04/07/2016 11:02AM

Nyquist, Songbird and a few weekend thoughts


*You have to give it up for NYQUIST as the undefeated 2-year-old champion of 2015 played a road game over an unfamiliar nine-furlong distance in the Florida Derby. He still dusted his main competition, MOHAYMEN, and wasn't challenged from the quarter pole to the wire.

I'm not sure how far he ultimately wants to go as he seemed tired when hopping back to his left lead in the final sixteenth of a mile and the race came back a bit slow (94 Beyer Speed Figure). On the other hand, it was only his second start of the year following one sprint prep and he ran hard every step of the way.

It's hard to knock a horse that's done everything asked of him and his overall body of work is definitely deserving of favoritism come the first Saturday in May. He's a very good colt, but I have a feeling someone is waiting in the wings to knock him off his perch in the Derby.

*The red-hot Bill Mott has always been high on CELESTINE and the lightly-raced daughter of Scat Daddy finally ran to her potential in the Grade 2 Honey Fox Stakes over a flat mile on turf at Gulfstream. Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Celestine utilized her good early speed from the start and she led from flag-fall to finish.

It's worth noting that the pace held together with no closers making a dent. Perhaps Celestine was aided by the race flow, but I loved the way she kicked home in the final three-sixteenths of a mile. I'll bank there's another graded race for her to grab in the future.

*Rumors of BIG JOHN B's demise might have been exaggerated as the 7-year-old late-kicker rallied from last to win the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup at 1 1/2 miles on dirt at Santa Anita. While Big John B has done most of his damage on turf, his last two dirt races have been very good and it's possible that trainer Phil D'Amato will keep the veteran on this surface in the near future. Perhaps D'Amato will point for the Brooklyn on Belmont Stakes afternoon.

*Speed dominated the proceedings at Santa Anita last Saturday. Take the performances of such gate-to-wire winners as CAT BURGLAR with a grain of salt while upgrading some midpack runners that may have been compromised by the track.

*REPORTING STAR got home first in the Appleton at Gulfstream and DIVISIDERO's premature bid/wide trip will earn him attention at the windows next time, but the one I'm taking out of the race is third-place finisher FORCE THE PASS.

Last year's Belmont Derby winner was making his first start since September, was eager and pulling his rider on the backstretch, made the lead a bit early and hung in gamely against two horses with a recency edge. Force the Pass showed ability at a variety of distances last year and should move forward with this race under his girth.

*I'm interested in a couple of horses on Saturday. SUMMATION TIME (#3, 6 to 1 Morning Line) intrigues me in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland. An ex-claimer trained by Christophe Clement, Summation Time did not have an easy trip in his last race (he's breaking from post two in the below video). After being bumped at the start, he is outsprinted along the inside before finishing well in traffic behind the sharp Amelia's Wild Ride (returned to run second with a 99 Beyer). Clement now adds blinkers, perhaps to infuse some speed into his charge's arsenal.

*In the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, I'm looking at MAJESTIC AFFAIR (#2, N/A Morning Line). Although the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 General George on February 15, Majestic Affair ran pretty well. He broke from post five in the video below and is up close to the pace through some frigid conditions. He loses ground on the turn, but jockey Kendrick Carmouche remained confident and the pair surged to the lead in the stretch. Majestic Affair ran on, but that salty old veteran Page McKenney was just too good.

The major concern is whether Majestic Affair can stay close to ultra-hot fractions. In many of his races, he sits close to moderate splits before sprinting home. If he can avoid being completely outrun in the early going of the Carter, he can make his opponents pay in the stretch.


Hey Dan, not sure If you have shared your thoughts on this but I'll ask anyway....what are your feelings on Rick porter and Jerry hollendorfer's decision to skip the derby and the other tc races(assuming I haven't missed any changes in their plans). First, let me say I understand it's their horse, their decision, their right to do what they see fit. But for the sake of discussion, I'm interested in yours and others opinions. I find their  decision to be extremely disappointing. The filly  appears to have the  ability to showcase what could possibly be one of the 4 or 5 most talented fillies to run in the last 10-15 yrs.  that is no certainty but in many peoples opinions quite possible. The only way to cement this type of legacy for herself is to run with the boys and prove she can beat grade 1 males. Zenyatta, rags to riches, Rachel Alexandra....there fame and ultimate legacy was cast once they proved themselves against males. There's no other way for a filly. Run her in the oaks fri of derby wknd and she will throttle a  Field of overmatched fillys.  She will win by the length of the stretch, barely anyone will watch it, barely anyone will care. Everyone's attention will be centered on Saturdays derby.  I understand the difficulty concerning the point system. I still don't understand if she would've had to run against the boys in a prep race to accumulate points first  or would there have been a way around that. Even if the derby was not the answer I think taking a shot at the Preakness or the Belmont is a must.   Not only is Porter and  Hollendorfer  doing a disservice to the horse but also to the sport of racing itself.  Could the tragic death of  Eight belles (also owned by porter)  be the reason for his change of heart this time even though songbird appears much better equipped than that filly for this type of task? Hollendorferf talked about his plan for the ny filly triple of the mother goose, cca oaks, and the Alabama. Snooz snooz. Give her a chance to prove her place among the best.
Eric T

Eric, I think you hit the nail right on the head. After what happened to Eight Belles, Mr. Porter is probably very apprehensive about a 3-year-old filly, no matter how good, taking on the boys in the stampede that is the Kentucky Derby. And you can certainly understand why. Plus, with the current system, Eight Belles would have to run against the boys in a major prep race in order to accumulate enough points to even enter the race.

I understand your disappointment. Songbird appears to be a very special filly and you want to see that kind of runner face the best competition. Perhaps she'll try males in a race like the Haskell, or it's possible she'll hook up with the mighty BEHOLDER down the line. Even if none of those things happen, I'm really looking forward to seeing her in any race. Her star quality is undeniable. First things first, however, as she'll be odds-on in Saturday's Santa Anita Oaks.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes will be available later this week at http://www.drf.com/videos

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Matt Bernier, Mike Beer and I will be on for free and fun live handicapping analysis for Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita beginning at 3pm ET on live.drf.com.


Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 3/29/16 - 4/4/16:

1. CAT BURGLAR - 102 - Santana Mile - 1 Mile - 2Apr16-5SA
1. REPORTING STAR - 102 - Appleton Stakes (G3) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 2Apr16-8GP
3. KAIGUN - 101 - Pan American Stakes (G2) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - 2Apr16-13GP
4. BIG JOHN B - 99 - Tokyo City Stakes (G3) - 1 1/2 Miles - 3Apr16-8SA
4. CELESTINE - 99 - Honey Fox Stakes (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 2Apr16-12GP
4. TOLEDO EDDIE - 99 - Stud Muffin Stakes - 1 Mile - 2Apr16-7AQU
7. GUNS LOADED - 98 - San Simeon Stakes (G3) - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 2Apr16-7SA
8. CERRO (IRE) - 97 - Caixa Eletronica Stakes - 7 Furlongs - 2Apr16-9AQU
8. HOBBITS HERO - 97 - Clm c-(32-28) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 2Apr16-4SA
8. MONTEGO BAY - 97 - Clm 65000(75-65) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 3Apr16-4SA
11. ROYAL POSSE - 96 - Mr. Sinatra Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles - 2Apr16-6AQU
11. VALID - 96 - Skip Away Stakes (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - 2Apr16-5GP
13. DOUBLE WHAMMY - 95 - OC 32k/N2X -N - 1 Mile - 1Apr16-8LRL
13. EL HUERFANO - 95 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 Mile - 31Mar16-4SA
15. DIG DEEP - 94 - Md Sp Wt 50k - 1 Mile - 2Apr16-9GP
15. NYQUIST - 94 - Florida Derby (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 2Apr16-14GP
15. VALENTINO BEAUTY - 94 - OC 40k/N2X - 1 Mile (Polytrack) - 2Apr16-5TP
18. ABSOLUTELY COOL - 93 - Alw 22950NC - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 2Apr16-7TUP
18. BROWN ALMIGHTY - 93 - Wcl 26000(30-25)C - 1 Mile - 3Apr16-6GP
18. GRANDE SHORES - 93 - Sir Shackleton Stakes - 7 Furlongs - 2Apr16-10GP
18. PHOTO CALL (IRE) - 93 - Orchid Stakes (G3) - 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) - 2Apr16-11GP
22. SWEET ON SMOKEY - 92 - Videogenic Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 2Apr16-1AQU
23. BEACH PATROL - 91 - OC 80k/N1X -N - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 3Apr16-7SA
23. CAT'S ALLEY - 91 - Clm c-25000N2L - 6 Furlongs - 2Apr16-3HAW
23. GUY CODE - 91 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 1Apr16-7SA
23. MR PALMER - 91 - More To Tell Stakes - 1 Mile - 2Apr16-4AQU

*The lifetime past performances for CAT BURGLAR and REPORTING STAR are available at the bottom of this blog post.

*HOBBITS HERO was claimed for $32,000 by trainer Richard Baltas from Peter Miller.

*CAT'S ALLEY was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Michael Reavis from Scott Becker.


Congrats to RonZ for winning last week's HandiGambling challenge.

Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post.

We're going to try something new for this week's HandiGambling exercise (we'll go back to the old format next week). Thanks to RonZ for the idea.

Past performances for the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass are available at the bottom of this blog post.

Past performances for the Santa Anita Derby can be found here: 


Here are the rules, courtesy of RickM

Special HG Contest for Weekending April 9th:

- Start your post with HG , GIVE A REASON for your selections, and SIGN YOUR NAME OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST .

- (3) Specially Designated Races for the week : Wood Memorial - Santa Anita Derby - Bluegrass Stakes. No Exotics. No Pick 3's.
- Choose one horse per race. Please use Number and Name. Don't mess this up.
- Points awarded to top four  finishers:  1st=100, 2nd =40, 3rd =20,  4th =10
-Points can be accumulated and the contestant with the highest point total will be declared the winner.
-Any ties will be decided by the track payout amount ( or accumulated) for horses finishing 1st-2nd-3rd in each race.
-Dan Illman will have final approve the results and winner.

Choose Wisely!!


CAT STAR.pdf765.72 KB
Copy of HG Spiral Stakes 4-2-16.xls16.13 KB
WOOD.pdf168.03 KB
BLUEGRASS.pdf199.35 KB