05/01/2014 4:10PM

Kentucky Derby Non-Opinions


The "Curse of Apollo" has nothing on the "Illman Jinx." 

It's common knowledge that I don't do well in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is a wonderful spectacle, but, for me, trying to pick a winner from 20 three-year-olds that are attempting 10 furlongs for the first time is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

Give me a maiden claimer on turf at Saratoga or Del Mar. At least I have a fighting chance in those races.

Usually, I pick some nondescript Derby aspirant at big odds and watch with bemusement while he runs evenly or worse. Very rarely will I have some sort of betting interest. If I do, it's mostly by using as many horses as possible in the multiple-race wagers and hope for the best.

Except for this year. This year, I was going to have a strong opinion. This year, I had a "Hoppertunity" for public handicapping immortality.

Ahem. Sorry, I got a bit carried away there.

I really thought Hoppertunity would give a good account of himself on Saturday. Less than 12 hours after picking him on top in this blog, he's out of action with an injury. 

The "Illman Jinx." 

Gotta love it. 

At least it was nice to type up Joe Hirsch's analysis of Hoppertunity's third dam, Kentucky Oaks winner Davona Dale, for yesterday's blog.

I took a look at the five graded stakes races scheduled over the next two days at Churchill Downs and came up with one "word" for them as betting events.


*Both the Oaks and Derby have strong favorites that are WAAAAY the horses to beat. UNTAPABLE (#13, 4-5 ML) is the best filly in the Oaks. I won't have much money on or against her, but I certainly can understand anyone trying to beat a horse that has never raced at nine furlongs and must break from post position 13 (that post is 0-17 at 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs since 1991 and posts 12 and out at that distance are 3-70).

If she runs her race, she is a very likely winner. At 4-5, I won't pay to see if she runs her race. Plus, if you bet her on-track and she does win, you may not get paid as PETA could try to burn down Churchill Downs if an Asmussen horse wins.

Possible upsetters include THANK YOU MARYLOU (#5, 30-1), a lightly-raced filly returning to a preferred surface for top connections, #11 MY MISS SOPHIA (#11, 8-1), a Todd Pletcher-trained miss that parlayed an easy early lead to victory in the Gazelle at Aqueduct, and UNBRIDLED FOREVER (#9, 12-1), a regally-bred lass that, although no match for Untapable at Fair Grounds, has been pointing for this race all along.

My official picks are 13, 5, 11, 9 although, again, I don't think I'll have much money involved.

*With Hoppertunity out, I have nothing clever to say about the Derby. CALIFORNIA CHROME (#5, 5-2 ML) is best off the cold dope and he has the positional speed to find a nice spot just off the early leaders. He seems like the most likely winner, but I wouldn't take anything close to 5-2 as the distance is a question mark.

WICKED STRONG (#20, 6-1 ML) and DANZA (#4, 8-1 ML) are very logical off their final preps, but the former had a perfect trip in the Arkansas Derby while Wicked Strong is still a little green. I actually like CHITU (#13, 20-1 ML) and UNCLE SIGH (#3, 30-1 ML) as horses. They're pretty good, but I'm not sure the pace scenario and distance really work in their favor. Both are by speed-oriented stallions with stamina on the bottom.

For entertainment purposes only, I went 5, 20, 4, 13. If I have to play multiple-leg wagers, and I'm not sure I will, I'll press California Chrome and Wicked Strong.

*I don't have the courage to try and beat WISE DAN (#1, 4-5 ML) in the Woodford Reserve. You can make the argument that he's slowing down a bit at age seven as his Beyers have dropped in his last few races. Again, I won't argue with anyone that's trying to knock him off his perch. His best asset, arguably, is his tactical speed, and I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up in a garden spot pocketed behind BRIGHT THOUGHT (#2, 20-1 ML) and SKYRING (#9, 12-1 ML).

KAIGUN (#5, 8-1 ML) would benefit from a good pace, but he'll be a fraction of the price he offered when second to Wise Dan at Keeneland. I think Bright Thought is quicker than Skyring and can be dangerous if allowed an easy lead. At 20-1, he's appealing. Alas, I'm not sure we'll get that price.

Again, with my wallet firmly tucked into my pants pocket, I'll go 1, 5, 2, 7.

*The Humana Distaff doesn't offer me much hope for a wagering opportunity, either. I truly believe that MIDNIGHT LUCKY (#8, 5-2 ML) has the potential to be an excellent filly. She should work out a good trip tracking #3 JUDY THE BEAUTY (#3, 3-1 ML) and SATURDAY NTHE PARK (#4, 20-1 ML) and I think she'll make a strong bid on the turn en route to victory. But, how I can bet her at a short price coming off an 11-month layoff?  I can't.

IOTAPA (#6, 7-2) should relish the turnback in distance and SCHERZINGER (#5, 7-2 ML) was very sharp prior to the layoff.

For me, it's a fun race to watch. I'll pick 8, 6, 5, 3.

These are situations in which there are strong horses to beat that are terrible horses to bet. Instead of stabbing at other horses that I don't really like, I'd rather just watch and wait for better opportunities elsewhere.

*If I have to bet one of the Grade 1 races, perhaps it'll be Friday's La Troienne. ON FIRE BABY (#6, 7-2 ML) is listed as fourth-choice on the line and certainly appears very competitive. She just couldn't go with the razor-sharp Close Hatches in both the Azeri and Apple Blossom, but I liked that she showed no quit in the latter race, and it appears as if she's rounding back to her best form. She likes Churchill Downs and can sit a decent trip just off the early lead while racing in the clear. At 7-2 or 4-1 odds, she's worth a play at post time.

La Troienne Picks:  6, 5, 3, 4

*I wish I had stronger opinions for you guys, but I don't.

I'll be hanging out at DRF Live on Friday and Saturday, dropping some Formulator Facts, last-minute news, and perhaps some plays. Check us out if you have a moment.

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's Grade 1 stakes videos should be available at the following link by Friday afternoon.



Congrats to Curtis V. Slewster 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.

We'll go with the Kentucky Derby for this week's HandiGambling event.

The following wagers will be allowed:

1. Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby DAILY DOUBLE

2. Kentucky Oaks/Woodford Reserve Turf Classic/Kentucky Derby PICK 3

3. Kentucky Derby


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 Churchill 4-26-14.xls72 KB
HGDERBY.pdf219.83 KB
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm convinced that the Churchill track was drier and slower for the Derby than other races on the card. The Beyer figure assignment for the Derby is much more art/opinion than science and IMHO, Andy Beyer's personal bias is overwhelming his objective analysis in determining the appropriate figure assignment... I'm hopeful that he commits much of his personal wealth to the pari mutuel pool attempting to beat California Chrome in the Preakness... :)
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago
To anonymous ....as I mentioned to Stuart...why does the wind affect CC but not Curve.....who closed down 6 lengths in the stretch and ran a much faster come home time..into the terrible tornado????....or Ride On Curlin who closed down 8 1/4.......say the wind was swirling around.....Curve still came home faster than Chrome....so the wind apparently didn't affect him much, or Ride On Curlin.....he must be one of those skinny horses......fact is more than 1/2 the field closed ground from the 1/8th pole home......wind didn't affect them..... The wind was in everyone's faces coming home...if you watch the replay you can see the flag blowing towards the 1/8th pole.....and since they all had a tailwind going down the backside why didn't they run faster......hey the wind works both ways....at least when you're trying to make a point it does. The point is the wind blew on everyone coming home......they all would have had trouble closing if the wind was such a factor....the simple truth is the track was quick, they didn't run quick and were beaten by a better horse......Only the Travers runners will have to worry about running that far again this year......it's no shame to run a slow 1 1/4.....as Steve list of slower Derby's shows......Right now he's the best horse.....no amount of arguing is going to change that.....He isn't worth betting....but there were many behind him that will win and pay money down the road....my suggestion is pay attention to them, make some money......enjoy the races......Mike A
AZ Wildcat More than 1 year ago
There is a rider in New York that I think is headed towards stardom and that is Jose Ortiz, the younger of the Ortiz brothers. He rides very much like Ramon Dominguez - very patient, has his horse in position, uses the stick judiciously, gets his mounts out of the gate quickly and finishes well. I am pretty good at finding up and comping jocks, I drove everybody nuts 7 years ago with a young Joel Rosario. We knew last year that he had real talent, especially on turf and he has progressed even further. This kid is even better than Rosario. So if your stakes pony shows up with this 20 year old up, don't panic cause the kid can flat ride.
pat gavin More than 1 year ago
TBTA and Annie Of course he is relevant.... I am just not in on anything he does or says. He has changed and used to be a good chronicler of the game. Somewhere along the line he became what happens to many people who have had much adulation. He has stopped being curious and has become sanctimonious. IF you are going to be a know it all....you better know it. His books where ground breaking and important, but that was 40 years ago. As far as his numbers......and this is tough to say. They(the speed figure) are reflective of what he(and his men) THINK will happen. There is a built in bias against class of the race..... in other words(to me) he has flipped 180 degrees from what his intended purpose of the number was. For example in the 70's(when he was solo) Andy would give a 10,000 claimer a 95 and it was his contention that this horse would have won the 100,000 stakes race that same day. This has been factored out. Since I had to take College Math twice... maybe the whole number thing doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather give higher weight to class, running style, shape, pace and appearance. I admire Beyer...what he is selling has no appeal to me and that I(and I only speak for myself) has NO VALUE. I'll drink my water from the tap and trust my eyes. And from who he picked for the Derby his "alchemy" has little meaning to him. And I find it funny that he has become what he said did not exist. In "PICKING WINNERS' he said(and I am paraphrasing) that many people think that race track players are solitary figures who sit by themselves and brood. In fact most players that Andy knew were very congenial and willing to share their opinions. He sits alone in Christine Lee's brooding. WOW!
AZ Wildcat More than 1 year ago
I think we have squeezed the Derby time lemon dry... To put it in perspective, here are just some of the horses who ran slower than California Chrome, I am sure there is no way they would have beaten him... Citation Count Fleet Assault Tim Tam Whirlaway Sunday Silence Four of those were Triple Crown winners. The last Cal bred to win the Derby also ran the fastest Derby in history up until 1962, his name was Decidedly. Who? Exactly.
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
Pat Gavin, For what it's worth, at the Formblog Convention at Gulfstream, said speed figure guru was sitting on a couch in Christine Lee's all by his lonesome watching the races. Meanwhile, the Illman crowd was happily walking back and forth to the paddock, making new friends or finding old ones, (Barbara Livingston and Kevin Cox) trackside. Last year I met Kelly Breen trainer of my former MKB, Bern Identity. Obviously these two handicappers have very different personal styles. Although I think the speed figures have flaws, as Steve T and Alan have so aptly addressed over the years, as handicappers, we have to pay attention to them. When we can find a race that was either grossly overvalued or grossly undervalued, it is a worthwhile endeavor to find a way to profit when the horses from those races come into their next race. Alan was kind enough to alert all the Formbloggers to a particularly egregious undervalued race so that we could profit. One thing I love about reading his columns, is that as he has aged, he is way way more grumpy (Which is often amusing, whether it is sour grapes when his horse loses or he is skewering a stupid decision when a big racing issue is involved.). Since he has made a fortune off his "invention" of speed figures and this entire website is built around them to some degree, he can say whatever the heck he feels like saying and lots of times, it's good for the sport, and almost no one can touch him for expressing his opinion. It must be fun to be almost "untouchable". That is one reason I think he is still very very relevant. And whether or not he is a nice guy or a poor sport, is just plain fun to gossip about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pat Gavin, Welll. The thing is. On Friday at CD, 8 winners had the highest last race Beyers, including sweeping the Pick 6. And the winners of both the Oaks and the Derby had the highest last race Beyers. And many of the HG races, at all different levels, were won by the horse with the highest last race Beyer, including several exactas with the two highest last race Beyers. So, they can't be all that bad, can they? :) I was surprised that Andy Beyer did not pick CC as the winner. Although he did go for the 2nd highest, WICKED STRONG. BTW, I did not pick CC because he had the highest last race Beyer. He just had been the most impressive and strongest runner of what was left of the crop. My only concern was how he would take to CD. They (whoever they are) always say that horses either like it or they don't. But, as many fine handicappers believe, a good horse can run on anything. And, I believe CC is a good horse. Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not concerned about the time of CC's Derby. The predicted hot pace did not develop early and I am pretty certain that Victor had instructions from Mr. Sherman to try not to go any faster than absolutely necessary to win the thing. The reason I say that is because everything I have read from Mr. Sherman leads me to believe that he is particularly concerned about leaving something left in his prize colt. He has stated that he prefers 7 or 8 weeks between races for his horses. Knowing that it will be only 2 weeks for CC's next start, I'm quite sure that he wanted Victor to take care if he was in the lead, and not use everything the horse has got just to make an impressive time or win by a huge margin. JMHO Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bernard Downes, I suppose all your buddies at the pub were jealous when you told them that your horse won the Kentucky Derby. Or did you not mention it to them. :) I see you didn't bet CC. The odds would have been too low. SIGH!! Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MKB UPDATE: Before the Preakness runs in less than two weeks, we have a race this Saturday for a few of the MKBs that did not qualify for the Derby for one reason or another. Peter Pan Stakes at BP: SONNY CROCKETT'S Tonalist MIKE O'S Albano STUCKINARIZONA'S Matterhorn and possibly TURNBACKTHEALARM'S Commissioner Good luck to all that run!!! Annie