-out winners that day, and is making his fourth start since returning from a stress fracture suffered last year.  It looks like he's rounding into form, and can be a pace presence despite turning back in distance.


I was browsing them and starting thinking: "damn, Flying Private looks better than I thought..."
James Mc

Here's a classic Lukas quote from a Churchill Downs press release:

"He's as good as some of them I brought here, including some of them who've won," the Hall of Fame trainer said.  "Charismatic went on to be Horse of the Year, but at this stage, I think he's every bit as good as Charismatic, and I think he's better than Grindstone."

This next Lukas quote will put a burr in Steve T.'s saddle:

"I'm not a synthetic person.  I think it's caused a nightmare for the bettors.  The very lifeblood of our industry is the gambling public, and I think they've been put at such a disadvantage trying to sort this thing out," Lukas said. 
"I think it'll run its course, and maybe in a couple years, they'll dig them all up and get back to natural dirt.  They have that Gamblers Anonymous for people who have that bad gambling habit.  Polytrack will take care of that.  They won't need to worry about that anymore.  People will quit gambling."


What does everyone think Dominguez will do (especially those who liked him prior to the draw) knowing that horses 6-10 will all bust loose and GQ at 12, IWR at 13 and AR at 14 will all go too, and POTN has to get out at 16? Does he go for broke hoping a few have bad starts and run the risk of going about 8-wide down the stretch and into the turn ?
Or does he sit tight and try to scoot over before the turn and have to close from about 10-12 lengths off the pace, something the horse has never done?

The one mini-advantage (if there is such a thing as a mini-advantage from post 19) that Desert Party may have is the lack of gate speed from his rivals directly to his inside.
Nowhere to Hide (post 18) has been within a length of the pacesetter in only one of his three races with blinkers, and that was off a 24.80 first quarter at Calder.  Summer Bird (post 17) has no speed.  Pioneerof the Nile (post 16) prefers to race from midpack as does Dunkirk (post 15).  Atomic Rain (post 14) has some speed, but isn't wickedly fast.  I think Dominguez will attempt to leave quickly, and try to look for Talamo aboard I Want Revenge (post 13).  If he can tuck in behind that one and follow I Want Revenge, then that would work out.  If he can sit off of IWR's hip, that would be okay as well.  When IWR goes, Ramon should make his move.
Just my two cents.


Dan-As resident "baby" horse guru, would you downgrade firsters on Derby Day? With 150k people that's gotta have an effect on most horses, but firsters are "nervous"enough with 2k people at Arlington, let alone the zoo that is Derby Day. (Trying to figure out what to do with the 1st race, but since it's a once a year trip sitting out the race isn't an option!)
Stephen L. Taylor

I'd have to take it on a horse-by-horse basis, but I certainly see your point.  Make sure your eyes are glued to the computer and simulcast monitor for signs of nervousness in the debut runners.  You'll be able to tell if they're freaking out.  If they are misbehaving, they probably aren't good bets.


Everyone is focusing so much on the main 4 contenders but Derby's are often not that straightforward. Can you post the PP's for the 1995 Derby field. That was a good race supposedly to be dominated by a select few but it ended up going to a longshot who was elite but forgotten

Here they are in order of finish:

Download Derby 1995


Have a great weekend.

garyw More than 1 year ago
just a test to see if i got the url
Wright Stuff More than 1 year ago
Dan: One of the fastest fillies I ever saw was Melair. I vaguely remember a mile race in California where the 6 and 7 furlong times were HOT. Was Melair in that race?
Annie More than 1 year ago
In clearing out all my Derby papers, I ran across this quote from Jerry Hollendorfer after CC's El Camino Real: "To get a 90 on synthetic was fine for me. The numbers don't transfer as well as they do on dirt. Take Hystericalady for example. She ran a 90 on synthetic and a 115 on dirt. The reality is, for the most part they get better numbers on dirt." Amen Also, CC has a two-year old full sister named SMOOTH AS CANDY. I can't wait. :) Annie
buffalo joe More than 1 year ago
This is a quote I saw on another blog, regarding the winner of this years Derby, that struck me funny. "It was an embarrasmemt to the sport and now every clown with an overmatched horse will enter the race if he has enough earnings. It is becoming a bigger joke every year with people running a horse because they can, not because they think he can win." Why not let history be the judge of that, and give these connections thier 15 mins. of fame. After all they did pluck down $400,000. to purchase a Graded stakes winner, albiet not the most fashionable of horses but I see he was only beaten 7 lenghts by POTN in last years BC Juv. It appears they took different paths the Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May. It may very well be that this derby winner may turn out to be a fluke, but given the trainers statements that he was just trying to get this horse relax off the pace a make one big run in a race, I could understand why he did not show better in his New Mexico preps after all The Kentucky derby was the objective. Now if you ask me if the derby was run tomorrow would I include him in my exotic plays? the answer is not even for 5th in the super high 5, but will I dismiss him in future races, I would say not if it is raining. I must tell everyone how much I like Nick Zito, as an honest hardworking sincere human bieng and trainer. That said the real joke and embarrasment is, two Hall of Fame trainers, Mr Zito and D Wayne Lukas along with Winstar Farms owners of Mr Hot Stuff, (two races removed from his madien victory, and one race from a very weak 7 horse SA Derby, were he got lucky because of scratches and defections from proven west coast runners IWR and Papa Clem). Did any of those three belong in the Derby field? Why criticize the horse and connections that won the the race, as I said let history be the judge of thier credentials.
BigEasyBigChok More than 1 year ago
Alan, Little Chok and I will seriously play the pk 6 on wednesday at churchill. He was on fire early on derby day and if not for THE derby we would have had a very nice betting day. I know you cant make all the bets you should but in hindsight we are still wondering why we did not invest $38.00 and wheel POTN second in exactas to all as you and all other blue boxers know I had POTN as my standout in this race. 2k would have healed some of the hurt. Flip, I hear you on Borel. I am sure you noticed that the 9 horse moved off the rail ever so slightly just as Borel and MTB came flying inside. IF,IF,IF the 9 holds his line I think POTN had a decent shot to hold with MM and PC holding as well which would have given me the Big win bet and the tri. I heard that Borel had to wash the white paint off his left boot after the race. Alan, let us know your thoughts on closers at Pimlico in the distance races and your thoughts on any track bias for Preakness day as I will be in SR Vegas's neighborhood for that day. BigEasyBigChok
Annie More than 1 year ago
NEWS FLASH! TIZNOW has worked his magic, and PEPPER'S PRIDE is now in foal. Annie
Annie More than 1 year ago
With apologies to Flipper, I have always dismissed the Grey Stks (Can-GR3) winner from consideration in the Derby because in my experience the Canadian Wonder (not you Flip) has not fared well if entered. Just shows we can't blindly dismiss any of them. Interesting note: Four of the top five finishers ran on nothing except turf or synthetic in their two year old season. Musket Man was the only exception (2 starts on dirt at 2). Besides the fact that the two year old dirt stars were decimated one after the other, makes one wonder if maybe dirt races are just too hard on the two year olds. We'll have to watch to see if this trend continues next year. Annie
Calvin L. Carter More than 1 year ago
Erik, Tinky, I agree with your previous posts. When I look at the chart of the Kentucky Derby, the overwhelming conclusion that I have is Calvin Borel won that race and it was his masterful change in riding technique on the off track that made all the difference. When you look at the past performances of Mine That Bird, he was on the lead or just off the lead in the 2nd spot in most of his races. Borel dropped Mine That Bird to the back of the pack in 19th place until three-quarter pole and saved a lot of ground and a lot of wasted energy. Mine That Bird did not start running until the half and he poured on the coals in the last quarter mile - at the mile mark, Mine That Bird was in 12th place one-half length off the lead. Here’s how Gregory A. Hall reported Borel’s ride in The-Courier Journal: “Borel said he decided to sit back and "sit chilly" as Mine That Bird then tracked the field through the first six furlongs before he and Borel started the move. After the first half-mile he was two lengths behind the 18th-place horse and more than 15 behind the leader. It isn't the first half-mile that counts, Borel said, "it's always the last." And that was when Mine That Bird showed up with a half-mile charge to the wire.” Here’s the link: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20090503/SPORTS08/905030521/1037/SPORTS08/Jockey+has+an+incredible+ride Of course, Borel had to have a talented horse in order to win and Mine That Bird has the breeding with Birdstone as the sire and Smart Strike as the damsire. But, in my opinion, it was Borel’s masterful ride that earned him the Garland of Roses. And that should not be so surprising – Borel’s done this twice now with the same riding technique. chicago gerry, I too am surprised that we did hear that Mine That Bird was the Canadian Champion. Not that it would have made any difference. But it might have, especially when you consider that Mine That Bird is a descendent of the Mr. Prospector bloodline. The Mr. Prospector line has now won 9 of the past 15 (60%) Kentucky Derbies. What made handicapping this Derby difficult is that over half (11) the horses in the field were Mr. Prospector descendents.
Tom More than 1 year ago
Van Savant, you are right on your pace figure, the Sunland Derby was very fast 1/2 and 3/4 this year with a very slow finish. I adjust my figs to the final time, so I had MTB near the bottom. Alan, my reference to "Beyer bashing" was not directed at you or anyone in particular. On nearly every blog I read, there are disgruntled handicappers complaining about Andy's west coast bias; low synthetic numbers; changing original figs; the numbers suck; the numbers don't make sense, blah, blah, blah. I don't remember you having lunch with Andy. Now that is cool! That should be one of those handicapper test questions: Name three people you would like to have lunch with, and explain why...
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Btw, when I bash BSFs, I am not bashing Andy Beyer the handicapper and journalist. As a writer I feel he is one of the few honest voices in a field of calptrap who parrot the official line of the industry ad naseum. His speed figures need to be adjusted or something. Brisnet is flawed as well, all the sheets and Eq.. They are all just figures. As C says, horses run races, the figures do not. Having said that, I have no doubt in my mind that Beyer will give MTB some low BSF (100-105) even though that 2:02.66 on a sloppy track is one of the fastest times on a sloppy track that has been run in the past couple of decades. As a way of comparison, I saw a post by SV over at Crist's Blog where he states that SJ ran the Derby in 2:04.06 on a sloppy track, yet received a 107 from Beyer. He posists that this was because Lion Heart and the third place finisher all had high BSFs of 106 or higher pre-Derby. That the BSFs perpetuate each other. This year finishers 1-5 all had BSFs of 101 or below as their high. Of the top 3, Musket Man's 98 BSF was highest (although he received a 104 Brisnet for that same race). Beyer will seize on this to give the entire field a subpar BSF from 1 on down. In other words, instead of admitting that his speed figures are flawed and opened to different interpretations, Beyer will again blame the Derby field and claim they ran like a bunch of cheap claimers, sloppy track and fast final time for a sloppy track notwithstanding. I do not know if I agree with that, however I agree that given the solid internal fractions of 22.91, 47 and 1:12 and change, combined with the fastest quarter mile finish in over 30 years, we should have a higher BSF than 104 or 105 or whatever Giacomo like figure that Beyer and Brisnet use to spin their way out of this Derby. RA fans: RA ran the final 3 furlongs of the Oaks in 37.09 seconds. MTB ran the final 4 furlongs of the Derby in 47.07 (per Dick Downey-23.88 and 23.19 for final quarter). That means for RA to sustain a lead at 10 furlongs over him, assuming she would have gotten that perfect trip, she would have run that extra final furlong in 9.88 seconds to have finished on par with MTB. No horse in the history of racing has run the final Derby furlong in 9.88 seconds. Remember, the 6 f call in the Oaks was 1:11.89 and the Derby was 1:12.09. Very close. MTB ran his final 3 furlongs in apprx. 35.09 seconds. That is TWO SECONDS FASTER than RA ran her final 3 furlongs in the 9f Oaks. Even with the perfect trip, MTB's final 4 furlongs would have been more than enough to nail RA at the wire. Sure, its only surmise and numbers, but so is speculating she would have won the Derby. Give her connections a break.