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Preakness Day Live
11:12 am: It's 67 and sunny at Pimlico, with only a 10 percent chance of any rain before 5 p.m. The chalk-chalk early double is in the books, with Don'ttrythisathome ($6.20) taking the first for Scott Lake in 1:09.88 after dueling from the ouside in 45.30 and drawing off while wide. Actually got to see the second race just after ESPN2 came on at 11 a.m., where Media Play ($6.80) won the N1x for track owner Frank Stronach in 1:43.60 with a wide rally from far back over pacesetter Access Love. The main track looks fast and fair and the turf is being labelled "good."
Only 23 late scratches at Pimlico today, but that includes seven from the off-the-turf second race (the rest of the turf races stay put); Forest Park twice, since he was scratched from both the 3rd and the 8th; and Behindatthebar from the Preakness, which we've known about for two days.
Twenty minutes until the 3rd, the five-horse Maryland Sprint Handicap. Thoughts on the early pick 4 (race 4 through 7) coming soon.
11:52 am: Early pick-4 starts in 12 minutes. Hard to make it pay a lot with fields of just 10, 6, 6 and 5, but here's what I thought:
Race 4 (Deputed Testamony H.): The two favorites, Off the Glass and Shining Punch, look like the right ones in this starter handicap for Maryland-breds who have run for a $17.5k claiming tag in '07-'08. Off the Glass has won the equivalent of this race three times, including the Preakness day '06 version, and would be odds-on if he weren't returning from a 5 1/2-month layoff. A: 8,10. C: 1,2,6,7.
Race 5 (Skipat Stakes) : Akronism's A race wins this, Drama Lady looked like a new and improved horse winning her season bow at Gulfstream last time out, and My Sister Sue (beaten a head in this race last year) could be dangerous on the lead if she gets clear of Hold That Prospect early. A: 3,6,7
Race 6: (Gallorette Handicap): Easy as some combination of 1-2-3, as Valbenny, Stormy West and Roshani tower over three rivals. I'll press Roshani, who figures to get a soft pace and a sweet trip. A:3 B:1,2.
Race 7: (Barbaro Stakes): Five starters with a combined seven victories seek their first stakes victory here, and multiple stakes-placed Roman Emperor is faster to date and more seasoned than the others. A repeat of his second to Barrier Reef in the Whirlaway would win this. I'll also use Spurrier, the best finisher, and D'Tara, who's improving and should appreciate a return to two-turn racing. A:1 B: 3,5.
In the 3rd, trainer Gary Contessa followed up his Black-Eyed Susan victory with Sweet Vendetta by sending out Starforaday to win the G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap. Starforaday ($8.20), best remembered (at least by me) for winning the last leg of the Travers Day pick-six at 27-1 when trained by Donna Wormser, was bought by Winning Move Stable and transferred to Contessa over the winter and returned with a career-best effort winning an Aqueduct allowance race May 1. Starforaday ran the six furlongs in 1:09.56 under Prado.
12:45 pm: In the Deputed Testamony, sharp local trainer Damon Dilodovico continued his dominance of these big-day statebred starter handicaps. He trained Off the Glass to win three of them, including the 2006 Preakness Day one, and he scored here with Let Me Be Frank, who he claimed for just $5,000 two starts back. This race looked like the Pimlico of yore, a two-speed number and a treadmill of a race, with Let's Be Frank leading Gammy's a Winner from flagfall to finish. Let Me Be Frank, a sturdy (84 career starts) 6-year-old with a sturdy pedigree -- he's by Awad out of an Ack Ack (!) mare -- ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:43.24 and paid $9.60 as the fourth choice.
1:20 pm: Late-arriving crowd or more Eight Belles fallout? Betting on the first five Preakness Day races is down a staggering 22 percent over last year's corresponding handle, with 26 of the day's first 28 pools lower than last year's by anywhere from 11 to 48 percent. By contrast, Derby Day betting was up 16 percent year over year through the first five races, though it later slipped and ended up down 2 percent for the day.
Tough beat for me in the Skipat, as 7-1 (!) My Sister Sue blasted to the lead and looked home free with a 3 1/2-length lead after five furlongs in 56.57, but 2-1 Akronism nailed her at the wire to win by a neck. It was a virtual rerun of last year's Skipat, when My Sister Sue had a two-length lead at the furlong pole and lost by a head to Silmaril. Akronism, a 4-year-old Not For Love filly owned and bred by Robert S. Evans and trained by Tim Ritchey, was the slight favorite over 2-1 Drama Lady and ran the six furlongs under Pablo Morales in 1:09.76. The $40.00 exacta was some consolation but My Sister Sue would have made the pick-4 a lot more interesting than it's looking at the halfway point. I'm alive 3/1,3,5 for $2 and 1,2/1,3,5 for $1. Even if I get there, it's unclear that I will get my $198 investment back.
1:40 pm: Roshani looked like she was going to get worn down by Lady Digby with a furlong to go in the Gallorette, but dug in and prevailed by a neck in the first grass race at Pimlico since May 4. Roshani, a 5-year-old Fantastic Light mare who won last year's Matchmaker, had to survive a five-minute stewards' inquiry and a foul claim for incidental brushing in the stretch. Roshani ran the mile and a sixteenth for Pletcher/Velazquez in 1:45.02, 4.70 seconds slower than Precious Kitten's 1:40.32 on a firm course last year. The course could just as easily be labelled "yielding" as "good."
2:38 pm: You can see my lack of imagination and insight for the back half of the Preakness card from the following caveman pick-6 play I put in to keep me out of trouble for a while: 2x7x2x1x8x1. This was supposed to be a $224 play at the $1 Pimlico minimum, but NYRA Rewards rejected the wager at less than $2, so I went for the $448.
Race 7 (Barbaro Stakes): Used 1-2 finishers Roman Emperor ($5.20) and D'Tara (9-5). Woo-hoo. At least I got almost 3-to-5 on the pick-4 play when Roman Emperor completed a $318.20 for $2 sequence.
Race 8: (Old Mutual Turf Sprint): My 7 of the 11 are the 1,6,7,8,12,13 and 14. C'mon somebody.
Race 9: (Hirsch Jacobs): Can't get past Lantana Mob and Force Freeze in their Bachelor Stakes rematch.
Race 10: Shakis feels like 50-50 to show up and run his A race. If he does, he'll gallop, so I singled him. If he doesn't, I would have had to go deep (and will in the pick-4) with Distorted Reality, Stay Close and Salinja, and I'm not confident enough in any of them to say Buffalo Man, Pays to Dream and Pick Six can't win if the favorite fails.
Race 11: I hit the coward's button and went "all." This race seems entirely chaotic to me. Bear Now is the field's lone graded stakes-winner and her Cotillion victory over Octave was huge, but she she may get flambeed early by Peach Flambe and the closers are inches apart on paper.
Race 12: Singled Big Brown. If I get that far, I hope to be getting better than 1-to-5 and I can always make a win bet on Kentucky Bear.
3:05 pm: What's the easiest way to put a 9-5 favorite into the winners' circle? Go seven deep in a race. Heros Reward rerallied in deep stretch to get past 6-1 True to Tradition and continue the chalkfest. Maybe I should start paying attention to those Beyer Speed Figure things: Heros Reward had three triple-digit turf-sprint figs, three times as many as his 10 opponents combined. Heros Reward, a 6-year-old Partner's Hero gelding, ran the five furlongs on the turf in 59.19 for Capuano/Castellano. Heros Reward won the race last year for Capuano/Prado as the 5-2 favorite in 55.90.
4:05 pm: The wind is picking up at Pimlico and there may be some rain before the Preakness. In the meantime, Lantana Mob just became the fourth horse to equal Northern Wolf's 18-year-old track-record of 1:09 when he just got up at the wire to catch Silver Edition in the G3 Hirsch Jacobs for 3-year-olds in 1:09.10. (Races were timed only in fifths at Pimlico prior to 1999.) The son of Posse, trained by Steve Asmussen (who also trained his sire), rallied widest under Robbie Albarado to become the sixth winning favorite in nine races.
The other three horses credited with a 1:09 flat at Pimlico are a pretty nice trio: Diabolical in last year's Maryland Sprint Handicap, Forest Wildcat in the 1996 Hirsch Jacobs, and champion Xtra Heat in the 2001 Straight Deal.
4:40 pm: Finally, a price. Pays to Dream loved the yielding turf, slipped through on the inside, and ran away with the G2 Dixie Stakes at 19-1. It's not clear that anyone else ran his race and Shakis completely floundered as the favorite, finishing fifth. Pays to Dream needed 1:54.74 to cover the boggy nine furlongs but finished with a fast final furlong of 11.84 after trailing early behind fractions of 26.36, 51.71 and 1:16.24. Stay Close held second with Ra Der Dean third.
Pays to Dream, a 4-year-old New York-bred gelding trained by David Donk, races for the December Hill Farm started by the late Allan Dragone, the former chairman of NYRA. Dragone's son, Christopher, is at this moment the President of Pimlico but according to published reports will not retain that position past this weekend.
Dead in the pick-6 here, but alive for what could be some nice pick-fours. All in the DuPont to Big Brown and Kentucky Bear.
Through 10 races, Preakness Day handle is down 10 percent against last year after being down 22 percent after five races. Some bigger fields, and repositioning of the stakes races, seems to account the closing of the gap.
5:35 pm: Still haven't seen the DuPont Distaff, which fell between the cracks of television coverage as ESPN and NBC presented their back-to-back "industry crisis" roundtables. Apparently Larry Jones trainee Buy The Barrel won and paid $8.00 after a mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.43. I'm a little surprised the race went slower than Roman Emperor's 1:42.10 in the Barbaro.
Presumably runner-up Lexi Star, 20-1 on the morning line, would have been a better pick-4 result for me. Even with a 3-1 shot, they're paying $1,182 to Big Brown and $18,649 to Kentucky Bear. May the best horse win.
7:00 pm: The best horse won, and how. When Big Brown spurted away from his rivals at the top of the stretch, the overhead camera view showed him striding so much longer and running so much faster than his rivals that he seemed to take flight. He probably could have won by a lot more than 5 1/4 lengths had he been fully asked or extended in the final furlong, the way Funny Cide and Smarty Jones did with their double-digit margins, but Kent Desormeaux wisely peeked back and wrapped up, already thinking ahead to the Belmont.
The next one will probably be tougher, with the extra quarter mile, the intriguing Casino Drive, and some freshened up Derby challengers taking another shot. But right now Big Brown is in a world of his own among the 3-year-olds of 2008.
Macho Again turned the $2.40 winner into a $36.60 exacta, and adding New York-bred Icabad Crane for third got you a $336.80 trifecta. Racecar Rhapsody completed a $2364.40 superfecta. Big Brown completed a $415.80 pick-3, a $1,182 pick-4 and a $7726.80 pick-6. (All payoffs are in $2 prices.)
Wagering for the day was down 15 percent on both the full card and the Preakness itself. Preakness wagering declined from $56.4 million in 2007 to $47.9 million today, an $8.5 million decline. For the 13-race card, the drop was $12.5 million, from $83.6 million to $71.1 million.
Big Brown's winning time of 1:54.80 is probably not going to come up a particularly fast figure, but it's worth remembering that he was taken under a strong hold while waiting for Riley Tucker to clear him down the backstretch, and geared down at the end. The time will not reflect his utter dominance of his opponents, albeit a weak group.
Twenty-one days till the Belmont.
Attendance at the Preakness was down 9,000 despite perfect weather. The Belmont Stakes attendance has been steadily declining since a high of 120,000 (Smarty Jones, 2004) vs last year of 46,000 despite an attractive race. At one time you could expect 80,000 at Belmont stakes for non triple crown year. It all can be traced to the ban on bringing your own alcohol (beer) to the track. Pimlico introduced a ban on this practice (except in the infield)this year and Belmont started it right after Smarty Jones in 2004. The corporate suits let greed get in the way, as they discourage new and old fans from attending and lose all their admission fees and betting. These are fans who like to have a good time and can't afford or do not want to pay $7 for a beer all day long. ESPN.com writers Finley and Plonk have written about this a few times this past year. New York suits are only projecting 90,000 for Big Brown's go at the triple crown for a reason but they will not say why. Big Brown is a New York horse with super hype in the New York press but no attendance record will be set this year (what a shame). By the way, I will be at Monmouth enjoying a cold one from my cooler with eight other friends you used to ride up from Jersey every year. We stopped going to the Belmont stakes in 2004. Good luck to everyone!
Steve, In addition to the field sizes I think the handle declines you referenced were due, at least in part, to the unusual lack of quality in the undercard stakes. With the possible exception of the Hirsch Jacobs I don't think any objective handicapper could argue that all the other undercard stakes were of much less quality than last year. Exhibit "A" would be the Maryland Sprint where Diabolical (subsequent G1 winner) and Talent Search (subsequently 3 times G1 placed) would have beaten this year's field by about a furlong.
The thought just occured to me that the big showdown between Big Brown & Curlin (if they make it that far)that everyone is rooting for would be at Santa Anita, presumably on the Poly-go-round where the possibility certainly exists that they will finish 8th & 9th!! Horseracing, the gun is already pointing at the foot!!!!
aparagon4u, Please don't get offended by my remarks because it's one handicapper's brotherly opinion to another. It was, IMO, the worst imagined bet a one can make. You should be very very greatful that you got your money back. Have you any idea if Pays to Dream (Race 10) had not won, your cousin's brilliant idea of buying the late Pick-4 would've stunk you in an unimaginably painful place? In my own naive thinking, in this game every buck counts and the beauty is not to invest thousands to make thousands but to invest hundreds to make thousands. That's my opinion since you asked, rest is upto you because it's your money which other ruthless sharks are ready to eat all the time.
mike_costello and don_reed, You get my vote. It would be the most disappointing day of my handicapping life if, God forbid, Mr. Big B. wins the triple crown. I'm all in against Mr. Big B. in the Belmont Stakes.
john_grady, I think there are more than enough handicappers (official and unofficial) who just love to enrich us with their handicapping insights. I'm surprised that you're still looking for more because I found ChristBlog's solace from that torture. What I love to know is what people are playing, thinking, or feeling about variety of issues though. Fortunately in this corner of drf.com, Mr. Christ leaves no room for any more handicapping analysis, at least for me. One thing I've learned for sure is how to bet more smarter which is still an ongoing process and without spending a single penny :) I do share my picks in a very straight forward manner because it's fun.
Steve, if you have time. What did you see in Pays to Dream in the Dixie Stakes that I (and others based on the payoff) missed? There were four others (2,4,6,8)I liked better. Where did I go wron?
Steve-Just caught up on your blog after this great weekend. Horse racing is in the news again,and the next three weeks will be fun to participate in. A couple of observations after reading some of the hilarious comments your writing produced: To the Flipper:Thanks for the input on Giant Moon-he "hates the wet". I got news for you,Flipper-he also hates horses who can run a little,and he will keep proving it every time he ventures from his NYC winter base to compete with fast horses,regardless of the surface conditions. To the multiple-entry posters who have nothing to say handicapping-wise:I am reminded of an interview with Truman Capote when he was asked(I think by Dick Cavett)what he thought of Jack Kerouac's writing. Truman drew himself up to his full height and answered indignantly "That's not writing. It's typing!" I realise now that my past postings about handicapping have been competing with people who like to type,and who are better at it than I.(This is taking forever for me.)In the future, I will dictate my postings to my thirteen-year old daughter(who loves to type)and who also understands the importance of early speed at long odds,regardless of the conditions of the race,and maybe we'll recommend a few price horses in advance(with the aid of a competent typist). Lastly,a comment on the sorry state of Pimlico,a track I have visited many times in the past, despite the 400 mile journey it entails:(In the interest of full disclosure, Lou Raffetto,the Ex-COO,is a friend of mine.)It was no surprise the handle was down nearly 20% on Preakness day. I have been betting the Preakness card for the past thirty years,and that was the worst I have seen. Mr. Stronach has taken his only profitable venture(horse-racing wise)and turned it into a liability. The sooner he is out of this business,the better for all of us. Even the typists.
bochall says: "Shame on me and everyone who didn't have Macho Again...had the 2nd best last out Beyer, and his DRF rating plus track variant..." I have the "shame" thing still going on after writing "Bounce" above his medication listing in my DRForm. I was certain that Gayego or Kentucky Bear would get second or third and keyed the 6 horse in fourth in the super. I still cannot believe that Mike Smith went after Riley Tucker with such a vengance... when I saw Kentucky Bear moving along the rail I was certain one of the two of them would be around at the end. My analysis of Big Brown is that his "move" after the turn literally destroys the confidence of those closest to him. Racecar Rhapsody's move into second (temporarily) is further evidence that BB's late kick destroys other horse's confidence... or is he just a quitting POS that somehow manages to cash checks for 4th place finishes. I can just see him (RR) two or three years from now in the Form (racing in 40K Optional Claimers) doing the same darn thing. That's still the worst thing about Polytrack horses... you never know what they're going to do on dirt... and I'm tired of risking money hoping that they'll somehow improve. I'm just frustrated that I can make money off BB... and to end my rant; I am firmly of the belief that the handle was way down because of the "Eight Belles coverage" over the past two weeks. Too much negativity and too many naysayers regarding this industry's problems with medication, whips, and track conditions.
Steve, after watching the Preakness, I heard Frank Lyons say it was the greatest performance he has ever seen. The numbers don't seem to support his claim. Looking back at the last six Preakness Stakes comparing the running time of the Preakness to two stakes run on the Preakness undercard every year would seem to suggest Big Brown is good horse in a very bad year. 2003 Preakness 155.61 Hirsch Jacobs 110.85 Difference 44.76 Preakness 155.61 Sir Barton 143.96 Difference 11.65 2004 Preakness 155.59 Hirsch Jacobs 110.72 Difference 44.87 Preakness 155.59 Sir Barton 145.63 Difference 9.96 2005 Preakness 155.04 Sir Barton 144.43 Difference 10.61 Hisch Jacobs not run 2006 Preakness 154.65 Hirsch Jacobs 109.72 Difference 44.93 Preakness 154.65 Sir Barton 142.95 Difference 11.70 2007 Preakness 153.46 Hirsch Jacobs 110.91 Difference 42.55 Preakness 153.46 Barbaro 143.44 Difference 10.02 2008 Preakness 154.80 Hirsch Jacobs 109.10 Difference 45.70 Preakness 154.80 Barbaro 142.10 Difference 12.70 Big Brown's performance based on these numbers is by far the least impressive. While you certainly cannot knock the horse, he has soundly beaten everyone he has faced, comparisons to Seattle Slew and Secretariat are premature. Your thoughts?