10/06/2016 11:47AM

Mother Nature and Ectot conspire against Flintshire

Last Saturday, ECTOT beat a powerful divisional leader in a major Breeders' Cup prep race, the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.
Despite that win, Ectot is likely an afterthought as it pertains to Breeders' Cup Turf wagering. 
It makes perfect sense. The four-horse Joe Hirsch was contested over a boggy turf course. Ectot's three opponents, including $8.8M earner FLINTSHIRE, were a combined 1 for 20 over turf courses rated less than "firm" (the only win was Flintshire's Hong Kong Vase score over "good to firm," a designation many international horseplayers consider closer to "firm"). Conversely, Ectot was 3 for 7 over "off" turf with two group victories to his credit over "soft" going. 
Ectot won the ground war before the battle even began.
Ectot also had a strong pace advantage in the Joe Hirsch. Without any blazers in the bunch, Ectot, usually a stalker, was allowed to control the race from the inside under Jose Ortiz. The combination of pace and footing propelled Ectot to the winner's circle. 
After a runner-up effort in his career debut at two, Ectot went unbeaten for over a year, reeling off six consecutive victories in France at distances between 7 and 12 furlongs. Al Shaqab Racing bought into the colt prior to the Group 2 Prix Niel at Longchamp. Although Ectot won that race, he bombed in the 2014 Arc de Triomphe, finishing 17th at 6 to 1 odds behind supermare Treve and Flintshire. 
To be honest, Ectot didn't do much at four last year. His best effort from three starts was a well-beaten third in the Group 3 La Coupe de Maisons-Lafitte Stakes, a far cry from the Arc de Triomphe. In two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher prior to the Joe Hirsch over firm going, Ectot was beaten both times, the latter event in which he was odds-on versus optional claimers at Saratoga.
"He's trained exceptionally well for us since he came in," Pletcher told NYRA publicity following the Joe Hirsch. "He went off form in his last few starts in Europe but came to us in great condition. His races leading up to this were sneaky good and he seemed to be improving. We made some minor adjustments with equipment and shoes and figured it out as we went along."
Flintshire tried hard, but just didn't show the same acceleration displayed in his firmer turf races. Rating or dismissing him off one loss is probably a foolish way of analyzing his Breeders' Cup chances. Of the North American-based runners, he remains the horse to beat...as long as there isn't an unexpected shower at Santa Anita. 
So, what to do with Ectot?
Conventional wisdom would dictate this race was a one-off, a fluke due to circumstances. It's unlikely he'd receive a similar candy scenario against a full field of the world's better turf horses in the Breeders' Cup. 
Of course, horseplayers looking to make money at the races know they must zig when the public zags. Ectot has proven European form, is in the hands of a master trainer, and might, just might, be rounding back to his best at just the right time. If he is completely dismissed in the Breeders' Cup Turf and offers odds of 15 to 1 or so, he might offer a hint of value in the single-race exotics, at the very least. 
What do you think?
*Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 9/28/16 - 10/4/16
1. CALIFORNIA CHROME - 112 - Awesome Again Stakes (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 1Oct16-7SA 
2. STELLAR WIND - 110 - Zenyatta Stakes (G1) - 1 1/16 Miles - 1Oct16-9SA 
3. ECTOT (GB) - 106 - Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - 1Oct16-6BEL
4. JOKING - 103 - Vosburgh Invitational (G1) - 6 Furlongs -  1Oct16-9BEL 
5. ASHLEYLUVSSUGAR - 102 - John Henry Turf Championship (G2) - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 2Oct16-6SA 
6. HOLY LUTE - 101 - Eddie D. Stakes (G3) - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 30Sep16-9SA 
7. GOVERNOR MALIBU - 99 - OC 40k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 30Sep16-3BEL
8. SCUBA - 98 - Temperance Hill Invitational - 1 5/8 Miles - 2Oct16-8BEL
9. JOSDESANIMAUX - 97 - Panama City Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 1Oct16-11GP 
10. NOBLE BIRD - 96 - Lukas Classic - 1 1/8 Miles - 1Oct16-10CD 
11. AMBITIOUS BREW - 95 - Eddie D. Stakes (G3) - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 30Sep16-6SA 
11. AVENGE - 95 - Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 1Oct16-8SA 
11. FIVE CENTS - 95 - OC 25k/N2X - 6 Furlongs - 28Sep16-5PEN
11. FOREVER UNBRIDLED - 95 - Beldame Invitaional (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 1Oct16-10BEL
15. CHIEF ISTAN - 94 - Challedon Stakes - 7 Furlongs - 1Oct16-9LRL
15. FINLEY'SLUCKYCHARM - 94 - Alw 46573N2X - 5 Furlongs - 29Sep16-2CD 
15. GENTRIFY - 94 - Alw 75460N1X - 7 Furlongs - 1Oct16-4BEL
15. PAULASSILVERLINING - 94 - Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 1Oct16-7BEL
19. GORMLEY - 93 - FrontRunner Stakes (G1) - 1 1/16 Miles - 1Oct16-6SA 
19. SEFFEARA - 93 - OC 62k/C - 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 1Oct16-4WO
19. SILENT BIRD - 93 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 2Oct16-8SA 
22. DIAMOND BACHELOR - 92 - Mr. Steele Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 1Oct16-5GP 
23. AWESOME BANNER - 91 - Foolish Pleasure Stakes - 1 Mile - 1Oct16-6GP 
23. MEANS WELL - 91 - OC 50k/C -N - 7 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 28Sep16-8DEL
23. TOM'S READY - 91 - Ack Ack Handicap (G3) - 1 Mile - 1Oct16-9CD 
CALIFORNIA CHROME's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post. 
*You can access free video analysis of some of the weekend's top races beginning Thursday late afternoon at http://video.drf.com/
*Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis at a special start time of 2pm ET on Saturday. You can find us at live.drf.com. This week, we'll cover Belmont, Keeneland and Santa Anita
*You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.
*Congrats to Annie for winning the most recent HandiGambling challenge.
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post. 
Annie selected Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile from Keeneland as this week's exercise. 
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
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 SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR 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 identify who you are.
4. (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.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
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 "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"
As an example :
HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!


Copy of HG 10 1 16 Chandelier.xls53 KB
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago

Del mar and Santa Anita 
Thanks for the nbeningo  name  (and the Friends tip !!)
RAH and I go by:

good luck !
SR Vegas
Nancy Beningo More than 1 year ago
Getting antsy for BC myself, Bernard. Hoping to start attending morning works next week to see some of the participants in the flesh.  From those you mentioned:
Distaff -- no way to tell where Songbird fits -- she simply hasn't faced any serious challenge yet -- I am not ready to ditch Beholder,  see that she breezed this morning.

Dirt Mile -- not sure why Frosted would show up here. Runhappy is probably high on David many 9's worst-placed list for this. I can't understand why, if Mattress Mack wants outside-the-box training for his horse he doesn't send him to the ultimate outside-the-box trainer,  Michael Dickinson.
      I suspect that there might be something amiss with Gunrunner -- his inability to run straight in the stretch may indicate a physical problem a'brewing affecting his weakness on the correct lead.

Turf Sprint -- I was impressed with how strong Mongolian Holiday looked in his recent race @ Keeneland -- of course the hillside course is a change of pace for him, but he is well-traveled and while not winning  has run against the best at a lot of different venues. Not sure which local downhill specialist I would back yet.

F & M turf -- not sure where Tepin, and Ms. Temple City end up. Not that concerned with Tepin's loss, more a function of unpredictable tactics of Photo Call and her pilot rather than a loss of ability. Contrary to Mr. Watchmaker's opinion, I liked how she dug down and had to struggle a bit to win her comeback race. She was not at her physical best but she showed some grit. Sorry to hear that Dacita is on the shelf -- she would have been my pick of the Americans. Avenge is a very risky proposition, in that she seems to only be comfortable on the lead -- so if she's the only one with that style she'd be dangerous at a big price, but I wouldn't like to see her have to battle to get to the front.

Mile -- hoping to hear my fave Alice Springs will enter.

Juvenile -- not in a hurry to consider the Santa Anita race as definitive. I think the loose horse in the early part of the race that  have allowed Gormley's performance  to look better than it was. Not ready to dump Klimt or Straight Fire just yet.

Turf -- I would love to see Found but seems like a tall order coming after her Arc. Also seems to have run a pretty admirable placing in the Irish Champion. Who else is mentioned as a probable from Europe?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

In a recent post I think you mentioned looking forward to Saturday's Champions Day.  The runners and riders have been announced today and it looks a great days racing.

83 horses spread across 5 Group races, plus one nice handicap.  As usual, Aidan O'Brien has a very strong hand in 4 of the 6 races.

As I am sure you are aware, O'Brien has been enjoying a quite extraordinary season, and the Racing Post is reporting that he is close to matching (beating?) Bobby Frankel's record for Group 1 / Grade 1 wins in a calendar year.  Given the much smaller number of such races in Britain and Ireland, it would be an unbelievable achievement if he manages it.

Of course, his horses are often well bet, so for me it is usually a case of searching for some longshot to beat the O'Brien favourite.  It can be a thankless task, but a financially rewarding one if I manage to find something.

For Saturday, much will depend on how much rain falls before racing.  As it stands, in the Long Distance Cup I am considering FORGOTTEN RULES and LITIGANT against O'Brien's hot favourite ORDER OF ST GEORGE.

MECCA's ANGEL likes a wet track, as does an interesting French challenger, SIGNS OF BLESSING in the Sprint.

In the Fillies & Mares I think another Irishman (Dermot Weld) might be the one to thwart the O'Brien juggernaut with ZHUKOVA.

I don't expect to beat Aidan O'Brien's MINDING running back at a Mile in the QE II.  So I might bet a total outsider BRETON ROCK to chase 2nd and 3rd places.

In the big race, the Champion Stakes, 2 of my favourite horses clash - ALMANZOR for France and Aidan's Arc heroine, FOUND (coming down in distance).  I can't split them over the 10 furlongs, so maybe a race to watch for me.

In the closing handicap, there are strong whispers for two John Gosden horses - Gm HOPKINS and REMARKABLE.  I am a sucker for racecourse whispers (I should learn to keep my ears and my wallet closed in such circumstances).

Of course, if the forecast rain doesn't arrive, I will need to come up with a hasty Plan B.

Have you had a chance to study the card?  Any thoughts?

Best Regards - Bernard Downes

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am getting twitchy waiting for the Breeders Cup.  I know it is far too early for serious bettors to even begin their handicapping work, but I am not a serious bettor, and I was born without ANY patience, therefore I am already some way down the track.

I would love it if someone would like to share their own exploratory thoughts.  Here are mine. 

Juv Turf - I liked GOOD SAMARITAN's Woodbine victory, though slightly concerned about what looked like a slightly high knee action.  The Racing Post has the Turf listed as Firm for that day, but in Europe, a high knee action is generally associated with horses preferring softer Turf.

Dirt Mile - Surely FROSTED is the best Dirt Miler in the US, plain and simple?  DORTMUND, GUN RUNNER and RUN HAPPY are good horses, but not his equal.

Distaff - What a great bunch of fillies at the present time.  As good, as tough as STELLAR WIND and BEHOLDER are, isn't SONGBIRD a different (better) class?

F & M Turf - some strong candidates.  John Gosden's SO MI DAR had a big reputation over here, but then flopped in France.  I am hoping she goes to the BC, is overlooked by the locals and I can get a good price.

Turf Sprint - LIMATO is probably Europe's best sprinter, but connections are also considering the Mile.  Is that greed, or just someone being adventurous?  Back to the Turf Sprint and I have read good things about PURE SENSATION.  I am interested at 20/1.

Juvenile - I read that the DRF (was it Mr Watchmaker?) likes NOT THIS TIME and GORMLEY.  Looks a pretty hot race to me, with no single outstanding candidate.  Probably another longshot bet for me.  

Mile - I am a self declared TEPIN fanatic, but I am worried by that last race.  Just an anomaly, or a sign of regression?  How much did Royal Ascot take out of her?  The European challenge at Santa Anita could be strong, but what about MIDNIGHT STORM at a price?

Turf - I don't know why, but I have never been overkeen on FLINTSHIRE.  I have bet him in the past, and he knows how to win in the US, but I can't get excited for a BC bet.  In my opinion FOUND is much the better racehorse, but can she possibly race again in November?

Classic - So is this a race to bet, or simply sit back and enjoy a CALIFORNIA CHROME victory parade?  The latter for me at present.  But wait a minute, whats with this MELATONIN taking a 5 month pre-race holiday?  Is that the new training plan to follow?  How about a couple of quid at 25/1?

Any thoughts please?

Best Regards - Bernard Downes

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have really enjoyed the recent posts about handicapping factors.  They emphasize once again that there are so many different ways to skin a cat.  

For my part, 90% of my bets on low level midweek British and Irish racing are based SOLELY on Jockey, Trainer and Jockey/Trainer combination stats.  It is so much quicker, easier, and it takes any possible angst out of the process.  For the better class midweek races, and at the Weekend, I take a more considered (slightly more professional?)  approach to the whole process and there I also look at Course and Distance form; the ground conditions; certainly at weight differentials; and a brief check on the breeding looking for my favourite Sires  and any top class race mares.  And finally, encompassing the whole game for me, the early morning odds.  I am never going to break the bank, but I stay afloat.

Best Regards - Bernard Downes

Okiesharp More than 1 year ago
Van Savant

I will be asking more questions in the future and I hope they generate the response
this question has.  It's possible that on some of the questions I've asked in the past
that the timing wasn't right or maybe I worded them poorly.  At any rate you'll see some
of them again in the near future.

Nancy Beningo More than 1 year ago
Cathy — I am so sorry to hear of your string of calamities and especially the latest health challenge to your mom. I am thinking you the good thoughts and  am happy for you that you are gleaning what gratefulness you can from the way the cards fall.
    As far as your observation of the discrepancy between top-class males vs top class females in U.S. racing, I think it is mostly due to the distorting emphasis on 3 yr old classic races and the single minded pursuit of them. Fillies have a solid residual value as broodmares which is not wholly dependent on their own achievement on the racetrack so their development as racers can be much more incremental and self-determined. Young males on the other hand, are viewed more as lottery tickets — with the prize being a bazillion-dollar stud career, so they are pretty much forced into ‘programs’ that tend to chew up the participants before they even reach maturity and what might be their potential.

    Belated congrats, Annie, on the HG win. I believe you referenced an angle that you have mentioned before -- the Other Baffert.
    And although I am skeptical that Baffert's program is good for the horses in his care (I  suspect a certain amount of pharmaceutical augmentation) he certainly never fails to produce a couple of fast 2 year olds and  some who maintain or further improve at 3.  Older not so  much but the youngsters are where the glitz is anyway.

EdB- congrats to you and your family on your daughter’s wedding. I am so pleased to hear that you made it through the dance…

Sharon -
     I also have been noting Bustin’ Stones success as a sire and his addition to the NY state-bred program will be a welcome source of speed. I enjoyed Roddy Valente’s stories too. Incidentally, I believe you are playing the Del Mar contest — I am nbeningo if you want to put me in your ‘ friends’ list. Are there any other formbloggers playing it or the SA Showdown contest?

David many9s
    I thought you might be interested in Graham Motion's thoughts on his drug violation

    I was surprised to hear that Dick Mandella was mean to the TVG interviewer, although maybe the timing was bad.  Although Ms. Eurton  is the daughter of a trainer, and so could be expected to be knowledgeable enough about racing, her avowed interest is acting, hard to take her seriously maybe? He has always been polite and kind to me, even when I ask dumb fangirl questions. I don't think I've ever heard him be mean to anyone, but he does have a pretty acerbic sense of humor and great deadpan delivery. In any case he is one of my favorites just because he is really fond of horses, it’s hardly just a job with him.

    As far as Beholder goes, I admit that I’m a wee bit worried, although she is running just about the same numbers as before,  she looked a little uninterested in the post parade, not drastically Life at Ten-wilted, but still not up in the bridle nor particularly happy looking. I thought she ran as hard as she could through the stretch, so I hope she has a tad more improvement in the next weeks.  To say nothing against Stellar Wind who has gotten better at 4. I think adding Songbird to the mix makes for a terrific race. I especially like that the top 3 also have talented jocks who have great confidence in their gals. I think that it’ll come down to Beholder  and Songbird at the finish. Stellar Wind is having to be ridden pretty hard to achieve what she has, whereas Beholder has a sense of ‘race’ about her and Songbird seems to have untapped ability in reserve. I did notice that in the stretch of the Alabama she seemed a little irked when Mike shook the reins at her when she was clear - like she was asking ‘why’ but after a few strides she responded with another gear.

Nice little video on CA Chrome’s groom who was a finalist for Godolphin ’s Dedication to Racing award showing Chrome playing the laid-back cuddler (reminded me of how kindly Zenyatta was around the barn)

 and here is a link to a story about the equally heartwarming winner:


Just got my BC tickets delivered this week. Is anyone else planning to be there? I am  delighted to see hometown trainers and their horses being in the forefront, especially Art Sherman, Jerry Hollendorfer and yes, Dick Mandella.

Still pondering what I consider priority factors in handicapping, but I noted one that no one has mentioned that I consider useful when I’m looking at races at tracks I don’t usually play (usually because it involves a horse from my watch list); familiarity or (preferably) success at the particular track.

It is an interesting discussion, especially for reexamining long-held tenets, since racing itself has changed so much in the last decade or so.

VanSavant More than 1 year ago

You wrote "I've been reading this blog for a number of years and I still have 
questions that go unanswered".

Is this true? 

Elaborate, or provide me with an example, please. 

I find this hard to believe, but maybe it's true.  Let's explore this together...

Later gator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All-some very good thoughts on handicapping factors...

GBL writes-

<The real positive jockey change in low levels of racing is, for example, from Javier to Jacqualine Davis. One could make a certain bet that she would give her best and would give an honest ride compared to Javier because winning any race at any level is more important to her than it is to Javier>

this is an interesting approach...As we both know...trying to figure out jock's intentions can be a losing game...while I'm sure someone like Jacqueline Davis would give her all to try to land more mounts...is her best (not picking on her...insert any lesser known jock) ride going to be better than a rider like Javier at 75 %?  I will say, outside of Kent D...I don't see many jocks loafing or not giving all...too dangerous a game.  Plus...when when you see a high% jock stick around for the last on the card, some would argue that is a tip-off that he or she has a live mount.

Of course at the end of the day...jocks play a big role...but first and foremost...you've got to have horse!

Dan (brutus)
God Bless Longshots More than 1 year ago
Part III


It is often said that "Pace Makes The Race". True! But the question is who has set the pace? One need to find out if the pace of the race was genuine or fake. If the pace was set by genuinely good speed horse, I consider it valid given other conditions are satisfied. Otherwise, I consider the pace of the next best horse behind the fake speed. For example, in the Shadwell if the pace was set by TAKE A VIEW, it would've been a genuine pace. However, PLEUVEN's pace was phony. So, the actual pace was set by MISS TEMPLE CITY. Conversely, in the Travers, the pace set by ARROGATE was real not because he is a good speed horse.

Final times also may or may not be misleading and subject to one's own interpretation. In case of SONGBIRD, her final times are slow but its irrelevant because of various reasons. The couple being she's only three year old and she's a filly. Were CALIFORNIA CHROME, BEHOLDER, and STELLAR WIND posting the same final times as they're posting now when they were 3YO? I think the key to SONGBIRD's domination is her ability to keep on running her initial quarter in 23 and change and still run moderately fast in the end. If we take into consideration the relativity (as horses like to run in herd), her opponent faces a real dilemma. Try to go with her and get burned. Let her go and you lose all chances. One can expect to see faster final times from SONGBIRD as she matures. 

Having said that, final times in a turf sprint is a key to finding winners in my eyes especially if they have speed. Not to be taken on the face value but you would want to find a horse who can achieve good final times in a turf sprint. 

2. Jockey/Trainer Combo
Again, in my view, it is an highly over-rated factor. Yes, its true that there are jockey preferences but does it mean it would always work out? If Javier and Chad is a 30% win combination, they still lose 70% of the times burning tons of money as most of them were favorites. And even in that 30% win, how many were odds on favorites like flintshire and how many of them were good priced horses? I would say out of that 30%, Javier won 90% of the times on favorites. So, how financially good that consideration is for the bettors? I would say, it sucks! I would rather take Rudy/Angel jockey/trainer combo over it.

1. BSF/Prime Power or any Speed Number
I consider myself from the group of people who're the hardcore believers that BSF in particular (and all other speed numbers in general) is the "biggest scam in handicapping". Period! It's never, ever, been part of my handicapping.

2. Jockey switch from low level to high level
Again, it's the matter of perspectives. Say, in a CLMN2L race, trainer replaces Dylan Davis with Javier. The chances are people would go ga ga over it. I again say it sucks because he's going to burn a lot of people's money. The real positive jockey change is from the top tier jockey to a low level jockey. The reason is simple. Top tier jockeys have no shortage of good horses so they may not be completely honest with their rides in lower tier races. There's an exception for young top riders like Irad Ortiz. Although he is a top notch jockey but he's young and have a long way to go before he could be viewed in the same league as Javier or John Valazquez. 

The real positive jockey change in low levels of racing is, for example, from Javier to Jacqualine Davis. One could make a certain bet that she would give her best and would give an honest ride compared to Javier because winning any race at any level is more important to her than it is to Javier.

3. Edgar Prado/Mario Guiterrez/Naipal Chatterpaul/degenerate losers/Kent D./Mike Battaglia and all other suckers out there.