05/01/2009 12:09PM

Oaks Day Live


12:09 pm: Zenyatta's out of the Louisville Distaff and the Churchill Downs track is listed as sloppy(on tv) or muddy (in the charts)but doesn't look too bad -- yet. The first three races on the marathon Oaks day card were run pretty formfully on a sealed main track that has some water sitting on top of it, but forecasters are calling for 2 to 4 more inches by Derby post time.

Zenyatta was one of eight scratches in the six stakes races that comprise the Oaks Day pick-6. I've noted the scratches in the pick-6 grid in the previous post and am reconfiguring my tickets. Turns out there's a tiny $12k carryover at Churchill today -- for whatever reason, Equibase did not report either the pick-4 or pick-6 results at Churchill on Thursday, and that info is currently missing from everyone's charts of yesterday's last race.

The agreement reached last night between TVG and Tracknet Media has restored Churchill coverage to TVG today, a boon to those of us who can't get HRTV on our local cable systems. Churchill racing didn't exist on TVG yesterday but overnight the odds and field slates are back, along with "video streaming" of the races on the TVG website, and there's a countdown box in the corner of the tv screen telling me there's just 5 hours and 45 minutes until the Oaks.

I'll update the results box below as the day goes on. Time to start reconfiguring those Pick-6 tickets.

1:02 pm: For whatever it's worth, which probably isn't much, Friesan Fire is the 4-1 favorite in the very very early Derby betting. I Want Revenge, Dunkirk, Pioneerof the Nile are all 8-1 with General Quarters 9-1 among those who felt compelled the bet the Derby 30 hours before post time.

1:18 pm: The expected big thunderstorms haven't hit yet and the CD track appears to be getting much quicker. After three slow routes to open the card, all won by horses running 1st or 2nd early, the 4th, a sprint for maidens, ended with a 1-2 finish by colts who were running 11th and 12th early. Then the 5th, a N1x allowance featuring the return of Munnings, Warrior's Reward swept from last to first to beat Munnings by 2 1/4 lengths in a snappy 1:21.60 for 7f. Warrior's Reward, second to Dunkirk in a Feb. 17 N1x at Gulfstream, was coming off an 8th-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, in which he was the co-third choice with the victorious Musket Man. 

1:37 pm: Chamberlain Bridge ran down Smart Enough and then held off Cannonball to win the G3 Aegon Turf Sprint as the sun came out on a tuf course labelled yielding. The winner's time was 57.06, 1.48 seconds off the course record of 55.58 he equalled last fall. 

Here's the final Pick-6 play:

2:15 pm: Oops. Couldn't have used Miss Isella ($19.40) in the Louisville Distaff without hitting the All button. On to the late pick-4.

Miss Isella, who won the G2 Falls City over this track next fall, was beaten 10 lengths by heavy favorite One Caroline in the Sabin at Gulfstream, but came up the rail under Calvin Borel (ever seen that before?) today, muscled her way through, and edged off to score by a length.

3:08 pm: Laragh ($7.40) scampered to the lead, was never pressed, and held off Magical Affair's late rally to win the Edgewood for 3-year-old turf fillies. Laragh, last year's Hollywood Starlet winner, had a huge class edge on the field but it's going to be interesting to see how major a player she'll be going much longer than today's mile. Magical Affair, far back early and very wide turning for home with no pace in front of her, was gaining strongly despite running a bit werratically through the stretch.

3:22 pm: Justwhistledixie was just announced as a late scratch from the Oaks. She was the 5-2 second choice on the morning line and it now seems likely that Rachel Alexandra will go off at 2-5 or less.


4:12 pm: Bullsbay, crushed from 6-1 ML to 3-1 at post time, slipped inside Cool Coal man and prveailed to win the G3 Alysheba on an ever-changing Churchill track. The surface now looks wet-fast at worst but the time of the race -- 1:44.29 for 8.5f -- was 1.54 seconds slower than the Miss Isella/One Caroline Louisville Distaff (1:42.75) in muddier going. The pace was similarly slower -- 1:13.57 vs. 1:11.72.


4:45 pm: Here's the betting so far on the Derby, with the usual caveat that day-before betting is a tiny slice of the pool and probably represents a preponderance of small and casual bets. I'll keep updating this chart and move it into tomorrow's Derby Day Live blog. The column headings are the Morning Line and then the number of hours before Derby post time:

5:01 pm: Orthodox, who was prominently featured in the Animal Planet series "Jockeys" as rider Jon Court's hope for a revived career, was reunited with Court today for the first time since October and just won the G3 Crown Royal American Turf at $93.20. I had only two x's (throwouts) in the race -- the winner and third-place finisher Turfiste. Yeesh.

I'm guessing we'll have a Pick-6 carryover into Derby Day even if Rachel Alexandra wins the Oaks. 

5:05 pm: Over to Bravo's "Ladies First" Oaks coverage for as long as I can stand it. Co-host Nancy O'Dell just advised picking horses by "looking at their tushes."

5:20 pm: The $1 pick-4 probables are $1602 to Rachel Alexandra, $11k to Flying Spur, $14k to Gabby's Golden Gal and $50k and up on the others, including $563,295 on Stone Legacy. The pick-6 will-pay to Rachel Alexandra is $666.80, which must be for a 5-of-6 consolation.

The sun is shining bright and the track's been upgraded throughout the day from sloppy to muddy to good and now fast.

5:35 pm: Still watching Bravo, with few complaints about the telecast. Though billed as a kind of reality-show mishmosh, it's mainly been a traditional network racing telecast, with the familiar NBC talent that will be working the race tomorrow (Neumeier, Mike Battaglia, Tom Hammond, Gary Stevens) doing most of the broadcasting.

6:00 pm: Now THAT was spectacular. 

Rachel Alexandra's official margin of victory in the Kentucky Oaks was 20 1/4 lengths in one of the most dominant performances you'll ever see at a racetrack.

Whoever was alive for that pick-4 to Stone Legacy can spend the rest of his life saying he ran second for $563,295, leaving out the part about the 20 1/4 lengths.

I expect that regardless of what happens tomorrow, everyone will be debating whether she could have won the Derby. Maybe, but maybe she gets jammed up and bounced around in the first turn in a 20-horse field and we never get to see what we saw today. Her connections seem to have no inclination to run her against colts any time soon, if ever.

That $666.80 payoff was indeed for 5 out of 6. The carryover into tomorrow's all-graded-stakes pick-6, ending with the Derby, is $137,981. Get to work, get some sleep, and my Derby Day pick-6 analysis will be here to greet you in the morning.

All this....AND it's my pick-4 night at Emerald Downs too. 

8:40 pm: There are some big differences between the Derby odds from Friday's betting and the implied odds of the Oaks-Derby double will-pays. The double odds are usually closer to the truth than the Friday win-pool odds, given the larger pool ($1.51 million in the DD vs. $463k in the Friday win pool this year) and the casual nature of those customers who place their win bets on Oaks Day. On the other hand, the DD bettors are probably too far in front of the evntual win-pool curve. There are five horses who were so lightly touched in the double betting that their DD willpays translate to odds of over 100-1, and all will almost certainly go off at shorter prices than that.

Also, the favorites are probably coming up a little short in the implied DD odds since there was a 3-to-10 shot in the Oaks considered a virtual cinch. You would think that a lot of people saw the Oaks-Derby DD as a way to take a free bingo square and make one or two cold punches rather than combining Rachel Alexandra with a raft of Derby horses.

In broad terms: The win-pool odds are probably higher than they'll end up on the favorites while the implied double odds are too high on the longshots. Still, there are some big bridges to gap. General Quarters is the most glaring -- 5-1 in the win pool and 26-1 in the doubles. And it's still not clear who's going to be the post-time favorite. The win-pool says Friesan Fire at 9-2, while the doubles say it's 3-1 ML favorite I Want Revenge at 5-2 (actually 2.80-1).

pierre More than 1 year ago
Great day of racing yesterday. Seeing RA increase her lead by 19 lengths throughout the stretch while under wraps was an unforgettable sight. As was Borel (again) on Miss Isella pushing Prado out of the way. Unbelievable riding.
Bill M More than 1 year ago
Obviously, Rachel A. was the most impressive runner of the day, but the most eventful goes to Warrior's Reward in race 5. According to the chart posted online in Simulcast daily, said runner "moved through a small home inside Fufty Too entering the stretch,...". Hahahaha. That's priceless. Please don't change it, made me laugh out loud after a terrible day at the windows. FYI, I live across the Ohio River in Indiana, and it's raining steadily with occasional downpours...should be a swamp tomorrow!? Let's keep our fingers crossed this rain moves through. See ya.
Dehere is closing like a rocket! More than 1 year ago
Steve and all, Every year, I type up and send to my friends an analysis of the Kentucky Derby. I thought it would be fun to post this year's version here in the comments section of the blog I have enjoyed for so long. My post is lengthy, but hopefully for someone out there it will provide some enjoyable reading. Good luck to all tomorrow! May 1, 2009 6:33 PM It's hard to believe that The Run For The Roses is just about upon us again. Beginning with the conclusion of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, I have been focused on finding the best strategy to make some cash on the first Saturday of May, 2009. I've done all of the usual race-watching, handicapping, and consultation with various fellow degenerates this year - and I have also done a little digging to get some historical perspective on how the Kentucky Derby is typically bet by the unique blend of bettors who show up on Derby Day: hardcore racing fans, sentimental bettors, and tourists who wouldn't know the difference between Secretariat and a fat man kicking a barrel up a hill. But before digging into this year's Derby field, it's worth pausing to recognize what just occurred out at Churchill Downs. In case there was any question about Rachel Alexandra's quality, she absolutely laid waste to a classy Kentucky Oaks field. Her official final margin of victory was 20 and 1/4 lengths, and her effort today may very well have been good enough to beat any of the boys who will run in the Derby just under 24 hours from now. That was one of the most impressive things you will ever see on a racetrack. If you missed it and are able to find it on YouTube, I highly recommend watching it just for the chill factor. It will be interesting to see if her connections will consider racing her against colts down the line. Ok, so back to the main event. On paper, this year's race appears to come down to 4 contenders for the win spot: Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile, I Want Revenge, and Dunkirk. Given the proven track record of this quartet, it's difficult to imagine that at least one of these won't fire his best shot and win the whole thing. There is a second tier of about 10 solid if not spectacular horses, and a case can be made for each one to run well enough to hit the board. Finally, there are a handful of desperate longshots who really have no business being in the race. To me, the real key to this year's version (in addition of course to coming up with the right horse!) is correctly determining how the wagering will play out. As is always the case in any Derby, the tourists and the sentimental bettors will bring a lot of dead money to the table - and that needs to be exploited in the most efficient way possible. Because of all of the interesting off-the-track story lines in this year's Derby - as well as the general public's usual desire to try to beat the favorites in the Derby - you can be sure that many - if not most - of the second tier of horses will be overbet. (General Quarters and his rags-to-riches story comes to mind. He's a nice, plucky horse and may very well run a good race - but given his likely odds, I don't look at him as a value play. There is too much risk to his finishing up the track. I might like him at 30-1, but my guess is that he will go off at something much closer to 15-1 or perhaps even less.) Also, with so many horses in what I perceive to be the second tier this year, there's just no value in trying to figure out which ones will hit the board or possibly even upset the entire apple cart. Conversely, it really doesn't strike me as all that difficult to say with confidence which one of the "big four" is sure to run a solid race. And if you are able to land with confidence on one of those top 4, then all of a sudden some real value opens up - as the 4 main contenders all figure to go off between 7-2 and 6-1. As I write this, Friesan Fire is the VERY early favorite at 4-1. Dunkirk is the 4th choice at 7-1. Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge are co-second choices at 6-1 each. It seems counter-intuitive, but the real value this year may lie with one of the 4 favorites. Those current odds are nothing to sneeze at. You will be hard-pressed to get 7-1 on Dunkirk for the remainder of his entire career, but the dead money that is coming in is already making the 4 favorites look very attractive. Of course, you can't play them all, but before moving onto which one of the 4 I like the most, it's worth looking back at some history. Here are the top 3 finishers and the mutuel payoffs for the 2003, 2007, and 2008 runnings of the Kentucky Derby: 2003 Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Funny Cide Santos 27.60 12.40 8.20 12 Empire Maker Bailey 5.80 4.40 5 Peace Rules Prado 6.00 2007 Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Street Sense Borel 11.80 6.40 4.60 8 Hard Spun Pino 9.80 7.00 2 Curlin Albarado 5.60 2008 Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 20 Big Brown Desormeaux 6.80 5.00 4.80 5 Eight Belles Saez 10.60 6.40 16 Denis of Cork Borel 11.60 One of the first things I do when I handicap any race is to see who the favorite is and then determine his or her chances of being defeated. However, while handicapping this year's Run For The Roses, I chose to look back at these three renewals of the Derby because - just like this year - each of these races had a favorite whose chances of running well I actually liked very much. I didn't necessarily think that any of the favorites were a lock to win, but I would have been surprised in any of these years had the favorite not at least shown up with his "A" race and run very well. In 2003, Empire Maker went off as the 5-2 favorite and ran 2nd to the working class hero Funny Cide. In 2007, Street Sense was a very tepid 9-2 favorite (and in fact almost 5-1), and he won with a gritty if not flashy performance. Last year, Big Brown was again a 5-2 favorite, and he won in style before being forced into early retirement due to injury later in the season. What jumped out at me when looking at the results of all of these races were the SHOW prices of the favorites. Yes, you read that correctly - I am enamored with the show prices of the favorites. Call me a chalk-eating weasel if you must, but hear me out. (Oh! That sounds like a great horse name - Hear Me Out. "Hear Me Out turns for home in the Derby while extending his lead to a dozen lengths! He is moving like a tremendous machine!" But I digress...) In thinking back to my confidence in each of these favorites, I remember that I felt very sure that each would hit the board - but I wasn't completely sold that any of the three were complete standout candidates for the win (despite the fact that 2 of the 3 did actually win the race). When I look at the show prices (all above $4.00) and consider my level of confidence that each one would hit the board, those prices seem like gifts. Again - you read that correctly. I believe that the show prices of the favorites in those 3 years actually represented value - at least when considered in the context of my personal confidence level in each horse's ability to hit the board. The $6.80 win price on Big Brown last year really didn't represent value in my opinion, but the $4.80 show price was ridiculous value. The extra $2 to me did not justify the risk that Big Brown might be nosed at the wire or that he might have a bad trip in a large field (just like this year's) that could cause him to come up just a bit short of outright victory despite running very well. I would have wanted something in the neighborhood of 4-1 (or a $10.00 win mutuel) to justify that risk. But when I think of what would have had to happen in my mind for any of those 3 favorites not to hit the board, a show price of over $4.00 strikes me as exceedingly generous. With all of the above said, my advice this year is to encourage a large show bet on the most reliable of the 4 favorites. If history and the current early odds are any guide, a successful bet of that nature will more than double your money in roughly 2 minutes and 2 seconds. That may not be sexy, but it sure beats a sharp stick in the eye. So who is this year's version of Empire Maker, Street Sense, or Big Brown? I've watched every replay of every 2009 race of each of the top 4 choices, and I've studied their past performances until my eyes have nearly burned a hole in the paper. I can see why Friesan Fire is the early favorite. He has won 3 in a row against graded stakes company, and his figures have improved with every start this year. But his resumé lacks a Grade I victory, and he is coming off of an unusual 7-week layoff. There is definitely some risk attached to him. Dunkirk is 2 for 3 lifetime, and his only loss came in his last race - the Grade I Florida Derby - to Quality Road. If not for a quarter crack that forced him out of this year's Derby, Quality Road likely would have been the favorite tomorrow - so there is no shame in losing to him by less than 2 lengths. But Dunkirk only has those 3 lifetime starts under his belt, and he is unproven outside of Gulfstream Park. That inexperience raises some definite question marks. Pioneerof the Nile has won four in a row, and two of those victories came at the expense of I Want Revenge. He is also trained by Bob Baffert, who is no stranger to the winners' circle at Churchill Downs on Derby Day (Silver Charm in '97, Real Quiet in '98, War Emblem in '02). However, all of Pioneerof the Nile's races have been on grass or synthetic tracks. Tomorrow will be his first race on a conventional dirt track. There is no telling whether or not he will take to it. As mentioned above, I Want Revenge finished behind Pioneerof the Nile twice on synthetic tracks earlier in the season. He then shipped from California to New York to run on dirt for the first time in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He responded with an 8-length victory and the highest Beyer speed figure yet recorded by any Derby entrant. His encore came 4 weeks later in the Grade I Wood Memorial. After stumbling badly at the start and spotting the field 4 lengths, he raced behind horses for the entire trip and looked to be hopelessly beaten by the middle of the homestretch. When a seam finally did open up for him, he immediately exploded through and drew off impressively. In addition to confirming his extraordinary quality, that race showed that he has the ability to keep focus even while racing with horses all around him - always a very key factor in the Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial also proved to me that his jockey, 19-year-old Joe Talamo, has the patience of a rider twice his age - again always a very key factor in the Derby. Many riders - if not most - would have rushed up to engage the pack after such a slow start, and just about all of them would have begun to panic when there was nowhere to go in the homestretch. Talamo kept his cool the entire way, conserved his mount's energy, and fearlessly pushed him through the smallest of holes when the opportunity arose. Some will talk about Talamo's lack of experience as a major question mark in a race as significant as the Derby, but not I. I love this kid. Man, can he ride. I won't be surprised in the least if one of the trio of Friesan Fire, Dunkirk, or Pioneerof the Nile wins tomorrow. They have all proven themselves to be top class horses. But each one has some question marks, and that leaves them vulnerable to falling completely off the board. I Want Revenge, however, appears to have no chinks in the armor. Like Empire Maker in 2003, Street Sense in 2007, and Big Brown in 2008, I will be stunned if I Want Revenge doesn't hit the board. To me, he is the most likely winner, but as detailed above, I believe that the value will be in the show dough. That's not something I say too often, but as is often the case, this year's Kentucky Derby presents a unique set of circumstances. Your assignment is to take advantage of them. The Good Word in the 2009 Kentucky Derby: As much as you can afford to lose to SHOW on #13, I Want Revenge. And for those of you out there who just can't stand the thought of placing a bet as unexciting as the one recommended here, I will toss out one more name: West Side Bernie. I have liked this horse since last winter as a Derby prospect. He doesn't possess the instant acceleration that a lot of great horses have, but he has a long, loping stride and a sustained closing kick - both of which could play very well going a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs. His quality was confirmed to me when he finished second last time out to I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial, yet he is sure to go off at monster odds - probably somewhere in the vicinity of 30-1 or higher. To top it off, for those of you with the past performances in your hands tonight, do the following exercise: scan every single race of every horse entered in the Derby, and see how many of them posted a Beyer speed figure of 90 or higher in a route race during their 2-year-old season. There is only one: West Side Bernie. Good luck to all. May the horse be with you!!!!!!!!
MediWoman More than 1 year ago
ProzacJack....Right On!...Even I know to close that hole....LOL Today was a great day of racing and I hope everyone here enjoys the Derby Day card even more. ^_^
JTTDMD More than 1 year ago
Oak-Woodford-Derby payout are available anywhere?
matt More than 1 year ago
Steve, Could you post the preliminary beyer number for the OAKS when you have it. Did this filly crack a 110? She came home in 12 flat under wraps. THE SICKEST THING IVE EVER SEEN ON THE RACE TRACK! What a monster!
Birdstone More than 1 year ago
Does anyone have a rough estimate of what Beyer Rachel got for the Oaks? My best guess is 110. Thanks for the help.
bill More than 1 year ago
had the 5-10,19; and 6-10,19 in the oaks-derby dd. will there be a conso for the late-scratched 5, or is the ticket a refund? thx
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Wow! Is Rachel Alexandra the best filly to run on a North American racetrack since Ruffian? I am not easily impressed, and I do know her main competitor scratched and the rest of the field was suspect in Grade 1 company, but she looked as if she was never asked to run! I know the connections will not admit it, but they must be kicking themselves for not giving her the opportunity to show her goods tomorrow versus the boys. I know I would be! Can't wait for later this year, assuming all stay healthy, to see her and Zenyatta face each other in the Ladies Classic @ Santa Anita in November!
steven_crist More than 1 year ago
Here's a link to those elusive Oaks-Derby DD willpays. I'll put up a chart later tonight at the end of this post coverting them to Derby win-odds equivalents. http://www.drf.com/news/article/103463.html