04/07/2016 12:02PM

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
mike turfmonstr More than 1 year ago
Dan (Brutus), Professor, 

            Make note of Tasit.....I watched the replay of his win on turf at Laurel......back in Feb. the reason was I couldn't figure why Mr. Matz was running him back on dirt after a mile try a month earlier.....After he won today ( I didn't see the race live I was busy) I decided to look at all his races, both turf and dirt. One of the reasons was because today whenever he ran up alongside of horses he had his turned away from them, I had to watch it a few times to see if he was shying away or if Geroux purposely pulled him out. After two or three revues I decided it was the horse and then Geroux pulled him further out. So I looked back to because I didn't remember him doing it as a 2 year old.....and if they are going to do it 2 would be more than likely. He didn't....so I watched all of his turf races.....His first he was rank and green as a cucumber.....second race was better and he didn't shy away. Third race was the charm, but he did bore out late......Then I thought perhaps it became a habit running on dirt twice and getting sand kicked back in his face, but no...he ran straight as an arrow and made a nice move around the turn and continued on well....then today.....If he keeps his head straight he wins easier than he did.....that was a very good move around the turn which he finished off nicely in the stretch. 

           So why make a note?...I've watched many turf races over the years......and every year Steve and I evaluate the 3 year old turf horses that come out of Florida.....for future reference and for betting purposes. Last year I liked World Approval, Divisidero and My Point Exactly.....This year we liked JR's Holiday.....that was it.....overall no one impressed us...that's not to say they may get better, or they can't win...it's just I wouldn't hesitate to bet against them at short odds. You see what happened to Converge the other day. They are for arguments sake average......Now I watched Tasit....I've seen all his races, turf and dirt....the progress this horse has made from 2 to 3 is outstanding.....his heads in the game, he's tenacious....His stride is 100% better than last year....and he's still learning......This colt has serious potential......pay attention to him.....He's still at a point where most won't bet him in a stake.....I fear after that it's chalk city.....I have to look at that replay again, I have to try and figure out why he's pulling his head out.....Mike A
Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Here we go, the last chance for some of the MKBs to get in the Derby!

Arkansas Derby:

LAURA'S Cupid 2-1 Favorite


DAN ILLMAN'S Suddenbreakingnews :) 5-1

DICK W (AOS)'S Gettysburg 6-1

JOE L'S Creator 10-1

YOU FEEL LUCKY'S Unbridled Outlaw 10-1

TYREN M'S Dazzling Gem 12-1

CHALKY'S Discreetness 20-1

TOM W'S Gray Sky 30-1

Good luck to all of you!!!

Four more MKBs will contest the Lexington, although none likely to make the Derby:


SWEDE'S Collected




So sad to hear that ZENYATTA'S new-born WAR FRONT colt has died from inhaling meconium in the womb. This is her second foal to die, the other was a filly. When you see videos of how loving the new moms are to their new-borns, you can only imagine how hard it is for them when the foal is suddenly taken away from them. I was worried when I read that Z and her baby were taken to Rood and Riddle. This thoroughbred business is just so hard; right from the beginning so many things can go wrong. R.I.P. little guy.


SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
..saw this on TDN

Zenyatta's  2016 foal (War Front) passes away Wednesday morning due to complications of meconium aspiration syndrome, how sad. 
She had a 2014 War Front filly pass away in a paddock accident as a weanling. 
How crazy is that ? Poor Momma .

for the complete link and article:

SR Vegas
ed More than 1 year ago
Mike A.
Good idea about pointing to Preakness, but of late, he has avoided Pimlico like he owes money to someone there. He should have sent Verrazano there because he would have gone with Oxbow and dramatically changed that race. Maybe he just doesn't like the track. It's hard to argue with his success. 
Use the all button as a saver bet. If it comes in, it could cure a lot of sins. Like you said, Commanding Curve and Golden Soul were wonderful runner ups who fell out of the clouds. Not bad with the favorite. What's $19 on Derby day? It has been a very rewarding bet of late, but I am feeling a possible upset this year. I usually bet my Derby selections early and put them in my back pocket. Always a treat to cash a nice ticket at the end of the day. Just suggesting what works for me.  edb 
pat More than 1 year ago

Races of the day

ProMo......I think that your choice is better played in the place and show positions....the MAIN positive is the constant, consistent schedule that has been followed. IF I were to play it....I would have about 4or 5 on top....a small WIN bet...I think about 18-1 is the price. and a heftier show bet.

Dan(brutus). Forget about it.....Rusty Arnold is not losing this. That horse  faced some heavy heads last year. He zooms past on the turn and holds off the Chad Brown.  Weird race in that some seem poorly placed......but Keeneland brings out the best of almost everyone.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Professor M...thanks for the input.  I like Cite, but 7/2 may be too short...My concern with Delacour is whether the horse really beat anybody...Monster Bea was another one I thought really had a look...nicely bred and losing to Manhattan Dan is no disgrace...even the 12 isn't without a look...if this was a multi race wager...it would be close to an "ALL."

Good Luck!
Dan (brutus)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

My curiosity prompted me to find out just who were those 6 Derby winners that won the Derby without having earned a 100 Beyer prior to the race. I discovered kind of a startling fact: 4 of the 6 were from 2009-2012.

Previous highest Beyer and Derby Beyer:

2009 - Mine That Bird 80 105

2010 - Super Saver 98 ? (For some reason his PPs ended at Arkansas Derby)

2011 - Animal Kingdom 94 103

2012 - I'll Have Another 95 101

The other two were:

2005 - Giacomo 95 100

1993 - Sea Hero 91 105

Things picked up in the last three years with American Pharoah, California Chrome and Orb all having a Beyer of 100+ prior to the Derby.

Of course, I still don't know what the rest of the fields looked like as far as highest Beyers, but still very interesting to also see the kinds of pre-Derby Beyers the horses prior to 2009 were earning. I remember those years, when I wanted my horse to have earned at least a 105 prior to the Derby. Those were the days. :)




Looks like your SEYMOURDINI will finally make his 3-year-old debut at AQU on Friday in an Alw/OptCl 80K. He is the only MKB in the race. :) Too bad he obviously had some kind of setback, but good luck in his comeback!!!


Professor Molesap More than 1 year ago
Dan (brutus) - Kee 7 Thoughts 

Looked at the race and cannot argue with your thoughts, perhaps only add to them. Camelot Kitten will bet hard as she makes her return. Connections are solid with Chad Brown and JJ. The horse has never races on firm turf, but should be fine on the surface. Showed promise last year and is the most likely winner. However, she is not a lock by and perhaps will even be an underlay if the “Brownies” come in by the fistfuls. Cite is a bit of an enigma as that last race he won was not particularly fast, but that race has proved to be key. I am inclined to play against at the shortish price. Space Mountain was a different animal at GP and that run in the Palm Beach looked good. I am always a bit skeptical when a bunch of horses finish close, so yes he lost by a bit over two lengths while going wide, but he was seventh. I like Delacour a lot, but think Kee is a bit too much for his Tam charges. He has another in race 5 (Pramedya), but at least you get a price there. As you said there are others and one in particular that interests me.

Monster Bea is interesting to me as he should be a decent price and has run fairly well. Not a huge Casse fan, but Saez has been hot at Kee. Maiden win at Sar was visually impressive and he did not run all that bad in the With Anticipation given the trouble. The stumble in the Awad unseated the rider, while his run on the synthetic at WO was not great as he he was wide and never made a move. Maybe it was the surface? Off three months and was sharpened in a turf sprint where he broke slowly and then ran evenly. Winner was well meant that day and think that distance is not really wants to do. So there have been excuses up and down for him. Could be his fault or maybe he has been unlucky, but he is my play at a decent price with exotics backup of Camelot Kitten. 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Very interesting stats you put up. Particularly interesting is the highest Beyer in last or second to last race. Makes sense too, as if the highest Beyer was three starts back and it went down in two subsequent starts it certainly wouldn't appear that the horse was primed and ready to win possibly the hardest race of his life. I suspect most of the horses will have this pattern, which may be why the extent of the rise or fall works pretty good as a separator. Too much of a descent may mean the horse is tailing off and too much of an ascent may mean the horse peaked in that race and won't have enough left.

The 1-1/8 mile stat is, of course, very strong. Very few try the Derby without at least one. I guess that, and the 8 weeks off may just be too much for DESTIN.

First or second in last prep has always been a good indicator, and of course there are always lots of them, as the trend has been different horses winning and placing in the various preps.

That 105 or higher stat is out of reach this year, unless someone in the Arkansas Derby manages it. Most have not even reached the 100 mark. It would be interesting to know if the 6 Derby winners that had less than 100 Beyer were in a field like this.



Aww yes, I remember you waiting patiently in Laura's chatroom last December for your horse to be drawn for you. He was #51. And how you were happy when you heard his name and felt it was worth the wait. :) Now, no matter what happens on May 7th, your boy, BRODY'S CAUSE, has at least helped you earn the nice HG prize. Congrats, again!


DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago


Ramon did win his official career finale at PARX. I believe I saw on a DRF+ article he won 8 out of last 9 with one loss being in the finale when he ran two. Apparently the only guy who can beat Preciado is Preciado.  Pat you are likely right. Main owner Barbara Hopkins will let him do his thing remotely.  I don’t know Barbara but she knows how to pick em’.  If she was dating on Match.com I suppose she would think Charlie Manson is a cuddly bear. Speaking of Rich Perloff I always expect TVG hosts to man up but I have been convinced now by the Community now they are basically selling pick 4’s. It is a shame as some of these guys are better than that.

Little Deb came with some monster prices in recent Derbies.  I suppose taking a swing at the Derby Super should be an annual consideration. It almost reminds me of trying to hit the billion dollar Powerball though. I suppose a couple years ago I may have had a decent shot. I used Danza as my key, had Commanding Curve, and Wicked Strong among a short live group under. My flaw was I was against Chrome.  The year before I liked Orb, but could not have found Golden Soul with a search party. Same story just different names each year.  Probably need to use the ALL button but I am averse to it.

I don’t get the BBS’s 1-2-3 system but find it interesting each year. It always stirred up some good conversations. Back in the day I used to find stayers and play those. Now not so much.  I did play Creative Cause a few years back in Derby and Preakness. Loomed boldly in Baltimore then hung. Maybe the swift Destin won’t hang this year. I have not bet a Tampa Bay Derby horse in years or maybe ever in the Kentucky Derby.  I suspect the horses don’t know where they last run. What I generally find more and more is by about 6:30 EST on the first Saturday in May, after about 8 hours of racing I am exhausted,parimutuelly buried, on drink number whatever so  I just submissively watch the Derby. About the only winning advice I have to offer is AVOID the network pre-race coverage.Watching some hack make a $20,000 Mint Julep and millennials talking hat fashion is not my idea of racing.  Instead turn on at 6:20 EST for post parade and the actual race. Two minutes and two seconds after the gates open immediately turn off the TV. You miss the bad interviews on horseback where you will need an interpreter to understand (unless you are bi-lingual. I am but only speak English and Kentuckian) and the “Coburnesque” owner moments. If something priceless occurs like Frances Genter and Carl Nafzger then go to YOUTUBE.