06/06/2014 10:44AM

Looking Back, Looking Ahead


It's hard to believe, but a Triple Crown aspirant once played an away game.

Twenty-five years ago, Sunday Silence stormed into New York with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness under his belt.

Two down, one to go.

Yet, as I recall it, many of the 64,959 at Belmont were rooting for the spoiler. After all, said 3-year-old was Easy Goer, "New York's" Easy Goer, the Phipps-owned, Shug-trained blueblood. He was the crowd's darling, and as my father, great-uncle and I made our way to our spot inside the beautiful, gigantic racetrack, we could hear the murmurs of anticipation from the local faithful.

"He just couldn't handle that wet track at Churchill," bemoaned one plaid-suited, cigar-chomping railbird.

"Pat Day got him beat in the Preakness," raged a frowning sad sack.

"NO EXCUSES TODAY," they screamed in tandem.

My teenaged brain had to agree with them. Easy Goer had been so impressive in his prior wins. He had to be the better horse. Plus, he was MY horse.

Sometimes the heart overrides the head.

Perhaps we didn't know any better. Heck, it had only been 11 years since Affirmed completed the treble, and he did it on the heels of Seattle Slew and Secretariat. Who knew we would have to wait and wait and wait for the next one?

Dear Old Dad gave out his usual ridiculous opinion. He picked Rock Point. My heart was set on Easy Goer, but I smoked out Le Voyageur for the exotics.

Predictably, the building was pure electricity as the field set sail for the demanding 12-furlong journey. And, honestly, the race was anticlimactic. Easy Goer blew Sunday Silence's doors off on the turn and the crowd exploded with joy.

We all know how that story played out. Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer on the square in the Breeders' Cup Classic. With experience and hindsight, I realized something I never would have admitted a quarter-century ago.

Sunday Silence was the better horse.

This year, California Chrome won't face the same bias that Sunday Silence was up against in 1989. Although he is 3,000 miles away from his home base in Southern California, this is no road game. Over 100,000 people on-track, and millions watching all over the world, are hoping that he is the one to break the 36-year jinx.

I will be one of them.

Yet, as a gambler, I recognize an underlay when I see one. No matter how brilliant a 3-year-old has been in his previous races, I just can't take 1-2 on a horse trying 12-furlongs for the first time. Yes, I know the distance is a major question mark for all of them. But I'd rather go down with a solid 10-1 shot than the chalk in that situation.

California Chrome is WAY the most likely winner of the Belmont. He is an 'A' in my Ticketmaker play for both the Pick 4 and Pick 6. But, I will give Tonalist some of my money. I do realize he's picking up weight and distance while facing tougher competition. I realize he's been training in bar shoes, as he was before his excellent effort in the Peter Pan slop.  From a natural talent perspective, however, I believe he's closest to California Chrome. And he'll be a much bigger price. I'd bet him to win at 8-1 and use him with 25% of my weight in Pick 4's and Pick 6's (California Chrome gets the lion's share).

As for the other fantastic races on this stellar card, I like Shakin It Up to upset Palace Malice in the Metropolitan Handicap. Shakin It Up may have moved prematurely when second in his most recent start at Churchill Downs. I'm not afraid of the one-turn mile and there should be plenty of pace to properly setup his late flurry. Rosie Napravnik just needs to time his move correctly as his burst is enervating, yet short.

While many fans are clamoring for the Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar, Beholder confrontation, I think that the California filly is going to put on a show. She couldn't have been more impressive in her return race, a performance that was nothing more than a breeze, and she projects to get the jump on Princess of Sylmar.

While My Miss Sophia looms the filly to beat in the Acorn after chasing Untapable at Churchill Downs, I'm a fan of Fiftyshadesofgold, who grabbed the La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Fiftyshadesofgold showed a good amount of heart when challenged in the stretch that afternoon and the one-turn mile should be within her scope.

Real Solution has a tendency to hang, but he's going to get much more pace in the Manhattan than he did last out in the Man O' War. If he doesn't do the job soon, I will have to relegate him to Sun King or, worse yet, Giant Oak status.

I'm posting this before scratches and changes on Friday, but I do like Salutos Amigos in the True North.

Stay tuned to DRF LIVE later today for live video previews of today's two stakes races at Belmont. They'll be filmed approximately 15 minutes to post.

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

The Belmont Stakes handicapping preview videos are available at the following links



Please note that the Grade 1 undercard races have been posted. The other graded races for Saturday will be up on the site later this afternoon.


You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman


The Belmont Stakes will be this week's HandiGambling exercise


The Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Daily Double wager will also be allowed.

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!




HGBELMONT.pdf193.16 KB
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Rodney - You're right ! There is no mythical 30-100 lengths . That 30-100 lengths is etched in stone FACT. If I wanted to be an extremist I could compare the respective record winning margin holders Secretariat & Shergar . Secretariat ran 150 something lengths faster than Shergar . I don't care if the race was in a bog uphill all the way and Shergar was pulling Red Rum and his cart ... 150 lengths is a lot of lengths ! I don't want to be an extremist so I give the eurojoggers a 30-50 length handicap. Here's another FACT ... Chrome "got" 12 furlongs better than Frankel ever did :) No question about that little tidbit now is there ? Frankel's yellow-bellied owner & trainer make the cowardly lion look like Sir Lancelot :) They don't come any more cowardly than Frankel's connects . It's not like Frankel only had 1 chance at 12f glory . Their silks should have incorporated a nice wide yellow streak right down the back :) No Coburning on my end :) I'll never take that back :) Actually it bears repeating that Frankel's connects were Yellow ! JJ
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
Al, Agreed on Maragh winning the Belmont. He is not one of my favorites in the "smarts" department. I don't know if you saw it, but Beholder came back with a deep gash on one of her hindlegs. It was a jagged rip that the vets couldn't even stitch. It was also deeply embedded with dirt. Mandella thought it looked like she got hit with a toe grab from another horse. Although there are other reasons that could have caused her loss, if the injury occurred early in the race, it could have caused her to run poorly to start and not assume her normal front of the pack type of race. Her lack of run suprised me. Moreno is one of the poster children for the Vicstuvian saying, "Let the damn horse run, fool!"
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
JJ- BlackJack Thanks for the note. I guess I did misinterpret the post of VS and H&N. I'm not very attuned with the telepathic ways :) Daniel Boone, hmm? lol! I want to wish all the Fathers out in Formblog a very Happy Fathers Day weekend. I'm back on the road again tomorrow for graduations and family stuff. Plus a day for the Playboy Jazz festival at the beautiful Hollywood Bowl... fun ! SR Vegas
VanSavant More than 1 year ago
All; No, Mike A didn't play the Belmont, as he told me in advance that he felt four or five of these could win it, and he didn't think that California Chrome was going to. My story about my friend who hit the $2 Superfecta was someone else. The Great and Powerful Ray Flack knows this guy, because I introduced them when Ray and I met back in January. Sorry for the confusions. vs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aww, ZENYATTA'S first foal, COZMIC ONE, is now a two-year-old and galloping for John Sherriffs. He does look like his mommy. Sherriffs thinks he will probably start earlier than his mother did, but he is in no hurry. Doubts it will be before Saratoga is over. We'll have to keep an eye out for him. Annie
DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago
Coburning I made a major Oops this morning so I am going Coburn for a brief moment – my sincerest apologies to JacksonJackson. Now the Restated Accurate Version - There is actually one card carrying player in America that seriously would compare 12F dirt times in America to 12F turf times in Europe. The rest of the players don’t….I think. Pat G – I believe a few in this year Belmont are likely done as “quality” horses. Maybe a new angle for 2014 – play against this year’s Belmont runners next out or forever. Rodney – where you been? We need to hear more from you. Not sure if Mike A played Tonalist, General A Rod or even played. i have not seen a post from him for a couple of weeks. If he did play it more than likely resulted in positive cash flow. His prior picks put him on my Form Blog Mount Rushmore until someone takes a jackhammer or a stick of dynamite displacing him. My 0-99 record in HG will stand the test of time though. No jackhammers or dynamite needed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Dan and everyone else who had Tonalist in the Belmont. Not the most brilliant day of handicapping for me …. missed Sweet Reason badly, inexcusably. I was right about Palace Malice and Australia, dead wrong about Goldencents and Kingston Hill – both ran very well. Missed the whole top 3 in the Belmont and didn’t make use of my own stuff on Settling Mist. Australia's hind quarters look very well developed although not exceptionally wide. I thought he looked very composed but coiled to go pre-race. Kingston Hill I thought looked like another somewhat even-style runner, but he would have won clear had there not been one horse who could actually power the 12F. From 3 1/2 F out to 2F Australia got from the rear of mid-pack to the front just being let out, not even ridden hard. Impressive run. Geoffery Chauncer blew up. Red Galileo came on late better than expected. Palace Malice – I got a kick out of the speed figs guys (the new DRF guy Matt Bernier among them) overthrowing their stat work by fretting about the post without any deeper explanation. How many times has Johnny V been on Wise Dan pinned in on the rail, and how many times has he gotten him out, eventually, successfully? It looked to me as though it was very hard for the outside post horses in the one-turns to make up the extra ground from having to move diagonally across the track at the start, so they had to work harder early, lost ground 2-3-4 W around the turns, and still had to come around if they had anything left. I don't think it was a rail-biased surface, just the basic dimensions and geometry of the posts. It started in the Easy Goer, where Howl – a recent MC50 winner who looked very good except that he was on a loose lead against a weak field – broke well and would have led had he not had to try and get so far over, and Life in Shambles hustled up the open rail after a bit of a slow break. Howl then pressured and stalked outside, but weakened late on the turn. I don't think he was good enough to win, but it shaped the race. I'm not sure if SI would have beaten Bayern had their post positions been reversed, but the race would probably have looked different. Sweet Reason went right to the rail; Close Hatches was on the inside; PM was on the rail while Shakin It Up was stuck on the far outside. Of the 12 stakes races on Friday & Saturday, the winnings jockeys were: 3 – Rosario 3 – Johnny V 2 – Castellano 2 – Irad Ortiz 1 – Jose Ortiz 1 – Gary Stevens Not the whole puzzle, and plenty of superior mounts in there for the big NY riders, but not all – it has to be one of the pieces. I'm glad I paused on Wicked Strong …. Maragh winning the Belmont was a hard one to comprehend. Speed kills …. Beholder's biggest advantage over CH & POS is her speed – unless Uncle Gary felt like he had no horse at all, or the horse didn't want to go, I can't understand holding her back at all. Moreno was apparently the trainer's idea …. I knew Guillot was a bit nutty, but this was just dumb. When he said he was going to do it, I had a hard time believing he was serious. He's a Ghostzapper for cryin out loud …. every penny the horse has made has come on or near the lead …. goes to the lead no matter what, runs till you can't …. he's dogged, he may not win much but he wrecks others' races when they duel with him, and as PatG said, those 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths have to be paying some bills. Did he seriously think he was going to beat PM at his own stalking game? CChrome didn't exactly look listless or sluggish pre-race, that would be too strong …. just a bit flat, particularly when they showed the horses walking from their stall, circling the paddock, to jockeys getting up and heading to the track. I was hoping to see him on his toes or walking purposefully, visibly energetic and didn't. The lead was there for him, wide open …. he was maybe 1/2L behind Commissioner approaching the turn but with the inside position, the lead was his to take. Was Espinoza thinking he was going to get the nice position he got the last two? Not a chance from where he was with so many outside of him and even with him or nearly so. He is a speed horse who can rate, and well, but he is not a mid-pack and wait horse. Brilliant move by Castellano to take advantage of what Commissioner gave him with his clean, fast break. CC looked uncomfortable down the back-stretch …. I thought he might have down better to wait in the pocket, since he was stuck there anyway, until the stretch rather than swinging way wide so early in the turn. Samraat – another valiant effort, especially after getting taken or shuffled so far back around/on the first turn to a very unfamiliar position. How much did the consistent mile works and pre-Belmont 3-mile gallops help his stamina, especially as opposed to the more prosaic, standard work pattern that most of the others, including those better bred for the distance, employed? Al
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
JJ, Regarding the discussion of "no hopers" in the Belmont: Although neither Commissioner or Tonalist qualified for the Derby, both of them obviously displayed recent good form in the Peter Pan and deserved to be in the Belmont. I would say that even if they'd come in last. However, I think JJ may be on to something about having only horses with Kentucky Derby points eligible for the Belmont. But, if I were the Grand Poobah of racing, I'd probably go a couple of steps further with that idea. In order to enter without any Derby points, I would consider the attainment of graded earnings from races longer than a mile even if they weren't points races, like turf races, and I would assign points to specific races like the Peter Pan and the Illinois Derby which would demonstrate recent form and let those be some minimum standards for entry to the Belmont. I definitely resent cluttering the field with maidens or horses that just broke their maidens in a Triple Crown race. It's not Thursday afternoon at Monmouth for goodness sake! For the archives: Vinceremos, Harry's Holiday, Commanding Curve and Pablo Del Monte were the last horses eligible to enter the starting gate for the Derby and each had 20 points. Commissioner was tied with several others at 10 points with a few like Big Bazinga, Coastline and Strong Mandate with point totals in between the 10 and 20 range.
Rodney More than 1 year ago
JJ, " I don't choose to believe that a race run routinely 30- 100 lengths slower by the winner proves that the slower horse got 12 f and the faster horse didn't get 12 f :) " There is no mythical 30/100 lengths in the first place, the flaw in your argument is comparing grass times and dirt times, and different courses.
Alfred Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
I liked this article about Coburn's apology and a response to Christine Brennan defense of Coburn's suggested changes. http://www.kyforward.com/our-horses/2014/06/10/billy-reed-coburns-belated-apology-wont-trump-horseracings-disdain-for-bad-manners/ For Triple Crown that started under a cloud of "so many of the good horses aren't running." This classic season rank's as one of the most interesting in recent memory. It should be quite a summer and fall.