05/26/2008 8:32AM

Monday stakes picks


Let's take a quick look at the three Grade 1 races on Monday:

Metropolitan Handicap (Belmont - Race 10)
Commentator is obviously the horse to catch and beat, but it's either boom or bust with him, and he won't offer much value on the win end.  Instead, I'll go with Divine Park, who seems to be coming into his own for Kiaran McLaughlin.  Divine Park parlayed a good stalking trip into victory in the local Met prep (Westchester), and shouldn't be too far off Commentator here.  Toss out the Malibu (cushion track, post 14), and General George (broke through gate over wet track) debacles, and you're left with an undefeated colt.
Commentator has done nothing wrong this year, and he thumped weaker in the Richter Scale at Gulfstream.  He's brilliantly fast, and would be no surprise.
Justin has Premium Wine and Z Humor in the Met, and I prefer the former coming from well off the pace.  This will be his first start at a mile, but the son of Prime Timber should handle the one-turn route, and would appreciate a quick pace up front.  He had a tough trip in the General George, and was rallying nicely along the rail in the Grade 1 Carter last time out. 
First Defence looks like an interesting runner.  He ran well against Hard Spun in the Grade 1 King's Bishop last year, and kicked off his 2008 campaign with a game score at Churchill.  He may put the heat on Commentator on the turn.
Selection:  Divine Park

Gamely Stakes (Hollywood - Race 3)
A short field without much pace, and that should play nicely to Precious Kitten's strengths.  The multiple Grade 1 winner makes her second start of the year, and has won her last three races on the West Coast.  She should be able to make the top, back down the fractions, and have enough left to hold off a hard-charging Rutherienne.
Rutherienne is Steve T.'s arch-nemesis, but you have to give her credit with nine wins in 11 starts.  She won the Del Mar Oaks in Southern California last year for excellent ship-in trainer Christophe Clement, and she beat Precious Kitten at Keeneland.  She's a late-runner, though, and may need some more pace to attack.
Diamond Diva had a nice trip in the Wilshire Handicap, and she has enough tactical speed to stay close to Precious Kitten early.  The extra distance is a question mare, however, and she will be tested for class. 
Selections:  Precious Kitten, Rutherienne, Diamond Diva

Shoemaker Mile (Hollywood - Race 9)
Unlike the Gamely, this field is full of pace horses.  Daytona is likely the quickest of the speeds, but he may face pressure, and that would set things up for a midpack runner.  Let's go with Thousand Words and Frankel for the upset.  He'll make the third start of the form cycle after faltering on the main track at Kentucky, and should really appreciate returning to his best surface.  He won a mile turf race at Santa Anita three back from off the pace, and I can envision a similar pace scenario in here. 
Hyperbaric was necked by Daytona in the Arcadia when forced to attack that one a bit early.  His kick may be a bit stronger if allowed to relax in the early stages, and Rafael Bejarano may let others do the dirty work with Daytona here.  He's lightly-raced, and may have another improved performance in the tank.
Former claimer Ever a Friend won the Grade 1 Kilroe last time out, but he pressed moderate fractions that day, and will probably have to chase quicker splits in this spot.  His Beyers are on the way up, and he was given plenty of time to recover from that 106 performance on March 1. 
Daytona has been a revelation for Dan Hendricks, and he looks like he'll try to control things up front one more time.  The recent bullet works allay fears of a regression, but he may be softened up by Ever a Friend, Mast Track, and Get Funky. 
Selections:  Thousand Words, Hyperbaric, Ever a Friend, Daytona.

Let me know who you like today.

Best of luck,


Arazi More than 1 year ago
Van Savant: Thanks for your broadened approach towards handicapping and realization that it actually WAS about handicapping and not questioning the bet. Steve T: Although you tried to explain (for which I'm truly thankful) the strategies and thought process of your handicapping, I still find some of your explaination contradictory and debateable. The latest one being the "raw" odd explaintation: 1. This is the first time you used this term to justify your decision making. I haven't heard of such a term in handicapping before. Pardon my bad handicapping knowledge. 2. You assigned 5-2 raw odds to Can't Stop Slew (20-1 ML) and 4-1 to Grandpa Roy (6-1 ML). Without going to dispute or questions your "raw odd methodology" and strictly speaking in terms of possible overlay and underlay criteria, I again find it amzaing that Can't Stop Slew (with all your recent good remarks about him) failed to crack your top 4 choices listed in this blog. And your imaginary friend DD picked up Grandpa Roy (with all his shortcomings including the distance limitation) which was more likely to be an underlay. MudhoundMojo: I'm sorry but have no other word to express myself other than .... WOW! But, in any case Steve T, let's put all this handicapping discussion to rest in peace. A winner is a winner and one can give million reasons for his picks no matter how other handicappers see it. Again, thanks for your time and contribution and good luck in the future :) Best, Arazi.
Lane More than 1 year ago
Does anyone have current par times at Hollywood Park or where I can get them without researching all the races? Thanks if anyone can help out with this. What tragic news about Nashoba's Key... Would've loved to have seen some colts out of her and Tiznow.
Steve T More than 1 year ago
David, I have pretty much given up on horizontal bets - they just don't suit the way I bet. Last fall I had a Pick 6 cold and didn't bet it. Strangely, I can keep myself under control in my super picks, but always end up with a real expensive caveman loser when I try Pick 6's. The criticality to my betting is to get the winner and the place from my picks, and then use the "non-throwouts" as my 3rd and 4th slot picks. After finishing reading the book "Body Language of Horses" I am much more aware of the runners before the race and I would say that 90% of the runners that I initially selected and then tossed by their body language have been serious losers. Although I still am a little too hesitant to toss them, but more experience will give me more confidence in my ability to understand their cues. I may try again at Pick 6's in the future but need some more experience with supers before I try. If you are interested in horizontal bets, Alan is king. It was a good day handicapping - I picked six winners and the Dr. picked one. But as I said, not an off the charts day - I made money with the WPS bets and a couple of cheap tris, but also messed up using a $50 Quinella Wheel on Solva in the Gamely - a typical handicapper mistake, trying to make something out of nothing when I knew there were three superior horses in a short field... I have a goal that I want to realize once before I croak - I want to run the table with my first picks. I have come close, pulling 8 of 9 and losing by a nose on the 9th, but still no cookie. Lenny said something that is absolutely true - we are not professionals and YOU the handicapper need to use or toss what we tout. I find that others who handicap differently from me are a huge boost to my betting - I can't tell you the number of times I have poached a pick from Alan, Larry, Van Savant, CG and a bunch more. When they feel strongly about a horse I ALWAYS reassess the race and many times use their choice. C has taught me how to bet supers, Dan has made maidens my first choice (when I had given up betting them). Alan and Laura have given me the ability to use pedigrees to my advantage. I have improved more in the last year than in the last 40. Although you wouldn't know it from the last two days, I am a lot less streaky and can move on from races that I just called badly. Want to see how I used to perform? Go back and look at the June and July archives, it isn't pretty.
C More than 1 year ago
Arazi and Geoff, Don't be so quick to downgrade the race because of a slow final quarter. As in the Wood Memorial, I think the first 2 finishers were better than the number crunchers might think. Commentator ran a great race and scorched the track, considering it was a mile race. After chasing Commentator, First Defence gave up as soon as the real running began and Divine Park was an impressive winner in my book. He sat about 5 lengths off the pace, made a long sustained run and looked like he was going to hang until he found another gear and accelerated (yes, accelerated) past Commentator. I thought he was pretty darn good, actually. I'll trust McLaughlin to give him the time he needs to recover from what must have been a taxing effort. Justin, Did Premium Wine come out of the race OK? He lost his action on the turn for home and took a bad step or perhaps got spooked by the horse sneaking up on his left flank. I couldn't tell if something was amiss or if he was just totally exhausted chasing the pace up front. MattSmith, I don't think Nakatani cost Rutherienne a placing because Diamond Diva was still going very strong at the finish herself. Her and Precious Kitten were simply better than Rutherienne today, and may have further benefitted from the way the race set up. PGM, Thanks for the clarification.
Steve T More than 1 year ago
Arazi, I set my own value line when I handicap, and will make alterations based on what I think their true value really is. In the case of Grandpa Roy, I thought 10/1 was the reasonable line for him, and I also (as I stated) had reservations about whether 9F was more than he could handle (which it was). I had the opposite opinion of Can't Stop Slew who had finished 2nd to Plan for Fun at 9F and I expected about 12/1 on him. So it was the combination of the odds shift and my distance reservations on Grandpa Roy that was behind the change. Would I have changed Star Nicholas if he was lower odds? My value line on him was 8/1, so if he went below that, yes I would have considered it. The other plus on Star Nicholas was that he looked very good and lively in the pre-race. In fact if I had downgraded some yesterday I would have done very well. There is no magic formula for success in supers other than to keep doing them using your process, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I am not a straight super bettor - my usual combination is a WPS, a super and a back-up tri. I use exactas in short fields where there is an overlay (like the 2 yo stakes where Backbackbackgone towered over the others, but the entry (that I liked) was 11/1, and the exacta was at $37), a very good deal in my mind where I am very confident about who will win and I have 1/3 of the remaining field in the entry.
Steve T More than 1 year ago
Here are the freshman sires I am looking hard at: Lion Heart (Alan's Fiancee) Momentum (CA) (Unusual Heat II) Cat Dreams (CA) Peace Rules - Trifecta King was stellar (but shouldn't she be Trifecta Queen??) Candy Ride Pleasantly Perfect Congaree Smarty Jones There are a couple that I think will throw good runners, but they will be late bloomers: Medaglio D'Oro Saarland Ten Most Wanted Dan, Who are you eyeballing??
Mike More than 1 year ago
Hey Dan. Love the blog. Any chance for a BSF for Theregoesjojo who debuted for Ken Mcpeek in Monday's 7th at Churchill. I thought it was a very impressive debut for this 2 year old. Thanks.
Arazi More than 1 year ago
Jeff Tatus: RE: Comments about Star Nicholas... "..The only regret is that you didn't punch the $.10 super 10 times; as you would have pocketed as least another 5K (even if you paid someone 10% to "sign" the tickets)." I was under the impression that Steve T had it for a $1. Steve T: Was it for 10c super or $1 super that you hit? My fasination about superfecta has always been a $1 hit and not a big fan of .10c super or .50c trifectas. Hope you can shed some light on it.
Greg More than 1 year ago
James Mc...I think you're right on. The only catch could be that the 3rd race was run at 2:00 and there was only one other dirt race (Race 6) run before the Met (race 10 at about 6:00). The 6th was 6.5 f for n2l 25k filly claimers and they went 22.4, 46.8, 113.3 and 120.5. Basically very similar to the Met. Fast early (first qtr very fast) and slow late. I guess it's possible the track slowed down and was very tiring. But it's tricky because it's a small sample obviously. I'm not sure, just throwing it out there.
Steve V. More than 1 year ago
Great weekend of racing: Our horses ran well. Smart Hit- is looking like a vintage "V" claim, ran a bang up 2nd @ 14-1 in Steve T's-"super-superfecta".- CONGRATS buddy!Then on Sat. we scored @ Pha w/ a claimer -King Mobay($8.60). My weekend came to a painful close @ Bel. on Mon. w/ $20 late pk-4's- all going to "America's tip horse of the day" #9 Outtawesthills (Terranova/Luzzi)- just to get nailed at the wire and ruin my holiday barbeque ;) The Met was a great race- would have loved to been in there. I do agree w/ the assertion by most that they staggered home. Commentator ran the best in the field, but Divine Park had the "right" setup. I do agree that the sprint/mile division is a bit weak- That is why we have such high hopes for Bustin Stones. Part of the reason for the weak division is b/c it is so hard to keep these fast running types sound, and have a long drawn out campaign. I still think Benny the Bull has top billing in the country right now, w/ Fabulous Strike- 2nd depending on how he comes back, and that is always a big question. BS cannot be too far off of them, maybe somewhere in the 3-5 range at the moment.